On Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that a monkey who took selfies cannot be the copyright owner of the photos.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick stated that the Copyright Act does not extend to animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a leading animal rights group. had filed a lawsuit to allow the organization to administer all proceeds from the photos for Naruto, a 6-year-old macaque monkey. British nature photographer David Slater, who took the original photos, requested that the court honor the British copyright owned by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd.
David Slater was visiting Indonesia and photographing macaque monkeys when Naruto supposedly seized the camera and took a selfie. After Slater posted the image, it went viral; it became part of Wikimedia Commons’ collection. Wikimedia Commons and others wanting to use the photo argued Naruto held the copyright because the monkey took the picture, though the camera belonged to Slater. PETA filed suit to that effect in September 2015, arguing that the photo “resulted from a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater.”
The suit also alleged that Naruto’s actions included “purposely pushing the shutter release multiple times (and) understanding the cause-and-effect relationship between pressing the shutter release, the noise of the shutter, and the change to his reflection in the camera lens.”
In 2006, Republican Senator George Allen called a tracker for Democratic challenger James Webb a “macaca.” Allen apologized when it emerged that the term is used as a racial slur in some cultures, but the incident derailed his campaign.