PETA sues to give monkey ownership of selfie

By Ben Hooper  |  Sept. 22, 2015 at 3:25 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a lawsuit in San Francisco seeking to give a monkey ownership of its selfie photo.

The group filed a U.S. federal court lawsuit in San Francisco arguing Naruto, a macaque monkey known to researchers in Indonesia, should be the legal owner of pictures he snapped in 2011 using a camera set up by photographer David J. Slater.

The lawsuit names Slater; his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd.; and publisher Blurb, which issued a collection of Slater's photographs that included two of the selfies snapped by Naruto.

The suit is seeking to have the monkey declared the "author" and legal owner of the photograph.

The picture has been in dispute for more than a year. Website Wikimedia Commons posted some of the pictures snapped by the monkey last year, labeling them public domain, and Slater attempted to have them removed, claiming the copyright he obtained in Britain should be applied globally.

"I've told them it's not public domain, they've got no right to say that it's public domain. A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up," Slater told the National Post last year.

Wikimedia refused to remove the pictures, saying Slater doesn't own the copyright on the image because he didn't shoot the photo himself.

"Our argument is simple: U.S. copyright law doesn't prohibit an animal from owning a copyright, and since Naruto took the photo, he owns the copyright, as any human would," PETA said in a press release.

PETA is asking the court to allow the group to use the proceeds from the "monkey selfie" to benefit Naruto and other macaques in the region.

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