Lawyers for monkey who took famous selfie agree to settle copyright case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 10:54pm

Monkey see. Monkey sue. Monkey settle.

Attorneys representing a macaque monkey have agreed to a compromise in a case where they asserted the animal owned the copyright to selfie photos it had shot with a photographer’s camera.

Under the deal, the photographer agreed to donate 25 per cent of any future revenue from the images to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia, said the lawyers from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who filed the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the group and the photographer, David Slater, on Monday asked the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the case and throw out a lower-court decision that said animals cannot own copyrights.

Andrew J. Dhuey, an attorney for Slater, declined to comment on how much money the photos have generated or whether Slater would keep all of the remaining 75 per cent of future revenue.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal,” Slater and PETA said in a joint statement.

There was no immediate ruling from the 9th Circuit on the dismissal.

PETA sued on behalf of the monkey in 2015, seeking financial control of the photographs for the benefit of the monkey nicknamed Naruto that snapped the photos with Slater’s camera.

Lawyers for Slater argued that his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd, owns worldwide commercial rights to the photos, including a now-famous selfie of the monkey’s toothy grin.

The photos were taken during a 2011 trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia, with an unattended camera owned by Slater. Slater said the British copyright obtained for the photos by Wildlife Personalities should be honoured worldwide.

US District Judge William Orrick said in a ruling in favour of Slater last year 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 9th Circuit was considering PETA’s appeal.

The lawyers notified the appeal court on Aug. 4 that they were nearing a settlement and asked the judges not to rule. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments in the case in July.