Monkey who took grinning 'selfie' should own copyright: U.S. lawsuit

by Reuters
Tuesday, 22 September 2015 18:59 GMT

(Repeats to widen distribution, adds link to 'selfie')

By Daniel Wallis

Sept 22 (Reuters) - A rare crested macaque monkey who snapped a well-known, grinning "selfie" should be declared the photo's owner and receive damages for copyright infringement after it was used in a wildlife book, animal rights activists argued in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Naruto, a six-year-old macaque who lives free in the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, took the image and several others about four years ago using a camera left unattended by British photographer David Slater, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in the suit.

The so-called Monkey Selfies that resulted came from "a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater," said the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright ... in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author," the suit said.

The complaint names Slater, his UK-based company Wildlife Personalities, and Blurb, Inc., a Delaware-based corporation which beginning last year published and sold for profit in the United States a book containing copies of the photos. Naruto's orange-eyed, beaming selfie is its front cover.

PETA said it was bringing the legal action on the rare monkey's behalf because he could not, "due to inaccessibility and incapacity," and that the court had jurisdiction because of the book sales made in the United States.

Sulawesi crested macaques are listed as critically endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 live on Sulawesi, and PETA said their numbers have decreased by about 90 percent in the last 25 years, mostly due to human encroachment on their rainforest homes.

PETA asked the court to declare Naruto the author and copyright owner of the photos, and to award the monkey damages.

It also sought a court order letting PETA and a noted primatologist, Dr. Antje Engelhardt of Georg-August University, Gottingen, Germany, administer Naruto's rights on condition that all proceeds be used solely for the benefit of him, his family and community, "including the preservation of their habitat."

Slater did not immediately return a request for comment. His website home page invites visitors to "Read the original story about how I created my famous monkey 'selfie'."

Representatives of Blurb, which describes itself as a self-publishing and marketing platform, did not immediately reply to a similar request. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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