The answer, just to relieve any suspense, was no, monkeys can't own copyrights or bring copyright infringement suits, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Monday, upholding a lower court.
A monkey used Slater's camera to take selfies while Slater was on a trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2011.
The legal battle over the viral monkey selfie is finally over.
This crested macaque monkey created a weird legal journey after grabbing a photographer's camera, posing and clicking away.
We feel compelled to note that PETA's deficiencies in this regard go far beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto. It remains unclear what claims PETA purported to be "settling", since the court was under the impression this lawsuit was about Naruto's claims, and per PETA's motion, Naruto was "not a party to the settlement", nor were Naruto's claims settled therein.
"We conclude that this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act", the ruling said. "PETA has failed to allege any facts to establish the required significant relationship between a next friend and a real party in interest and (2) because an animal can not be represented, under our laws, by a "next friend". In a joint statement they said the case "raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals" and that Slater would donate 25 percent of future gross revenues from the photographs to charitable organizations that protect the macaque habitat.
The court stripped down PETA in its decision, stating in a footnote that PETA "seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".
Slater later included the monkey selfie photos in a book he published and that's when things took an unexpected turn.
The case was brought in a USA court because Slater's book was available for sale in the United States.
PETA filed its lawsuit in 2015, seeking to represent the monkey and manage proceeds gained from the image to help the animal and its community. Lawyers then asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case. Engelhardt dropped out of the case on appeal, and the Ninth Circuit judges sharply questioned at the July hearing whether PETA could establish next friend status on its own-and whether a monkey can legally hold a copyright.