PETA Sues on Behalf of the Famed Monkey Selfie for Copyright Permission

Monkey see. Monkey do. Or is it Monkey Don't?

For years, detractors of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have said they care much more for their many four-legged friends than for their few two-legged ones. If you have ever grown tired of that argument, you may want to turn away.

Remember this cute guy? He’s a macaque monkey on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

That adorable selfie became a viral sensation in 2011, thanks to British nature photographer David Slater. You see, he made the trip to the island, has the skills and the equipment for the picture and knew right when to get a monkey to say ‘Cheese.’

Obviously, Dave wants to make a coin off of these cute pictures… and that’s when PETA went all Blackfish on him.

As some background, the photos were, in fact, physically taken by the monkey. However, Slater did everything else—but who cares. PETA believes all proceeds from the photos should benefit the macaque and not Slater.

So, they sued!

According to an AP report (via Yahoo), the suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It seeks a court order allowing PETA 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.

Last year, the U.S. Copyright Office stipulated that it would register copyrights only for works produced by human beings. Evidently, that language was important… unless, of course, you ask PETA.

monkey selfie 2Jeffrey Kerr, a lawyer with PETA, said the copyright office policy “is only an opinion,” and the U.S. Copyright Act itself does not contain language limiting copyrights to humans.

“The act grants copyright to authors of original works, with no limit on species,” Kerr said. “Copyright law is clear: It’s not the person who owns the camera, it’s the being who took the photograph.”

Citing Slater’s own written accounts of his encounter with the macaques, the lawsuit asserts that Naruto “authored the monkey selfies by his own independent, autonomous actions in examining and manipulating Slater’s unattended camera.”

So many issues here—interpretation of “law,” a monkey getting cheesy with a camera, Wikimedia claiming it was an open source picture, the federal government saying animals aren’t business owners, and this entire thing making a complete mockery of intellectual and creative property.

Just another day in ‘Murica… or wherever the heck Google Maps says Sulawesi is located.

Publish date: September 23, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT