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Monkey Cannot Own Copyright to Her Famous Selfies

Naruto, the Celebes crested macaque, took her own selfie with David Slater's camera in 2011. The photo's copyright has been debated ever since.Naruto, the Celebes crested macaque, took her own selfie with David Slater's camera in 2011. The photo's copyright has been debated ever since.
Naruto, the Celebes crested macaque, took her own selfie with David Slater's camera in 2011. The photo's copyright has been debated ever since.Photograph by David Slater via Wikimedia Commons

The famous Celebes crested macaque, Naruto, has been denied the copyright to a series of selfies she took using a camera belonging to nature photographer David Slater, according to the latest ruling by a federal judge on Wednesday.

People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals, i.e. PETA, had brought the case against Slater as a representative for Naruto, seeking monetary damages owed to the monkey for copyright infringement. U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled against PETA and the monkey and pointed to a declaration from the U.S. Copyright Office from 2014 that said works “produced by nature, animals, or plants” cannot be given copyright protection, reported Ars Technica.

That decision isn’t necessarily final, though. The smiling macaque could reclaim her ownership if Congress decides to change copyright legislation.

“I’m not the person to weigh into this,” Orrick said. “This is an issue for Congress and the president. If they think animals should have the right of copyright they’re free, I think, under the Constitution, to do that.”

 

The lawsuit in question doesn’t concern whether or not Slater should have the copyright, which he has tried to fight for with the argument that he was instrumental in their creation. He currently owns the British copyright for the photo, while in the U.S. it is part of the public domain.

Orrick said he intends to dismiss the PETA lawsuit in an upcoming order, though a small chance remains that he could allow the organization to amend its lawsuit.