Monkey see, monkey sue: Infamous selfie is back in court, thanks to PETA appeal

peta appeals monkey selfie lawsuit david slater takes
The monkey selfie from 2011 that continues to cause a stir with a new court appeal. David Slater/Caters News, Wikimedia Commons
The infamous selfie monkey is back in court. After the courts ruled that the photographer who prepped the shot was the owner of the copyright, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is appealing the case, saying the monkey should be the owner of the image (and the proceeds).

In 2011, David J. Slater set up his camera on a tripod in the Indonesian jungle and left it so that the animals would feel comfortable approaching it. That’s when one of the monkeys (Celebes crested macaque) snapped a selfie, complete with a big grin.

A few years later, Slater spotted the shot on Wikimedia and sent a take-down notice. Wikimedia denied the request, saying that “as the work of a nonhuman animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

PETA then sued Slater, saying that the monkey should be the owner of the copyright and that the proceeds should go toward the animal’s care. The two sides don’t even agree on what monkey took the photo — Slater says it’s a female monkey named Ella while PETA says the monkey in question is Naruto.In January, a court in San Fransisco ruled in Slater’s favor, saying that an animal cannot own a copyright.

Now, PETA is appealing that decision in a push to change copyright guidelines to include animals. “Had the monkey selfies been made by a human using Slater’s unattended camera, that human would indisputably be declared the author and copyright owner of the photographs,” PETA’s appeal paperwork states. “Nothing in the Copyright Act limits its application to human authors …protection under the Copyright Act does not depend on the humanity of the author, but on the originality of the work itself.”

The original case caused a stir in the photography community — after all, the photographer did everything but push the button, setting up the camera placement and settings.

Slater said he believes he’s the first person to actually be sued by a monkey. “They are going on the idea that he [Naruto] owns the copyright, which is clearly absolutely ridiculous,” he told BBC News. “They put me through the mill in California and that was thrown out, and they are continuing to spend huge amounts of donors’ money on a frivolous suit.”


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