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PETA and photographer David Slater settle ‘Macaque Selfie’ copyright

by Pallavi VershaSeptember 12, 2017

The British wildlife photographer David Slater has reached a settlement with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a long-running copyright case over a photo of a macaque monkey, taken by the monkey on Slater’s camera in the Indonesian jungle.

The monkey, a crested macaque named Naruto, took the selfie in 2011. A few years later, Slater tried to get the Wikimedia Foundation to remove the shot from Wikipedia, but the foundation refused, arguing that the monkey had taken the shot, so no-one held the copyright to it and it was therefore in the public domain.

At the end of 2014, the U.S. Copyright Office confirmed that works created by non-humans are not copyrightable.

PETA sued on behalf of the monkey in 2015, seeking financial control of the photographs for the benefit of the monkey named Naruto that snapped the photos with Slater’s camera. “Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright … in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author,” they said in their lawsuit at the time.

A federal judge denied PETA’s monkey-copyright attempt at the start of 2016, so the group took the case up to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco “on the monkey’s behalf.”

U.S. District Judge William Orrick said in a ruling in favour of Slater last year that “while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.” The 9th Circuit was considering PETA’s appeal.

As part of the settlement, Slater agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue he earns from the “monkey selfies” to charities that protect crested black macaques in Indonesia.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal,” Slater and PETA said in a joint statement.

“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,” PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr said in a statement.

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