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Judge: Monkey can't own copyright to selfies


Source: Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that a monkey who took selfies using a nature photograhper's camera cannot be the copyright owner of the images.

US District Judge William Orrick said on Wednesday that the macaque monkey, which is not the one pictured above, was not covered under copyright law and that only Congress and the President could change that.

British photograpger David Slater set his camera up for the 6-year-old monkey, Naruto, to snap the pictures in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011.

The lawsuit was brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who said Naruto should be granted copyright protection as he produced the photos.

Proceeds from the photos would then be used for the monkey's benefit.

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PETA was seeking monetary damages from Slater and the Blurb of San Francisco publishing platform which published his book Wildlife Personalities.

Slater says that the British copyright his company, Wildlide Personalities Ltd. obtained for the images should be recognised by other countries.

In the US, the pictures are considered in the public domain and have been published by a variety of media outlets.

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Last year, the U.S. Copyright Office updated its policies to include a section stipulating that animals could not qualify as copyright holders and that only works produced by humans would be granted protection.

The latest ruling confirms the Copyright Office's policies, with Judge Orrick calling PETA's argument "a stretch", according to ArsTechnica.


January 7, 2016, 5:06 pm

So is the judge acknowledging the monkey, rather than the photographer, as the creative actor who, but for the fact that he is not human, would own the copyright. Therefore in this case such copyright, if any, as exists can not be owned, and therefore has no force?

Or is the judge saying that with the monkey out of consideration, the question of copyright must be applied to the photographer as the only other possible candidate?


January 7, 2016, 11:44 pm

... but who was the 'photographer'? The monkey or the man?

Perhaps too, some creative credit ought to be given to the many men and women who engineered the camera and made Slater's carefully planned 'monkey selfie' experiment possible? Does Slater's argument that he oversaw production of the pictures and thereby then owned the authored works necessarily end there?

What tickles me most is the defendant's contention that the wrong monkey was in fact being represented. PETA claimed a male macaque was the legal copyright holder when it fact the pictures, according to Slater's defense, were meant to be of a female macaque so a possible case of mistaken identity then? But what, construed in more ontological concerns, is 'identity' anyway?

The case of the missing copyright owner rumbles on it seems...


January 8, 2016, 2:33 am

The article already said the pictures are public domain, at least under US law. PETA was just looking for an opportunity to steal the copyright ownership of the photographs from the public and grant them to the monkey whom they obviously intend to represent. To the profit of organizations that help animals AKA themselves.

What an awesome idea. I'm going to create an software rights organization PETS and sue that any movies or pictures made with modern digital cameras copyright actually belong to the software in the cameras that rendered them, and that any profits generated from said software derived media go to my AI rights organization. To prevent future exploitation of course.


January 8, 2016, 12:08 pm

I'm sorry, but this is crazy - in any sane world the photographs taken are the SOLE copyright of the photographer, in this case, Slater. He owned the equipment, he set up the camera, he was photographing the animals, he took himself in to the situation which resulted in the images being captured, no other person was involved. End of.

This entire farcical waste of time and money is absolutely rediculous and highlights how stupid the law has become. There is no debate to be had.

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