An animal rights group has filed a copyright ownership claim in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of a monkey that used British photographer David Slater’s camera to shoot a selfie, according to an Agence-France Press report yesterday.
Naruto, the six-year-old macaque, grabbed Slater’s unattended camera in 2011 and took at least two selfies. The incident occurred in Indonesia. The photographs have circulated widely on the internet, and have been the subject of a previous ownership dispute.
On Tuesday, PETA filed suit on Naruto’s behalf, seeking a ruling from the court that the monkey is the “author and owner of his photograph,” the AFP report says. Slater, who has previously claimed copyright to the image, is named as the defendant in the case.
PETA asserts in its claim that U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit animals from owning copyright, and since Naruto took the selfie, “he owns copyright, as any human would.”
PETA filed the lawsuit as part of a strategy to establish through legal precedent that non-human animals can have property rights. PETA says that if it prevails, the case will establish for the first time that rights beyond basic survival needs are extended to a non-human animals.
The U.S. Copyright Office said last year that it would not register works produced by “nature, [non-human] animals, or plants,” suggesting that the office doesn’t consider those entities to be “authors” eligible for copyright ownership under U.S. law.
In any event, the case will be a test of the court’s willingness to hear monkey business.