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Say cheese! Monkey selfie case back in SF federal court for appeal

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A 6-year-old crested macaque named Naruto captured this selfie in 2011. (Courtesy PETA)

An animal rights group is appealing a ruling from a federal judge in San Francisco that an Indonesian monkey does not have legal rights to photographs he took of himself.

An attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review Wednesday the decision that a monkey is not the author of a selfie under the U.S. Copyright Act.

PETA is arguing that a 6-year-old crested macaque named Naruto is the copyright owner of selfies taken in 2011.

The intelligent monkey intended to press the camera shutter while making different facial expressions at the lens, making him the author, the group said. But the photographer who owned the camera Naruto used later published the images.

“When science and technology advance, the law adapts,” PETA attorney Jeffrey Kerr said in a statement. “There is nothing in the Copyright Act limiting ownership based on species, and PETA is asking for an interpretation of the act that acknowledges today’s scientific consensus that macaque monkeys can create an original work.”

U.S. District Judge William Orrick dismissed the case in January 2016, citing a previous court decision that said a law does not apply to animals unless it “plainly” says “animal” rather than “persons” or “human beings.”

“The Copyright Act does not ‘plainly’ extend the concept of authorship or statutory standing to animals,” Orrick wrote in his decision. “To the contrary, there is no mention of animals anywhere in the act.”

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