UK

Judge Rules Monkey Cannot Own 'Selfie' Photos Copyright

07/01/2016 10:43 GMT | Updated 07/01/2016 13:59 GMT

A macaque has lost the battle for copyright of its selfie photographs after a judge declared the act cannot be extended to animals.

US District Judge William Orrick said in federal court in San Francisco that "while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act."

The ruling comes after a battle from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who last year sought a court order in an attempt to represent the monkey.

It wanted to administer all proceeds from the photos for the benefit of the monkey, which it identified as six-year-old Naruto, and other crested macaques living in a reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

monkey selfie

One of the photographs of the monkey

The photos were taken during a 2011 trip to Sulawesi with an unattended camera owned by British nature photographer David Slater, who asked the court to dismiss the case.

Slater says the British copyright obtained for the photos by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., should be honoured worldwide.

PETA sued Slater and his San Francisco-based self-publishing company Blurb, which published a book called "Wildlife Personalities" that includes the "monkey selfie" photos.

The photos have been widely distributed elsewhere by outlets, including Wikipedia, which contend that no one owns the copyright to the images because they were taken by an animal, not a person.

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Slater described himself as a nature photographer who is deeply concerned about animal welfare in court documents and said it should up to lawmakers, and not a court, to decide whether copyright law applies to non-human animals.

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said the organisation would continue fighting for the monkey's rights.

"Despite this setback, legal history was made today because we argued to a federal court why Naruto should be the owner of the copyright rather than been seen as a piece of property himself," Kerr said.

"This case is also exposing the hypocrisy of those who exploit animals for their own gain."