Monkey who took grinning 'selfie' should own copyright: U.S. lawsuit

Tue Sep 22, 2015 6:26pm EDT
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By Daniel Wallis

(Reuters) - A rare crested macaque monkey who snapped a well-known, grinning "selfie" should be declared the photo's owner and receive damages for copyright infringement after it was used in a wildlife book, animal rights activists argued in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Naruto, a six-year-old macaque who lives free in the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, took the image and several others about four years ago using a camera left unattended by British photographer David Slater, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in the suit.

The so-called Monkey Selfies that resulted came from "a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater," said the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright ... in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author," the suit said. (Link to 'selfie' published by PETA:

Slater told Reuters he felt "rather bemused" and persecuted by the lawsuit, which he said seemed to be a publicity stunt.

He said he was very disappointed not to have been contacted by PETA in advance, and described himself as a low-paid wildlife photographer who has been struggling to earn a living.

"I am sympathetic in my book for animals having rights to property in some circumstances, but in no way do I mean copyrights," Slater said in an e-mail.

"Their focus seems more aimed at making me out to be a criminal than someone who loves and respects and fights for animals. ... I have to wonder what are the true motives behind this attack on me," he wrote.   Continued...