Inherit the Windfall

PETA better watch out. Monkey artists are just as cagey and more likely to throw sh*tfits as human artists.

Nearly 100 years ago, the nation was gripped by the Scopes Monkey Trial, which disappointingly did not end in a tense cross-examination of a monkey. If that case about whether science teachers can teach evolution was the defining case of American society in 1925, then the Monkey Selfie Trial of 2018 is our generation’s.

The case of PETA on behalf of Naruto, a monkey who took some selfies using photographer David J. Slater’s camera and Slater later taking credit for the photos in a book, sums up pretty much everything about our creative culture today. Just as early 20th century Americans wondered if embracing the benefits of new science and technology meant giving up their spiritual identity, so too does Naruto (if that is, in fact, the monkey’s legal name) grapple with his own unrewarded vanity and questions about the true ownership of digital intellectual property.

Both are complicated topics that we will debate well into the next century, as we wonder when, oh when, will we see a monkey wearing a judge’s robe and barrister wig preside over a televised small claims trial. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled Monday, upholding a lower court that, no, Naruto doesn’t own the rights to his selfie photos, we will also still wonder who owns the selfies that we shoot and share online.

But, what isn’t ambiguous? That, as hippy-dippy as PETA can be, nobody–not nobody–out-liberals the 9th Circuit Appeals Court.

The 9th didn’t have to weigh in; PETA and the photographer already settled. Mr. Slater will donate 25 percent of the earnings from his book to charities “that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia,” as PETA described it.

Instead of taking the obvious “of course the monkey doesn’t have rights” avenue, the court believes PETA, Naruto’s legal “next friend,” did not adequately repair damages to Naruto. The judges question PETA’s settlement, alleging that they abandoned Naruto to fund their own “institutional interests” instead of directly benefiting him.

Unless Naruto gets his pay day, and whatever other candy bars he deserves, this was not ethical treatment, PETA. You just got Ninthed!

Supreme Court doesn’t care about your graduation

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Nurre v. Whitehead. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was OK for a Washington high school to not let a graduating senior perform an instrumental version of “Ave Maria” during her commencement.

Kathryn Nurre, the aggrieved senior, sued the school for violation of her First Amendment right to A) turn the graduation ceremony into a Catholic mass and B) lengthen the already long ceremony of reading names while everyone’s buzz wears off.

While the court declined the case without comment, that didn’t stop Justice Samuel “Not True” Alito from saying he would have heard it.

While it is hunky-doory for public schools to cover the students’ selection of clothes to express themselves, Alito worries that banning poorly performed hymnals could lead to a slippery slope of further censorship at school events, like of speeches.

Today in the U.S. judicial system

Good afternoon, and welcome to the latest edition of Today in the U.S. Judicial System. Your hosts, the right honorable Guys, are presiding.

And what a day to preside over the landmark cases of our era, especially when compared to the important cases of yester-year: Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, The People v. Larry Flint …. It is awe-inspiring to see this process shape our lives again today.

Jesus Christ! (No, over there!)

First, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case and so upheld the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to  allow states to sell anti-abortion license plates to citizens whose faith cannot be adequately expressed by Jesus fish, dashboard saviors, rear-view crucifixes and John 3:16 written in soap across the rear windshield.

A cigarette by any other name …

Next up, they threw their support behind tobacco companies being harassed with lawsuits by people who can’t hold their light and low-tar cigarette smoke. They only heard opening arguments today, in which the plantiffs argued that smokers of the diet cigarettes were forced to take longer drags/smoke more cigarettes than when they smoked harsher brands.

The tobacco companies’ counterargument consisting of pointing to the light cigarettes and saying, “As you can see, your honors, it’s a cigarette.”

The court then adjourned for a five minute break in the parking lot for their fix of that smooth Winston flavor.