Settlement reached over copyright of monkey “selfie” photo
It has become a world-famous photo, a selfie photo taken by a macaque monkey, grinning happily to the camera. But it also kept lawyers arguing over who owned the copyright of the photo – the photographer or the monkey?
The ensuing lawsuit involved the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and photographer David Slater. PETA filed a suit on behalf of “Naruto”, the crested black macaque who took the selfie in 2011, claiming the animal owned the picture because of the Copyright Act. Mr Slater had set up the photo in Sulawesi, Indonesia, by mounting a camera on a tripod which Naruto worked out how to use.
PETA sued Mr Slater in 2015 claiming the copyright belonged to Naruto under the Copyright Act after the photographer asked Wikipedia to take down one of the pictures which, he argued, had been published without permission. Wikipedia refused, arguing that the photo was uncopyrightable because it was in the public domain
In the first hearing, the judge ruled the act did not apply to animals, but PETA appealed. Under the agreement now reached between the two sides to the lawsuit, Mr Slater has agreed to donate a quarter of any future revenues derived from using or selling the monkey selfie to charities that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia.
“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve,” they said in a joint statement.