People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking a court to grant copyrights for a series of selfies taken by a macaque monkey to the animal itself, and not the owner of the camera. The monkey used the camera of a British visitor to an Indonesian reserve to take the selfies.
The suit filed in a San Francisco court also attempts to block the owner of the camera from claiming copyrights for the photos taken by the monkey, identified as Naruto. David Slater, who is a nature photographer, holds the copyright to the photographs under British copyright law.
The selfie photographs were first published in Blurb magazine, which later went viral and were published by different outlets across the world, including Wikipedia, which claimed that no one had the rights to the photographs as it was not taken by a human but by a monkey. With the selfie photographs used by many publications, Slater is looking at legal options. He has also expressed dissatisfaction with the lawsuit filed by PETA.
Under US copyright laws, works by animals can't be registered but Jeffrey Kerr, the lawyer representing PETA, said the copyright law is not limited to humans. "The act grants copyright to authors of original works, with no limit on species. Copyright law is clear: it's not the person who owns the camera, it's the being who took the photograph," Kerr told The Guardian.
"I am the intellect behind the photos. I set the whole thing up," Slater told Associated Press. "A monkey only pressed a button of a camera set up on a tripod – a tripod I positioned and held throughout the shoot."