New Lawsuit Could See Photo Copyright Being Owned by a Monkey

Posted by 1 year ago | Permalink | Comments (6)

Many of us have stumbled across the famous “monkey selfie” taken back in 2011, but the legal ownership of this breathtaking shot remains uncertain. The current US Copyright Act of 1976 grants copyright ownership of an image to the “author”, with no mention of species. A new lawsuit filed by PETA US could see the first-ever photo property ownership for a non-human primate over the famous image.

monkey selfieBritish professional wildlife photographer David J Slater was in Indonesia a few years ago when a curious crested black macaque – 6-year-old Naruto – hijacked his equipment and took a few expert selfies of his own.

PETA US has filed a lawsuit asking the federal court in San Francisco to declare Naruto the author and owner of the internationally famous monkey selfie image. Challenging defendants Slater and his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd,  PETA US is seeking the court’s permission to manage the copyright, license the photos for commercial use and – most importantly – use 100 per cent of the proceeds to benefit Naruto and his community.

Crested macaques are highly intelligent, possess advanced reasoning abilities and can confidently manipulate objects with their hands – but they’re highly endangered. Their population has plummeted by approximately 90 per cent over the last 25 years, as a result of human encroachment. Macaques are killed in retribution for foraging on crops or slaughtered for meat.

The decision in this case could be the first time that a non-human animal has ever been declared the owner of property, rather than being declared a piece of property. We could consequently witness a ground-breaking step forward in society – the acknowledgement that animal rights should be recognised for the sake of animals and not for the exploitative benefit of humans.


  • Michael Godding commented on September 23, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    This is right to do.

    • David commented on September 24, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Do PETA have the permission of ‘the author’ to use the photo in this article?

      Would a ruling in the macaques’ favour also lead to them being criminally liable for foraging on (stealing) crops?

  • Dave Wood commented on September 24, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    So as the monkey triggered the photo he owns the copyright is what you are saying. Does that mean an intruder owns the copyright to a motion sensitive CCTV camera when they break in to a building? The list is endless. Did the monkey have permission to use the camera?

    Does the monkey even know that is his name?

    Please I used to believe in PETAs work but this is off the charts wrong!

    • Julian commented on September 25, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Couldn’t agree more, totally disgusted by this

  • Julian commented on September 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Pretty disgusted with your attitude in regards to trying to obtain the proceeds generated by the Macaque photo.
    As a photographer myself and a keen conservationist, I understand the difficulty and time that’s usually required to get great photos of the animals we love.
    What a shame that PETA has decided to become a thief and disguised it as animal activism.
    I regularly donate to PETA from my salary but will be stopping all donations and looking for other animal charities to support.
    Your behaviour is opportunistic and mean spirited, for shame!

  • terry mcburney commented on September 25, 2015 at 11:47 am

    PETA have done their reputation no good at all by pursuing their ridiculous claim against an honest photographer. It was clearly his intellectual ideas and skills that created the monkey ‘selfie’. His work has resulted in huge public awareness of the plight of this species while the PETA nonsense has discredited their own efforts in this field. They can share in his achievement by celebrating it but not by attempting to pilfer the proceeds he is due. Shame on you.

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