Monkey Selfie Suit Finally Settled After Two Years
Naruto, a monkey who is endangered and living on a nature reserve, grabbed photographer David Slater’s camera back in 2011 and snapped a selfie. The camera was left unattended and mounted, ready for use. The image was so on point and human-like, Slater later published a wildlife book with it in it and the image went viral. But, Slater’s claim to fame was soon marred by a two-year long suit.
After the selfie was published, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Slater in 2015, claiming the monkey, not the photographer, is the lawful owner of any images he takes. Therefore, Slater has no rights to the shot.
The suit was brought in a U.S. court because Slater’s book was available for sale in the United States. Slater claimed the self-published title has sold less than 100 copies and he is unable to determine the exact worth of the photo.
In January 2016, the judge ruled that copyright law does not pertain to animals. PETA then took its suit to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco where the parties have now entered into a settlement agreement.
The two parties issued a joint statement: “PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal. As we learn more about Naruto, his community of macaques, and all other animals, we must recognize appropriate fundamental legal rights for them as our fellow global occupants and members of their own nations who want only to live their lives and be with their families.”
Twenty-five percent of the photograph’s future revenue will be donated to charitable groups that protect Naruto and other monkeys of his species in Indonesia. PETA was happy to hear this. Macaques, like Naruto, are endangered due to poaching.
“PETA’s groundbreaking case sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans,” said PETA’s general counsel, Jeff Kerr.
Slater wrote on Facebook last month, “Photographers are under enough pressure these days to make a living. We [don’t need] ridiculous interpretations of what copyright is from ignorant people like PETA and Wikipedia.” He added, however, that the shared goal of protecting Naruto is “far more important than battles over copyright between me and a monkey I want to help,” continuing, “Promotion and conservation of the crested black macaque, an extremely endangered relative of ours, was my original intention when I visited Sulawesi. I believed that comparing their personality to ours, through a photograph, could only gain our respect and our love for them. I see animals with personalities in exactly the same way as I see my fellow humans. The way in which I regard wildlife makes them so special to me and I want to share this. I hope that more and more people will try to see animals in the way I do. If so, then the conservation of our planet and the animals we have evolved with, will become a top priority within our society.”