In 2011, Naruto, a seven-year-old crested macaque played with a cameraman’s equipment, taking several selfies that have since gone viral. It’s the sort of feel-good animal story that anyone would love.
Unfortunately, the story took a dark turn when PETA filed a lawsuit “on the monkey’s behalf” alleging the photographer was violating the monkey’s copyright in the selfies. Over the next two years, the litigation would nearly bankrupt the photographer.
The case was a high profile test of the rights-of-nature theory—the idea that activists can file lawsuits in the name of animals, trees, rivers, etc. to protect environmental interests. Most efforts have failed, and for good reason.
As I recently explained when an activist group brought a lawsuit in the name of the Colorado River,
Courts have no way of deciding who represents the true interests of an inanimate object. A river has no preferences, at least none that…
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