7 January 2016Copyright

‘Monkey selfie’ copyright claim rejected

A US court has dismissed a claim filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in which the organisation claimed that the copyright to the ‘monkey selfie’ photograph should belong to a macaque ape.

Judge William Orrick of the US District Court for the Northern District of California rejected PETA’s claim yesterday, January 6, stating that it is a matter for Congress not the courts.

“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,” Orrick said, according to an Associated Press report.

In September, PETA sued UK photographer David Slater over what it claimed was the unauthorised use of the ‘Monkey selfie’ image in his 2014 book “Wildlife Personalities”.

The disputed photograph is a portrait of a macaque ape taken during a trip to Indonesia in 2011. The photograph was taken by the ape, named Naruto, without the intervention of Slater.

The image has since been shared by many internet users on social media.

PETA said that the rights to the image should belong to Naruto and that all royalties generated from the distribution of the image should be used to benefit Naruto and other apes.

In response, Slater filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that US law did not give animals the standing to assert copyright ownership.

Jeff Kerr, senior vice president and general counsel, legal, and corporate affairs, told WIPR that despite the setback, the organisation is "celebrating that legal history was made in our unprecedented argument to a federal court that Naruto, a crested macaque monkey, should be the owner of property, rather than a mere piece of property.

"This case is a vital step on the path toward fundamental rights for non-human animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans," he added.

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More on this story

30 March 2016   The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has said it will appeal against a court ruling which said the ‘monkey selfie’ photograph does not belong to the macaque ape who took it.
7 August 2017   The copyright infringement case brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on behalf of a monkey is nearing its conclusion after a joint motion to stay the appeal was filed.
13 September 2017   Yesterday, WIPR reported that the ‘monkey selfie’ dispute between a photographer and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had reached a settlement. We spoke to UK lawyers to find out whether a case like this would ever succeed in the UK courts.