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'Selfie Monkey' Settles Copyright Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 13, 2017 11:57 AM

There's a problem with the settlement in the selfie-monkey case: the monkey did not consent to it.

If the monkey took a full-on, toothy selfie, he ought to be able to put a signature on a simple agreement. Don't laugh. Elephants can do it.

Even a sloppy, banana smudge would do. Come on, is there no justice in the urban jungle?

Animal Rights, Not Copyrights

As in so many cases, it came down to practical considerations in the face of legal realities. Attorney Andrew J. Dhuey moved to dismiss the monkey copyright case by monkey mockery.

"Imagining a monkey as the copyright 'author' in Title 17 of the United States Code is a farcical journey Dr. Seuss might have written," he wrote.

A trial judge agreed, more or less, and the issue went to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a hearing. The judges couldn't help but chuckle at times, but the case did pose at least one serious question.

"'Monkey see, monkey sue' will not do in federal court," Dhuey said in his "if it does not fit, you must acquit" moment.

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Photographer David Slater, who discovered the selfies on his camera when he was working in Sulawesi, published them in a book. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued Slater for copyright infringement on behalf of Naruto, the crested macaque who snapped the pictures.

Under the settlement, Slater will donate 25 percent of the revenue from the photos to charities to protect and improve the macaque habitat. He said that his aim has always been to protect the endangered species.

The parties stipulated in a motion to dismiss the case and vacate the trial court judgment. It was signed by the attorneys only.

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