crested black macaque

Monkey Selfie Lawsuit: PETA Insists Primate Owns Photo

A monkey selfie lawsuit, initiated by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is gaining worldwide attention. According to the complaint, which was filed in the United States Northern District Court of California, the monkey is the rightful owner of a set of images, which he took using a photographer’s camera. According to PETA, the photographer violated the monkey’s rights by distributing the photos without permission.

As stated in the lawsuit, photographer David John Slater traveled to Indonesia’s Tangkoko Reserve to take wildlife photos “in or around 2011.” At some point during the trip, Slater left his camera unattended in the vicinity of a crested black macaque named Naruto.

As evidenced in the resulting photos, Naruto proceeded to use Slater’s camera to snap several pictures — including at least one photo of his own smiling face.

The monkey selfie lawsuit suggests the photos “resulted from a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto.” Therefore, PETA argues the crested black macaque holds original authorship of the photos.

Although David John Slater and Wildlife Personalities currently own the copyright to the photos, PETA insists the pictures rightfully belong to Naruto.

As reported by CNN, it is unclear whether animals can claim authorship under the United States Copyright Act.

PETA suggests the wording of the act “is sufficiently broad so as to permit the protections of the law to extend to any original work, including those created by Naruto.” However, the United States Copyright Office disagrees.

As a result of the monkey selfie scandal, the USCO determined “only works created by a human can be copyrighted under US law.” As reported by Guardian, “works produced by nature, animals, or plants” simply do not qualify for copyright registration.

Interestingly, the monkey selfie lawsuit cites David John Slater’s own words as proof that Naruto “should be afforded the protection of a claim of ownership, and the right to recover damages and other relief for copyright infringement.”

In his book, which featured the monkey selfie, Slater suggests “the recognition that animals have personality and should be granted rights to dignity and property would be a great thing.”

Although the monkey selfie lawsuit does not mention specific monetary damages, PETA is asking that “all net proceeds from the sale, licensing and other commercial use of the Monkey Selfies… be used solely for the benefit of Naruto, his community of crested macaques, and preservation of their habitat.”

[Images via Wikimedia]

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