We all remember last year's infamous, copyright law-beguiling monkey selfie—the one where real, actual lawyers argued about whether a photographer whose camera was nicked by a monkey would own the pictures it took. One picture (the selfie) turned out to be certified viral fodder, but the actual question was, "Who gets to cash in?" The legal kerfuffle ended in hazy territory when the photographer, a man named David Slater, wound up getting to license the photo to news organizations and stopped making a racket about the whole situation.
So why, all of a sudden, is my Instagram feed clogged with pics of that Sulawesi crested macaque once again? Well, PETA has become the legally defenseless primate's knight in shining armor and are suing Slater for the monkey-profits he reaped. Motherboard has a few concerns about the legitimacy of this lawsuit that get into the nitty gritty of copyright law, but even those guys mostly stress that any court proceeding where the plantiff is a monkey is absurd.
According to their Instagram (and a lengthly blog post), PETA's argument essentially boils down to the argument that "U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit an animal from owning a copyright, & since Naruto [Editor's note: apparently, this is the monkey's name] took the photo, Naruto should own the copyright, as any human would." The ramifications here are serious: were PETA to somehow argue their way into setting precedent for animal artist royalties, this monkey tattoo artist could earn a living, the animals in movies like WHITE GOD and Roar would probably be due for contract reevaluations, and these hamsters would be the Brad and Angelina of the animal kingdom.
Now is the time for us to decide if that is really the world we want to live in.