Judge Says He Will Dismiss Monkey’s Lawsuit But Allow Rights Group To Amend It

A federal judge in San Francisco said Wednesday he plans to dismiss a copyright lawsuit filed on behalf of an Indonesian monkey by an advocacy group that claims the animal owns the rights to a famous series of “monkey selfie” photographs. U.S. District Judge William Orrick said he agreed with arguments by camera owner David Slater and self-publishing software company Blurb Inc. that federal copyright law doesn’t allow animals to claim copyright protection.

 “I just don’t see that it could go as broadly as beyond humans,” Orrick said during a hearing on a motion by Slater and Blurb for dismissal of the lawsuit filed against them in September by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on behalf of Naruto, a crested macaque. The judge said he will issue a written order of dismissal at a later date. But Orrick also said he will allow PETA to file an amended lawsuit if the group wishes to do so.

PETA attorney David Schwarz told Orrick he plans to do that, and said outside of court that he will study the future ruling before deciding how to revise the suit.The now 7-year-old Naruto lives with other macaques in a rainforest reserve on the island of Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, in Indonesia. He took the selfies in 2011 with a camera that Slater, a British wildlife photographer, left in the reserve. 

The lawsuit claims that Naruto, who was accustomed to seeing cameras used by tourists and professional photographers, came upon the unattended camera and created the selfies through a series of “purposeful and voluntary actions…unaided by Slater.” Naruto’s actions as an author included “purposely pushing the shutter release multiple times (and) understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between pressing the shutter release, the noise of the shutter, and the change to his reflection in the camera lens,” the lawsuit says.

Slater’s lawyers have contended in a filing that Slater set up the photos by “building a trustful, friendly relationship” with a group of macaques over several days and then making artistic decisions about the lens width, positions and settings on the camera he left in the reserve. Slater published the photos in 2014 in a book called Wildlife Personalities, developed with software obtained from San Francisco-based Blurb. The book is copyrighted in the names of Slater and his private company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., according to the lawsuit. 

The soon-to-be dismissed current version of the lawsuit asked the court to declare Naruto the author, order all profits from sales of the selfies to be turned over to Naruto, and assign Virginia-based PETA and German primatologist Antje Engelhardt to administer the proceeds for the benefit of Naruto, other crested macaques and their habitat. PETA and Engelhardt, an expert on Sulawesi crested macaques, would provide their services for free, the lawsuit said. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Naruto, PETA as the monkey’s legal “next friends,” and Engelhardt.

The defendants are Slater, Wildlife Personalities Ltd. and Blurb Inc. The crested macaques are listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “As PETA has asserted for years, every animal deserves legal recognition for his or her ability to play, solve problems, and form families and friendships just as binding as that of human beings.”

Immigration Activists Call for End to Federal Deportation Raids Against Asylum Seekers

A rally Wednesday outside the San Francisco Immigration and Customs Enforcement office called for an end to deportation raids targeting Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, according to organizers.

Despite Wednesday’s heavy rain, around 50 people gathered for the event in response to the raids, which began this weekend, according to event organizers. While no raids in California have been confirmed yet, the deportation actions have caused “terror” in immigrant communities, according to Sandy Valenciano with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. 

Valenciano said those being targeted for deportation, which include families with children, are fleeing violence linked to gangs in Central American countries including El Salvador and Honduras. The United States is rejecting their applications for asylum because the requirements to qualify are stringent and difficult to meet and those applying are denied legal counsel and information about their rights or hearing schedules, according to event organizers. 

“A lot of these folks are being deported to their deaths,” Valenciano said. While federal officials have said those being deported have exhausted their rights, Valenciano said some are succeeding in getting stays of removal, indicating that is not the case.Wednesday’s rally, attended by officials including San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, was scheduled to take place on Three Kings Day, the Day of Epiphany, a Christian tradition celebrated throughout Latin America.

A similar event was held in Los Angeles Wednesday and others are planned in Southern California tomorrow. Valenciano said those facing deportation should contact a raid hotline number at (844) 878-7801 for assistance in obtaining legal counsel and information.