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Monkey 'selfie': Peta sues photographer for copyright on behalf of macaque that took picture of himself

By Valerie Edwards

Published 23/09/2015

This 2011 photo provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater. (David Slater/Court exhibit provided by PETA via AP)
This 2011 photo provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a camera that was positioned by British nature photographer David Slater. (David Slater/Court exhibit provided by PETA via AP)

A "monkey selfie" could set a legal precedent after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) filed a lawsuit against photographer David J. Slater.

The lawsuit seeks to have Naruto, the macaque monkey, declared the “author” and owner of his now-famous selfie.

The selfie photo of Naruto, was taken in 2011 on a trip to the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.  David's camera peaked the interest of a group of macaque monkeys when he positioned it in order to get facial close-ups of them.

Peta argues that U.S. 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.

If successful, Naruto would have full ownership of his photo and Peta will administer all proceeds from the photo for the benefit of the six-year-old monkey – without compensation to the organization.

The lawsuit could mark the first time a non-human animal is declared the owner of property and the first time a right is extended to a non-human animal beyond its basic necessities of food, shelter, water, and veterinary care.

David published the monkey's photos in his book, Wildlife Personalities, through a San Francisco-based self-publishing company, Blurb.

As a part of the lawsuit, Peta has used a quote from David's book that reads: “The recognition that animals have personality and should be granted rights to dignity and property would be a great thing.”

David wrote on his website that he wanted to take facial close-ups of the monkeys, but had not anticipated Naruto would take a selfie of himself as he played around with the camera.

In response to the Peta lawsuit, the photographer took to Facebook blasting the organization for suing him.

He wrote: “Peta, an animal charity I have worked with in the past to protect wild boar in the UK, are showing themselves to be more interested in themselves, selfie style, than the plight of animals in trouble.”

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