On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the following question: Does a Celebes crested macaque hold copyright to a selfie? Celebes crested macaques are a critically endangered species of Old World monkey originally from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
In 2011, British nature photographer David Slater did an experiment to see if the macaques could operate the camera. A female macaque named Naruto took many photographs, including a selfie that was the subject of the current litigation. Since the monkey took the photograph’s on Slater’s camera, the photographer took the images as his own and claimed he possessed the copyright.
That did not suit well many radical environmentalists, particularly with the radicals from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In September 2015, PETA filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California claiming that United States Copyright law does not preclude animals from owning rights to property. Namely, Naruto should own the rights to the selfies it took. The case was dismissed in January 2016 by Judge William Orrick, correctly stating that animals do not have standing in court. Orrick, who is also a known Democratic fundraiser, quoted a 2004 Ninth Circuit case, elaborating:
If Congress and the president intended to take the extraordinary step of authorizing animals as well as people and legal entities to sue, they could, and should, have said so plainly.
Such laws do not expressly state that animals are a protected class in a series of laws, let alone United States Copyright Law. However, PETA appealed the dismissal and brought it to the Ninth Circuit.
During oral argument, the three-judge panel took the PETA lawyers to task on whether they had a legitimate relationship with the macaque to reach the threshold of the “next friend” doctrine, which holds that a party can act as representative to the aggrieved party if they are incapacitated or unable to advocate for themselves. If the Ninth Circuit believes that PETA fails to reach that threshold, then the macaque has no standing.
This is nothing short of a frivolous lawsuit filed by one of the most radical leftist organizations in the United States. Individual human beings and organizations are the only parties that could have standing in court and this attempt to extend standing for animals represents nothing short of an attempted bastardization of the law.