This is a copyright case, in which PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is claiming that a monkey has rights more than the photographer taking the photos.
British wildlife photographer, David Slater, went to a nature preserve in Indonesia to take photos of endangered crested black macaque monkeys in the jungle. He set up his camera on a tripod and the monkeys approached apparently fascinated by their own reflections in the camera lens.
Soon, they began playing with the camera, even taking some photos of themselves, though unintentionally. One monkey in particular took several self-portraits, some of them were eventually even published in a newspaper article about Slater’s trip to photograph the macaques.
One of the “selfies” became the cover photo of a book that Slater published about his wildlife adventures. The book states that Slater is the copyright owner of all of the photos in the book.
It didn’t take long for PETA to get wind of this, and they filed a complaint in U.S. District Court naming the monkey it calls, Naruto, as the plaintiff. Through PETA, Naruto was suing the photographer and publisher for copyright infringement, stating: “The Monkey Selfies resulted from a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater, resulting in original works of authorship by Naruto.”
General counsel for PETA maintains that Naruto should be treated like a human being. “If a human had taken a photo with Slater’s camera, that person would own the copyright to the photos,” says Jeff Kerr.
Attorneys for Slater and the publishing company filed a motion to dismiss citing the absurdity of the claim.
The court ruled in favor of the defendant and dismissed the case, stating, in part: “While Congress and the President can extend protection of law to animals, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.”
If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.