‘Monkey selfie’ lawsuit ends in settlement

Following a two-year legal battle, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and photographer David Slater have reached a settlement in the “monkey selfie” copyright lawsuit.

The Associated Press reports that PETA sued Slater on the behalf of Naruto, a 6-year-old macaque who took the photographer’s camera and snapped a photo of himself in Indonesia in 2011. The image went viral and Slater featured it in his book, leading the advocacy group to wonder where the monkey’s cut was.

The question resulted in PETA taking Slater in court in 2015, asking a court to reward the monkey financial control of the picture. Early last year, U.S. District Judge William Orrick wrote that there was “no indication” that the U.S. Copyright Act stretched to animals, according to NPR.

PETA took the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Monday, however, PETA and Slater asked the court to dismiss the case and throw out a lower court’s decision that copyright laws don’t apply to animals.

In addition to the joint request, Slater also agreed to donate 25 percent of future proceeds from the images to charities committed to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia, the Associated Press reported.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal,” a joint statement read.

Jeff Kerr, the general counsel for PETA, told The New York Times that Naruto remains on the Tangkoko Reserve but crested macaques remain critically endangered as they’re frequently targeted by poachers.

While they don’t know how much the England-based photographer made on the images prior to Monday’s settlement, PETA said they are happy that future revenue will be used to help Naruto.

The animal rights group said the following in a blog post:

“Naruto and the famous “monkey selfie” photographs that he undeniably took clearly demonstrate that he and his fellow macaques—like so many other animals—are highly intelligent, thinking, sophisticated beings worthy of having legal ownership of their own intellectual property and holding other rights as members of the legal community.”

In light of the settlement, PETA said they’ll continue to urge courts “to establish legal rights for animals.”


Feature photo: Wikimedia Commons