Naruto, a seven-year-old crested macaque, snapped a photo with a toothy smile in 2011 using a camera belonging to David Slater.
PETA sought to drop the case entirely, but a USA appeals court made the unusual move of stepping in anyway and issuing a ruling that criticized the group for dropping the case despite having presented itself as the monkey's "next friend", a legal status normally used in court on behalf people unable to represent themselves. After their claim was dismissed, they appealed, but subsequently reached a settlement with Slater in September a year ago. Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of gross revenue from the selling of the monkey selfies to charities advocating for the welfare and protection of the habitat of crested macaques.
"We believe the court's decision discriminates against him, simply because he is not human", said PETA Attorney Jeff Kerr. The judge said the law appeared to reserve that power only for humans.
In a separate opinion on the long-running case, 9th Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith called PETA's lawsuit "frivolous" and said he would have dismissed the case on other grounds.
They asked the 9th Circuit to dismiss the case and throw out Orrick's decision. Slater has argued that, as the intellect behind the photos, he is the copyright owner since he set up the camera so that such a photo could be produced if a monkey approached it a pressed the button.
During oral arguments in the case, the ninth circuit judges focused on the withdrawal from the case of Naruto's "next friend", Dr Antje Engelhardt, who was said to have had a "significant relationship" with Naruto. "Were he capable of recognizing this abandonment, we wonder whether Naruto might initiate a breach of confidential relationship against his (former) next friend, PETA, for its failure to pursue his interests before its own".
Smith adds that PETA also used Naruto as a "pawn to be manipulated on a chessboard larger than his own case".
"I can now, hopefully, relax a little and enjoy what I love - being with wildlife", Slater said.
In a statement released Monday, PETA applauded the 9th Circuit's reluctant recognition that, because of a precedent involving whales in the 9th Circuit, animals still had constitutional standing to bring a claim in federal court, just not under the Copyright Act, which gives animals no right to sue.
PETA appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit.