Monkey’s Selfie: Whether It Is Copyrightable By Monkey Or Human?
Naruto v. David Slater Case: 16-15469, 04/23/2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
This case majorly discusses what amount to human work and non-human work. Therefore, we must understand the what amounts to human work under copyright laws.
What is Human Work under Copyright law?
In Baltimore Orioles v MLB Players Association the 7th Circuit court of US found that “work is original if it is the independent creation of its author. A work is creative if it embodies some modest amount of intellectual labor.” In Feist v Rural Telephone, the US Supreme Court emphasised that “copyright protects only those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity.” Under these requirements, it is unlikely that the picture would have copyright.
- Naruto was a seven-year-old crested macaque monkey (black ape) that lived—and may still live—in a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
- In 2011, a wildlife photographer, David Slater, left his camera unattended in the reserve.
- Naruto allegedly took several photographs of himself (the “Monkey Selfies”) with Slater’s camera.
- The photo captured were sent to different news agency. The picture (monkey’s selfie) was published by daily mail as feature story and got viral.
- In 2014, dispute arose between Wikipedia and David slater, when wikipedia uploaded picture and tagged it as being in a public domain.
- Statement by wikipedia: “This file is in the public domain, because as the work of non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.
- In 2015, PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) brought a suit in California Court against David Slater and sued slater on the behalf of Monkey-Naruta as a next-friend for the copyright over the picture.
Decision by The California Court:
The Court held that the monkey is not an author within the meaning of the U.S. Copyright act. Further, the court also said that even if Naruto had taken the pictures by “independent, autonomous action” the suit could not continue as animals do not have standing in a court of law.
After the case was dismissed by the California. PETA filed an appeal before the US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit.
Issue Before US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit:
We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement. Our court’s precedent requires us to conclude that the monkey’s claim has standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, we conclude that this monkey—and all animals, since they are not human—lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act. We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.
Also, another issue before the court was that whether PETA can act as a next friend for the Naruto-Monkey?
Reference by US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit:
In Cetacean Community, 386 F.3d at 1171, The Cetaceans (Whale, Dolphins etc) alleged concrete physical injuries caused by the Navy’s sonar systems. A suit was brought by the “self-appointed attorney for all of the world’s whales, porpoises, and dolphins.”
The Ninth Circuit made clear that the “sole plaintiff in this case” is the Cetaceans (Whale, Dolphins etc) and did not discuss “next friend” or third-party standing. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal because the Cetaceans lacked statutory standing under the environmental statutes at issue in that case.
Decision of US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit:
1. The US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit while referring to issue no.1 and Cetacean Community case said that in present case the complaint (PETA) alleges that Naruto is the author and owner of the Monkey Selfies. The complaint further alleges that Naruto has suffered concrete and particularized economic harms as a result of the infringing conduct by the Appellees (Referring to David slater), harms that can be redressed by a judgment declaring Naruto as the author and owner of the Monkey Selfies.
Further, referring to Cetacean Community case the court said that Cetacean crafted a simple rule of statutory interpretation: if an Act of Congress plainly states that animals have statutory standing, then animals have statutory standing. If the statute does not so plainly state, then animals do not have statutory standing. The Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits under the statute.9 Therefore, based on this court’s precedent in Cetacean, Naruto lacks statutory standing to sue under the Copyright Act.
2. The US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit while answering to the second issue said that we gravely doubt that PETA can validly assert “next friend” status to represent claims made for the monkey both (1) because PETA has failed to allege any facts to establish the required significant relationship between a next friend and a real party in interest and (2) because an animal cannot be represented, under our laws, by a “next friend.”
3. Therefore, based on the above two points the court affirmed the decision of California Court and dismissed the suit brought by PETA. Which means such Photograph/selfie will neither be copyright of the animal nor of a human and therefore will fall under ‘Public domain’. Also, The US Court of appeals for the 9th circuit ordered PETA to pay attorney’s fees of the David Slater incurred during the appeal.
So, the monkey’s selfie will not be a copyright of the monkey because US Copyright act only gives right to the human work. Further, such copyright cannot be given to photographer because based on the previous decision for copyright work must be original and work is original if it is the independent creation of its author. A work is creative if it embodies some modest amount of intellectual labor.”
So on the basis of above discussion we can conclude and say that Photograph/selfie clicked by monkey himself are neither be copyright of the animal nor of a human and therefore will fall under ‘Public domain’.