The copyright ownership fight over a world-famous “monkey selfie”, taken by a black macaque after pressing a button on a camera owned by a wildlife photographer four years ago in Indonesia, has now reached the court.
Animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has filed a lawsuit in the federal court in San Francisco against photographer David J. Slater and his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., which both claim copyright ownership of the photos that the black macaque named Naruto indisputably took.
The lawsuit demands to direct all proceeds from the famous monkey selfie to Naruto itself, Peta said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Also named as a defendant is the San Francisco-based publishing company Blurb, Inc. which published a collection of Slater’s photographs, including two selfies taken by Naruto.
“The lawsuit seeks to have Naruto declared the “author” and owner of his photograph,” Peta added.
“Our argument is simple: US copyright law doesn’t prohibit an animal from owning a copyright, and since Naruto took the photo, he owns the copyright, as any human would,” the statement read.
The macaque, named Naruto, is known to field researchers in Sulawesi who have observed and studied him for years as they work in the region.
In 2011 in Indonesia, Slater left an unattended camera on a tripod.
That was tempting for a curious male crested black macaque who took the camera and began taking photographs? some of the forest floor, some of other macaques and several of himself one of which resulted in the now-famous “monkey selfie”.
If this lawsuit succeeds, it will be the first time that a non-human is declared the owner of property (the copyright of the “monkey selfie”), rather than being declared a piece of property himself or herself.
“It will also be the first time that a right is extended to a nonhuman animal beyond just the mere basic necessities of food, shelter, water, and veterinary care,” Peta commented.
“We are also asking the court to allow Peta to administer the proceeds of “monkey selfie” sales for the benefit of Naruto and his community, without compensation to Peta,” the organisation announced.
In media reports, Slater responded with dismay, saying he was “very saddened”.
He argues the British copyright of the photo should be honoured worldwide.