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Naruto v. Slater

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

July 12, 2017, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; April 23, 2018, Filed

No. 16-15469

Opinion

 [*420]  [***1465]   BEA, Circuit Judge:

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 [**3]  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.3 We therefore affirm the judgment of the district court.

 [***1466]  FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Naruto was a seven-year-old crested macaque 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.

Slater and Wildlife Personalities, Ltd., ("Wildlife") published the Monkey Selfies in a book that Slater created through Blurb, Inc.'s ("Blurb") website in December 2014. The book identifies Slater and Wildlife as the copyright owners of the Monkey Selfies. However, Slater admits throughout the book that Naruto took the photographs at issue. For example, the book describes one of the Monkey Selfies as follows: "Sulawesi crested black macaque smiles at itself while pressing the shutter button on a camera." Another excerpt from the book describes Naruto as "[p]osing to take its own photograph, unworried by its own reflection, smiling. [**4]  Surely a sign of self-awareness?"

In 2015 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ("PETA") and Dr. Antje Engelhardt filed a complaint for copyright infringement against Slater, Wildlife, and Blurb, as Next Friends on behalf of Naruto. The complaint alleges that Dr. Engelhardt has studied the crested macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia for over a decade and has known, monitored, and studied Naruto since his birth. The complaint does not allege any history or relationship between PETA and Naruto.4 Instead, the complaint alleges that PETA is "the largest animal rights organization in the world" and "has championed establishing the rights and legal protections available to animals beyond their utility to human beings . . . ."

Slater, Wildlife, and Blurb filed motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the complaint did not state facts sufficient to establish standing under Article III or statutory standing under the Copyright Act. The district court granted the motions to dismiss. In its order the district court stated the following with respect to Article III standing:

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888 F.3d 418 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 10129 **; 126 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1464 ***; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P31,260; 100 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 777; 2018 WL 1902414

NARUTO, a Crested Macaque, by and through his Next Friends, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DAVID JOHN SLATER; BLURB, INC., a Delaware corporation; WILDLIFE PERSONALITIES, LTD., a United Kingdom private limited company, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History: Rehearing, en banc, denied by Naruto v. Slater, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 24925 (9th Cir. Cal., Aug. 31, 2018)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No.3:15-cv-04324-WHO. William Horsley Orrick, District Judge, Presiding.

Naruto v. Slater, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11041 (N.D. Cal., Jan. 28, 2016)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

animals, next friend, PETA, Cetacean, next-friend, Copyright Act, rights, cases, third-party, Monkey, incompetent, real party in interest, district court, federal court, Coalition, Wildlife, Selfies, limits, significant relationship, bring suit, nonjurisdictional, settlement, case or controversy, purported, entities, merits, vacate, incompetent person, standing to sue, habeas corpus

Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Justiciability, Standing, Third Party Standing, Criminal Law & Procedure, Custody Requirement, Custody Determinations, Next Friend Standing, Parties, Capacity of Parties, Real Party in Interest, Responses, Motions to Dismiss, Constitutional Law, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Standing, Preliminary Considerations, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Rule Application & Interpretation, Particular Parties, Legislation, Interpretation, Copyright Law, Copyright Infringement Actions, Civil Infringement Actions, Remedies