Naruto - a crested macaque whose 2011 selfie was seen around the world - would be crushed to learn that a panel of federal judges in San Francisco ruled Monday that animals can't sue for the rights to intellectual property. British nature photographer David Slater set up a camera in an Indonesian forest, and Naruto somehow tripped the camera himself (Slater was not on the scene).
In 2004, the Ninth Circuit ruled that animals can sue under the U.S. Constitution-a precedent that was binding to the three-judge panel hearing this case.
PETA's 2015 suit against Slater sought financial control of the photographs - including a now-famous selfie of the monkey grinning - for the benefit of the animal named Naruto.
The ruling came in the case of a monkey that took selfies with a wildlife photographer's camera.
Slater was on a trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia, and argued that his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., owned worldwide commercial rights to the photos. But the 9th Circuit still made a decision to rule in the important case. The judge said the law reserved that power only for humans.
PETA didn't seem particularly close to Naruto even though it sued Slater as a "next friend" of the monkey, the court noted. The court ordered PETA to pay Slater's legal fees, for both the appeal and the original trial in district court.
But the court refused, saying a decision in this "developing area of the law" would help guide lower courts and considerable public resources had been spent on the case.
Under a settlement agreement reached a year ago with PETA, Slater would retain the rights to the photos, but he would donate 25 percent of future revenue derived from the images to charities that protect Naruto and other crested macaque monkeys.
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