By Richard Stobbe
Naruto the monkey must abandon his budding photography career and go back to using his opposable thumbs towards some other end. To bring the monkey-selfie case to a close, the US District Court outlined its careful reasoning for rejecting the copyright claims of Naruto, a six-year-old crested macaque. (If you missed the background story, see our earlier post.)
The decision in Naruto v. Slater (US District Court No. Calif. Case 15-cv-04324-WHO) is, if nothing else, a study in restraint. The judge reviews cases involving other non-human claimants, such as the 2004 decision dealing with a claim advanced on behalf of the world’s whales, porpoises, and dolphins, regarding violations of the US Endangered Species Act.
In its final analysis, the court concluded: “Naruto is not an ‘author’ within the meaning of the Copyright Act. Next Friends argue that this result is ‘antithetical’ to the ‘tremendous [public] interest in animal art.’ Perhaps. But that is an argument that should be made to Congress and the President, not to me. The issue for me is whether Next Friends have demonstrated that the Copyright Act confers standing upon Naruto. In light of the plain language of the Copyright Act, past judicial interpretations of the Act’s authorship requirement, and guidance from the Copyright Office, they have not.”
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