New Lawsuit Could See Photo Copyright Being Owned by a Monkey

Posted by on September 23, 2015 | Permalink

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.