Monkeying around with copyright, Rose Law Group attorneys Sam Doncaster and Logan Elia chide case

Monkey selfie in dispute/ from Wikimedia Commons
Monkey selfie in dispute/ from Wikimedia Commons

By Martha Neil | ABA Journal

The U.S. Copyright Office has said that a monkey can’t be the author of a copyrighted work.

But a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of Naruto, who is allegedly the monkey whose toothy selfies sparked an Internet sensation, is asking a federal court to find otherwise.

In an interview with Motherboard, general counsel Jeffrey Kerr of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which filed suit on behalf of the male Sulawesi crested macaque, responds to the blog’s skepticism that a monkey in an Indonesian rainforest should have his day in court.


Comment by Rose Law Group attorney Sam Doncaster:

“The suit is certainly entertaining monkey business, but the merits are poor enough that Naruto would be well advised to settle for three bananas.”

Comment by Rose Law Group attorney Logan Elia:

“Monkeys cannot be the record author of copyrighted works and also do not have standing in court to challenge that rule. I understand why PETA thinks maybe it would be better if the rule were different. But it wouldn’t.

“How do we know that the monkey wants the work to be copyrighted and not left in the public domain? How do we know that the monkey wants to address this matter through litigation instead of pursuing a lobbying-based solution?

“Even if the monkey were presented with settlement offer, how would we know that the monkey wanted to accept the offer?

“Frankly, no one who thinks about it really wants a legal system that would allow them to be sued by a monkey.”

Related: 9th Circuit says the Batmobile is a copyrightable character

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September 2015