People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and photographer David Slater have told a federal court in San Francisco that they are on the verge of settling PETA’s copyright infringement claim over the infamous monkey selfie.
The two parties, along with Blurb, Inc., a co-defendant with Slater, have asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stay PETA’s appeal in Naruto v. David Slater. According to court documents, settlement talks started after oral arguments in the case last month. PETA was on the defensive during those arguments, with appeals court judges expressing skepticism over PETA’s arguments on behalf of Naruto the monkey.
“The parties have agreed on a general framework for a settlement subject to the negotiation and resolution of specific terms,” lawyers for PETA, Slater, and Blurb said in a joint motion filed with the court on Friday. “The parties are optimistic that they will be able to reach an agreement that will resolve all claims in this matter.”
The case centers around a monkey named Naruto, who allegedly picked up Slater’s unattended camera in 2011 and shot a selfie. (According to Slater’s website, it was a monkey named Ella, not Naruto.) Slater published the selfie, which eventually precipitated Naruto v. David Slater, PETA’s 2015 copyright infringement claim on behalf of the monkey. PETA’s argument is that because the monkey took the picture, the monkey owns the copyright—just as any person would.
Last year, a federal court in California dismissed the case on the grounds that the US Copyright Act doesn’t give animals standing to own copyright. PETA appealed to the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
During oral arguments before the appeals court on July 12, a judge repeatedly asked PETA’s attorney what harm Slater had done to the monkey by publishing the photo. Judges also expressed doubt whether a monkey has standing under the US Copyright Act to sue as a non-human animal, and whether PETA has enough of a relationship with the monkey to bring a lawsuit on its behalf.
The judges hardly challenged Slater’s attorneys during the July 12 oral arguments.
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