Two weeks ago, we posted a commentary on the so-called monkey selfie case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Naruto v. Slater. The court unanimously held that Naruto, a photogenic Indonesian macaque, did not have statutory standing to sue the owner of the selfie-taking camera for copyright infringement. The majority opinion did find that Naruto had Article III standing, a conclusion strongly criticized in a concurring opinion.
Law360 reported yesterday that “an unnamed Ninth Circuit judge had requested sua sponte that the full court vote on whether to rehear the case.” The article speculated that Judge N. Randy Smith, who authored the concurrence in the three-judge-panel opinion, may have made the request. Judge Smith had written that once the court found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could not act as a “next friend” to Naruto and prosecute the suit on his behalf, the standing inquiry should have ceased.
A second possibility is that the author of the Slater majority opinion, Judge Carlos Bea, called for the en banc vote. His opinion explicitly called for the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its 2004 decision, Cetacean Cmty. v. Bush, which held that non-humans represented by “competent counsel” can have Article III standing to sue without a “next friend.” The court “wrongly decided” Cetacean, Judge Bea wrote in Slater.
The May 25 Slater docket filing called for new briefs on the rehearing issue, which are due on June 15.