Monkey selfie case settles for a quarter of future royalties

PETA and photog agree that 'Legal rights for nonhuman animals' remain unresolved


The curious case of the monkey that took a selfie and was denied copyright for its efforts has come to an end, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and photographer David Slater agreeing on a future stream of royalty payments to simian charities.

The case kicked off in 2011 when Slater left a camera within reach of a black macaque known as “Naruto”, who promptly took a selfie. Wikipedia users put the resulting image on the site, claiming that as animals aren't people their works aren't protected by copyright and must be considered to be in the public domain. The US Copyright Office agreed that the laws of the land did not apply to offshore simians, nor to entities who did not consciously have the intent to create an artefact.

Slater, meanwhile, had put the snap in books and was happily profiting from the work.

But PETA wasn't happy with that so filed a lawsuit in which it claimed that “Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright in the Monkey Selfies in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author.”

Now the animal rights organisation and Slater have settled the matter, which made it into the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in San Francisco.

A joint statement says “Slater has agreed to donate 25 percent of any future revenue derived from using or selling the monkey selfies to charities that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia.” Slater's web site already sells signed monkey selfies, starting at £7.50, and promises “10% of your purchase towards a monkey conservation project in Sulawesi.” His take of future selfie sales therefore looks set to dip even lower.

Neither party has budged on copyright position, as the statement says “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.” ®

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