PETA Defends Its Rights To Represent The Selfie-Taking Monkey In Court

We’ve written plenty about the infamous monkey selfie, and have even been threatened by two totally separate organizations for posting the photo here on Techdirt (which we’re about to do again):

Last week, the story got even weirder, where PETA, the animal rights organization, sued photographer David Slater on behalf of the monkey, who they claim is named Naruto. As we’ve explained in detail, the photos are almost certainly in the public domain based on all relevant copyright laws. Slater has repeatedly denied this, insisting the copyright is his (and he apparently also likes to regularly disparage Techdirt’s coverage of this story). But, still, we’re at least on Slater’s side in this particular lawsuit. PETA has much less of a claim to the copyright than Slater does (and, as we’ve noted, Slater has none).

Sarah Jeong, over at Vice’s Motherboard, likes to dig deep into wacky copyright stories, and this was no exception. Her original article on this story was basically a bunch of good questions about the lawsuit, including things like "How do they even know the monkey’s name is Naruto?" and "Can monkeys even sue?" Amazingly, PETA’s lawyer agreed to be interviewed by Sarah, and the results are totally worth reading. She starts out by exploring the question of Naruto. How do they know his name, how are they sure it’s really Naruto in the photos — especially since Naruto is a male and nearly all of the original stories about the monkey selfie claimed that the macaque selfie photo was of a female. Slater himself has said that it was a female.

Jeong doesn’t quite get to the bottom of it, but there’s at least some evidence that the monkey really was a male, and it’s entirely possible that he’s been named Naruto by the folks who study the monkeys in Indonesia. But then there’s the legal discussion. I will just give you this snippet and then tell you that you need to go read the whole thing. Also, news would be a lot more interesting if journalists did interviews like this more frequently.

Does Naruto know about this lawsuit?


Um, the… fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly. The issue is as I’ve stated it.

Does Naruto know about his selfies?


I have the same response.

Naruto certainly knew at the time that he was engaged in intentional conduct that is obvious from Mr. Slater’s own description of the situation. And Naruto clearly engaged in the purposeful intentional conduct that resulted in the creation of the selfies.

There’s more and it gets better. I, for one, can’t wait to see if someone tries to list Naruto as a witness.

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PETA Defends Its Rights To Represent The Selfie-Taking Monkey In Court