In 2011, the world was mesmerized by a series of images — or selfies — taken by a crested black macaque taken with photographer David Slater’s camera while he worked in Indonesia.
Slater had been working in Sulawesi where he was sent to visually document Indonesia’s crested black macaques in their natural habitat. The British wildlife photographer had just mounted his camera on top of a tripod when Naruto, the macaque, approached the device and started snapping images of himself.
Naruto shot to worldwide fame as the selfies he had taken of himself went viral. But not everyone was as enthusiastic about the overwhelming response to the nimble-witted primate’s self-portraits.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lurched at the opportunity to explore whether animal rights would extend to copyright. After all, Naruto did take the pictures, right?
Well, it turns out the exploration was not as straightforward as one might have thought. In fact, a lawsuit filed by PETA had been dragging on for many years before it finally came to an end earlier this week, as reported by Mashable.
Both David Slater and Blurb, the self-publishing company that allowed Slater to post the images of Naruto, were sued by PETA who argued that the monkey owned the copyright to the pictures, as Slater did not physically take them. PETA wanted to be placed in charge of managing any and all income generated by the images as a proxy for and protector of the adorable macaque.
On Monday, the court announced its decision to grant David Slater the ownership rights to the photographs, but on the condition that 25 percent of any and all income generated as a result of the selfies be donated to charities that are working to uphold and improve the conservation of Naruto and his fellow macaques.
In 2016, a judge ruled that existing copyright laws cannot be extended to animals. However, PETA appealed the decision which ultimately led to this week’s result.
In a joint statement issued by representatives of Slater and PETA, the legal opponents said that they “agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Kerr, who served as legal counsel for PETA, was positive about the result and what it would mean for his client.
“PETA’s groundbreaking case sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans.”
[Featured Images by David Slater/Wikimedia Commons]