People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals isn’t monkeying around. The animal rights group told a federal judge Friday that a monkey wrench is wrongly being thrown into its lawsuit claiming that a macaque monkey named Naruto is the rightful owner of the selfies the monkey allegedly snapped in the Tangkoko reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011.
In response to allegations that PETA is representing the wrong monkey, the animal rights group wrote in a court filing (PDF) to US District Judge William Orrick that “there is no doubt that, as stated in the complaint, Naruto is the macaque in the Monkey Selfies.”
The legal filing comes ahead of a January hearing on PETA’s lawsuit in which it is suing a publisher and David Slater, the British nature photographer whose camera was swiped by a monkey while the photographer was on a jungle shoot. Slater has published a book with the pictures a monkey took of himself. Now the monkey—via PETA—is seeking monetary damages for copyright infringement from Slater and his publisher.
Slater and publisher Blurb contend in court filings that monkeys, or animals in general, cannot own intellectual property. What’s more, Blurb said in a court filing that regardless of whether that is even true, the six-year-old male crested macaque monkey isn’t even the monkey who took the selfies—meaning the lawsuit should be dismissed on those grounds alone.
Making this issue even more bizarre is that the US Copyright Office says Slater cannot possibly own the rights to the handful of images—meaning they’re in the public domain. The US Copyright Office said that works “produced by nature, animals, or plants” cannot be granted copyright protection.
A hearing on the legal brouhaha is set for January 6 in San Francisco federal court.