PETA’s ‘Monkey Selfie’ Lawsuit Discussed in Special Chicago Address

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

At a joint meeting of The Copyright Society of the USA–Midwest Chapter and The Chicago Bar Association, Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA, discussed PETA’s “monkey selfie” lawsuit, which is pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The groundbreaking case seeks to have Naruto, a macaque, declared the author and owner of his internationally famous selfie photographs under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Naruto intentionally and purposely acted to create his selfie, and he should own it, just as any human being unquestionably owns the selfie that he or she takes. If PETA prevails in this lawsuit, it will be the first time that a nonhuman animal is declared to be a property owner rather than a piece of property.

Highly intelligent crested macaques are under threat—their numbers have decreased by approximately 90 percent over the last 25 years as a result of losing their habitat to human encroachment, being killed by humans in retribution for eating crops, and being trapped and slaughtered for meat. PETA seeks the court’s permission to manage the copyright in the photos, license them for commercial use, and use 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit Naruto and his community, without compensation to PETA.

For more than 21 years, Kerr has led the largest and most effective legal team working for animal rights in the world. His high-profile cases—including the landmark 13th Amendment case Tilikum v. SeaWorld and the first-ever constitutional challenge to “ag-gag” laws, which are designed to prevent undercover investigations on farms—have made headlines around the world and sparked a global conversation about the legal rights of animals.

This case exemplifies what PETA has championed for 37 years: Animals deserve recognition of appropriate rights for their own sake and not in relation to their exploitation by humans. Keep watching for updates to this potentially precedent-setting case.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind