The Law of Standing & Animals

Several years ago I posted a piece about standing & elephants (found here). Now, from the 9th Circuit we have more law about animal rights and animal standing.

By Steven D. Schwinn

The Ninth Circuit ruled today that a monkey had Article III standing to sue for copyright infringement. But the court also ruled that the monkey lacked statutory standing under the Copyright Act, so dismissed the claim.

The case, Naruto v. Slater, arose when wildlife photographer David Slater left his camera unattended in a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, to allow crested macaque monkeys to photograph themselves. Naruto, one of the monkeys, did just that, and Slater published his picture in a book of “monkey selfies.” Naruto, through his next of friend PETA, sued for copyright infringement.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that Naruto had Article III standing. The court said that circuit precedent tied its hands–the Ninth Circuit previously ruled in Cetacean Community v. Bush that the world’s whales, porpoises, and dolphins could have Article III standing to sue, although they lacked statutory standing under the relevant environmental statutes–and went on to urge the Ninth Circuit to reverse that precedent.

But the court further held that Naruto lacked statutory standing under the Copyright Act, because that Act doesn’t permit a monkey to sue. It dismissed Naruto’s case on this ground.

The court ruled that PETA didn’t have next-of-friend standing, because it didn’t assert a relationship with Naruto, and because “an animal cannot be represented, under our laws, by a ‘next friend.'”

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