David Slater, a British photographer, has spent years fighting for the royalties of the picture, which was taken when the shutter on his camera was activated by a seven-year-old macaque in Indonesia in 2011. They're not the only one to contest the ownership of the photo (*cough*Wikimedia*cough*), but the legal battles got to the point where Slater was considering "packing it all in".
Slater and PETA announced in September they reached a settlement, under which Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of any future revenue from the images to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia.
It was not clear how much the photograph has been worth to Slater, who previously said that fewer than 100 copies of his self-published book had been sold, despite the publicity.
"Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way", the three-judge court said, "PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals".
"We must determine whether a monkey may sue humans, corporations, and companies for damages and injunctive relief arising from claims of copyright infringement", writes Circuit Judge Carlos Bea in the opinion issued Monday.
We feel compelled to note that PETA's deficiencies in this regard go far beyond its failure to plead a significant relationship with Naruto.
In a separate opinion in the selfie case, 9th Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith called PETA's lawsuit "frivolous" and said he would not have ruled on the merits of the copyright claim, but instead would have dismissed the case on other grounds.
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In 2016, a federal judge ruled that the macaque monkey can not be declared the copyright owner of the photos.
In a rare move, the appeals' court refused to accept the lawyers' demand to throw out the case.
"But now, in the wake of PETA's proposed dismissal, Naruto is left without an advocate, his supposed "friend" having abandoned Naruto's substantive claims in what appears to be an effort to prevent the publication of a decision adverse to PETA's institutional interests", the court said.
In fact, the court claimed PETA essentially abandoned Naruto. He said the move led him to believe PETA's "real motivation in this case was to advance its own interests, not Naruto's".
"I can now, hopefully, relax a little and enjoy what I love - being with wildlife", Slater said.
The animal rights group is appealing against the latest ruling.
PETA appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit.