The famous monkey selfie lawsuit will continue after an appellate court refused to dismiss the case.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is not monkeying around in a case that will set lasting precedent on whether animals have standing to file lawsuits or hold copyright. The case began when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a copyright infringement suit against photographer David John Slater in 2015 on behalf of Naruto, a crested macaque who snapped a selfie using Slater’s camera in 2011. The animal rights group claimed the party they represented—a literal monkey—owned the copyright to the image. It has already been determined by the U.S. copyright office that Slater himself doesn’t have any rights to the photo following its 2014 ruling that objects created by animals without significant human intervention cannot be copyrighted. A judge dismissed PETA’s suit in 2016, also finding animals cannot hold copyright, but the group appealed. Both Slater and PETA filed a motion to dismiss in the Ninth Circuit after they reached a settlement last year. But the appellate court rejected the petition and will issue an opinion, noting in a ruling handed down Friday that courts have the discretion to continue hearing a case in which a settlement and motion to dismiss could be an attempt to avoid unfavorable precedent by one of the parties. The court also pointed out in a footnote that Naruto himself—again, a literal monkey—was not a party to the settlement between PETA and Slater, and thus under PETA’s own theory could bring another case in the future.