Judge rules on monkey selfie copyright case

  • 08/01/2016
There is controversy over whether Naruto or David Slater owns the photo's copyright
There is controversy over whether Naruto or David Slater owns the photo's copyright

A judge in the United States is set to make an official ruling on a controversial copyright lawsuit involving a digital camera, an angry photographer and a macaque monkey.

The case caused a stir in 2014 when British photographer David Slater complained that Wikipedia was using a photo of a monkey he took without permission.

Wikipedia, however, refused to take the picture down from its website for one reason – it said Mr Slater didn't take the photo, the monkey did.

Technically, the company was right. The monkey – called Naruto – did press the camera's shutter, but Mr Slater insisted he owns the copyright as all the equipment was his and set up the tripod.

It was only when he walked away for a few minutes that the cheeky monkey took the camera and snapped the shot.

Mr Slater later published a book of his photographs which included two selfies taken by Naruto, sparking a lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), seeking to have Naruto "declared the author and owner of his photograph".

"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 group said in a statement at the time.

PETA also called for all profits from sales of the photo to be turned over to Naruto, with a PETA primatologist to administer the proceeds for the benefit of the monkey and other crested macaques.

But a judge in San Francisco now says he agrees with the photographer – and the publisher of his book, Blurb, which is a co-defendant in the suit - and plans on dismissing the case, reports CBS.

"I just don't see that it could go as broadly as beyond humans," District Judge William Orrick said during a court hearing.

He would issue a written order of his dismissal at a later date, but would also allow PETA to file an amended lawsuit if it wished.

The group indicated that it was likely to revise and re-file its case, CBS reports.

The controversial photo was taken on the island of Celebes, in Indonesia.

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