PETA recently filed a lawsuit arguing that a monkey who took a selfie should legally be considered the owner of his photo, Reuters reports.
The animal rights activist group is referring specifically to Naruto, a six-year-old rare crested macaque who lives on the Tangkoko Reserve in Indonesia. David Slater, a British wildlife photographer, had left one of his cameras unattended while at the site. Naruto took advantage of the opportunity and wound up taking a selfie, which has since gone viral online.
The complaint, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, specifically targets Slater and his company, Wildlife Personalities, as well as Blurb Inc., a Delaware-based corporation that published and sold a book containing Naruto’s pictures. The complaint states that the selfies were a result of “a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater,” adding that “Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright . . . in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author.”
In most cases, the copyright on a photograph belongs to whoever pressed the camera’s shutter. However, there’s some argument over whether or not the shutter-clicker in this instance — again, a monkey — can be entitled to a copyright.
Slater wrote in an email to Reuters:
I am sympathetic in my book for animals having rights to property in some circumstances, but in no way do I mean copyrights. Their focus seems more aimed at making me out to be a criminal than someone who loves and respects and fights for animals.
Slater, who describes himself as a wildlife photographer that struggles to earn a living, also expressed his disappointment that he was not contacted by PETA in advance.
This is quite an active time for PETA in the courtroom. The group also just filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods accusing the company of deceiving customers about its animal welfare standards.