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IP Alert: No Monkey Selfie Copyright, But What About AI?

April 23, 2018

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Naruto the monkey today. Naruto is the Indonesian crested macaque who found a misplaced camera and used it to take this selfie, among others:

In a surprisingly lengthy (and surprising 2–1) decision, the Ninth Circuit held that Naruto could not claim a copyright in the photos. The court reasoned that Naruto was a monkey, not a human, and therefore lacked standing to bring a claim under the Copyright Act.

The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) attempted to represent Naruto’s interest as his purported “next friend,” but the court ruled that PETA, too, lacked standing and could not act as the “next friend” of Naruto.

Is this an amusing one-off case, soon to be relegated to the law school casebooks, but raising issues not likely to surface again? Perhaps, but consider artificial intelligence programs. Such programs are becoming ever more advanced, and they can now be used to generate a variety of written documents. What are the copyright implications of the Naruto case for artificially intelligent authors?

We expect the nascent law in this area to develop as artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent. Please contact Fitch Even partner Allen E. Hoover with any questions about the Naruto decision.

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