The Bananas Conclusion To The “Monkey Selfie” Case

9.15.17 IN: Public

The intellectual property world is going bananas about the most recent copyright news. Remember back to a blog from two years ago, if you will (click here for a refresher.) A photographer was in Indonesia when one of the monkeys he was observing picked up his camera and snapped a photo of himself. The photographer printed the photo, reaped the benefits, and PETA stepped in to bring suit on behalf of the monkey. Thus, we saw the first lawsuit involving a monkey’s selfie.

Two years later, we have a resolution. However, this resolution came about outside of the courtroom. David Slater, the photographer in question, settled with PETA and the macaque monkey Naruto. As a part of the deal, Slater agreed to donate twenty five percent of any future revenue he receives from the photo to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia. This way, everyone benefits.

The key issue in this case concerned copyright ownership. Could an animal truly own the rights to intellectual property? Did Naruto, because he took the photo, therefore own it? Should he receive the profits and credit? To some, this may seem absurd, but PETA stood firm. The organization claimed that, because Naruto physically took the photo, they should have financial control of the profits on his behalf. The case went to court, where a judge found in favor of Slater, and PETA appealed. Before the settlement, the appeal had been in front of the 9th Circuit and the parties were awaiting judgment.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this outcome, surprisingly, comes not from copyright issues, but legal rights for animals as a whole. In a joint statement, representatives of the case said “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.” We know that some animals are very intelligent, and this case serves to prove that. Should this intelligence grant them legal rights? Many argue that it does, but we have seen few laws protecting such rights. It will be very interesting to see if this settlement will raise awareness and eventually bring these ideas to the forefront of the courtrooms.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy the toothy grin of Nartuto, a monkey with better selfie skills than most people you know!