Nonhuman animals do not have a right to copyright protection, a federal court ruled this week in the case of a selfie photo taken by a monkey.
The court upheld the ruling of a lower court that dismissed a suit brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against photographer David Slater.
Slater was on assignment in a wildlife reserve on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia when a crested macaque named Naruto took Slater’s unattended camera and made a self-portrait. Slater used the photo in a book, labeling the copyright to himself, though acknowledging that the monkey took the photo.
PETA filed suit on behalf of Naruto saying Slater was infringing on the monkey’s rights under the Copyright Act. There is a judicial precedent for animals to be granted legal rights, but the court’s decision did not address that, saying it is the Copyright Act that does not specifically grant rights to nonhuman animals, and thus there is not a case.
The ruling was part of an appeal, but the case between PETA and Slater was settled in September 2017. The photographer agreed he would donate 25 percent of any future revenue he gains from the photos to charities that protect the habitat in Indonesia where the photos were taken.