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 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 was filed last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and it sought a court order allowing them to represent the monkey.  PETA wanted the court to let it administer all proceeds from the photos for the benefit of the monkey, which was identified as 6-year-old Naruto, and other crested macaques living in a reserve. They live on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
 
The photos were taken during a 2011 trip to Sulawesi, using an unattended camera owned by British nature photographer David Slater.  He asked the court to dismiss the case. Slater said 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." The book includes the "monkey selfie" photos.
 
The photos have been widely distributed elsewhere including on Wikipedia.  Those outlets contend that no one owns the copyright to the images. They say that's 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 up to the U.S. Congress and not a federal court to decide whether copyright law applies to animals.
 
Jeff Kerr is general counsel for PETA.  He said the organization will continue fighting for the monkey's rights.
 
"Despite this setback, legal history was made today," Kerr said. "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.  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)
  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    1/13/2016 - 09:13 p.m.

    I think that it is pretty funny to have this monkey take someone's camera and take pictures using it. I think that this picture should have been taken by someone, but they say that the monkey took the pictures my himself. I think that picture is too well taken for a monkey to take a picture of himself. I think that this person could have been joking around that the monkey took a picture of its self. I hope that someday they can figure out how the monkey managed to take a picture of its self that is that high quality. I hope that this person isn't making stuff about this monkey. This monkey can be a fake, because it looks like my friend Eric. Not to be mean, but this person might have used a fake monkey and photoshopped this picture.

  • lilyg-2-bar
    1/13/2016 - 10:19 p.m.

    It mattered who owned the rights to the photo because the monkey took the picture, since it was a selfie. "Slater said the British copyright obtained for the photos by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., should be honored worldwide." I think this is interesting because I had no idea that animals can have rights to a photo.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    1/14/2016 - 09:27 p.m.

    I think this is a very trivial matter because David Slater did not have to make such a commotion. If he found the pictures in his camera, he might as well keep it without saying anything. This was something that would not have happened in the first place. I wonder how the monkey managed to take it.
    Why did it matter who owned the rights to the photo?
    Answer: It mattered because the monkey took the picture and Slater owned the camera.

  • calis-3-bar
    1/14/2016 - 09:46 p.m.

    If the monkey owned the rights to the photo, the profits could be used to benefit it and others of its kind, by protecting them in their natural habitat. The funds would be used in a greater way than when the copyright doesn't belong to the monkey. In the second scenario, the monkeys are not benefiting from the profit: people are. The photos are being used with no helpful affect to the taker of the photos, the monkey. I liked this articles, as I love animals and love to hear about how their rights are being protected. However, I think it sad tat the monkey cannot benefit at all from the photos, especially because they photos are so publicized.

  • gabriellek-1-bar
    1/15/2016 - 12:11 a.m.

    It mattered who owned the rights to the photo because the monkey took the "selfie" instead of a human taking it of the monkey. If the man would have taken the photo of the monkey he would have owned the rights to the photos but he did not so the photo is currently not copyrighted. It surprises me that a monkey would take someones camera and figure out how to take photos of themselves. I am interested in the fact that PETA sued Slater and his publishing company over a photo.

  • noahf-3-bar
    1/15/2016 - 12:44 a.m.

    It matters who owned the rights to the photo because if an animal took the photo, does the copyright belong to the camera owner or the animal? If someone uses the photo taken by the animal it could be considered copyright infringement. I found this article interesting because I didn't realise that a monkey taking a picture could cause so much controversy.

  • jacksonm-4-bar
    1/15/2016 - 10:05 a.m.

    It mattered who had copyright to the monkey selfie because one side wanted to " PETA wanted the court to let it administer all proceeds from the photos for the benefit of the monkey." and the other side wanted to have copyright.This article was interesting because i did not know animals had the right to pictures to.

  • luket-4-bar
    1/15/2016 - 10:22 a.m.

    It mattered who owned the photo because the owner must be cited. People were using this as much as they wanted assuming there was no owner, because it was taken by an animal.
    I thought this was interesting because I didn't realize something like this could be taken to court.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    1/16/2016 - 01:24 p.m.

    This whole selfie craze has gone way too far. The fact that people have gone to court over the rights of a selfie taking by a monkey is just sad. The photos are interesting to view, wildlife from a different angle, but for a copyright case to be tried because of it makes me question what this world is turning into.

  • jwilliams1-lov
    1/19/2016 - 11:14 a.m.

    it mattered who owned the the rights to the photo because the monkey took it and because the person who published did not take it.

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