Monkey does not own rights to selfie Macaque monkey, Naruto's selfie snaps. (WikiMedia/David Slater)
Monkey does not own rights to selfie
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A macaque monkey who took now-famous selfie photographs cannot be declared the copyright owner of the photos, a federal judge has ruled.
 
U.S. District Judge William Orrick said in federal court in San Francisco that "while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act."
 
The lawsuit filed last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sought a court order allowing PETA to represent the monkey and let it to administer all proceeds from the photos for the benefit of the monkey, which it identified as 6-year-old Naruto, and other crested macaques living in a reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
 
The photos were taken during a 2011 trip to Sulawesi with an unattended camera owned by British nature photographer David Slater.  He asked the court to dismiss the case. Slater says the British copyright obtained for the photos by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., should be honored worldwide.
 
PETA sued Slater and his San Francisco-based self-publishing company Blurb.  The company published a book called "Wildlife Personalities" that includes the "monkey selfie" photos.
 
The photos have been widely distributed elsewhere by outlets, including Wikipedia.  Those outlets contend that no one owns the copyright to the images because they were taken by an animal, not a person.
 
In court documents, Slater described himself as a nature photographer who is deeply concerned about animal welfare.  He said it should be up to the U.S. Congress and not a federal court to decide whether copyright law applies to animals.
 
Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the organization will continue fighting for the monkey's rights.
 
"Despite this setback, legal history was made today because we argued to a federal court why Naruto should be the owner of the copyright rather than being seen as a piece of property himself," Kerr said. "This case is also exposing the hypocrisy of those who exploit animals for their own gain."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did it matter who owned the rights to the photo?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (35)
  • kbeatty-cel
    1/13/2016 - 10:39 a.m.

    This shows conflict of copyright. People are wanting to sue other companies for trying to use the picture, however it doesn't actually belong to one person. It was taken by a monkey on an unattended camera.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    1/13/2016 - 02:36 p.m.

    It matters who owns the rights to the photo because they get all the money from the distribution of the photo. Personally, I think the money should be split between the monkeys and the company because they both should have rights. What happened to sharing?

  • lucib-bag
    1/20/2016 - 08:02 p.m.

    This should not have been taken to a judge, because it is a photo of a monkey and anyone could take a picture similar. Therefore the case was not a bad case and never needed to go to court.

  • laurenc-bag
    1/21/2016 - 06:47 p.m.

    Alright... I don't want to be judgmental because that is not my place.

    But-
    This monkey should not have rights to the photo.

    I strongly disagree with PETA in general. I feel like they treat animals more respectfully than people, which makes me a little frustrated.

    I personally think that it DOESN'T matter who owns rights to the photo, because seriously, why get into this whole mess just because a monkey took a selfie? It leaves me questioning the Supreme Court sometimes, when they decide that cases like this are more important than cases dealing with the welfare of people.

  • phoenixr-war
    1/27/2016 - 08:26 a.m.

    Copyrights of the photo matter because people want money. These type of silly conflicts cause people seeing an opportunity to get money out of it.

  • arianao-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:45 a.m.

    Anyone who creates a media has the right to distribute and profit off that media how they see fit. For someone who is not the creator to take the selfie and plant it in a book and make profit off of it could violate copyright.

  • chrisr-mea
    1/29/2016 - 01:21 p.m.

    The reason it matter who owned the photo was because they are trying to protect Naruto by coy write laws rather then let someone else own this picture as if he was owned by them.

  • coled-fel
    2/12/2016 - 02:16 p.m.

    CTQ: It mattered who owned the rights to the photo because the company who had actually taken the pictures could've gotten sued.

  • ethany-fel
    2/12/2016 - 02:16 p.m.

    it mattered who owned the rights to the photo because if certain people had rights they could charge people money for something that stupid

  • lucasp-fel
    2/12/2016 - 02:17 p.m.

    it matterd because the great photographs cantbe taken by any one or it would be copierite

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