Lintao Zhang / Staff

Photographer May Be Broke After Being Sued By A Monkey

This may sound like something that came from a classic spoof movie, but it is happening in real life.

This upcoming Wednesday, a photographer will go before a court in the San Francisco 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to debate animal right activists.

The legal issue at hand is because of a famous photo of a macaque monkey who took a selfie of himself smiling. According to Arstechnica, the photo was taken in 2011 at the “Tangkoko reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi”.

David Slater, who was the photographer, states that the monkey’s portrait was taken after the monkey stole his camera.

Ally Marotti on Twitter

A monkey took a selfie. PETA says he owns the copyright. The photographer's defense: 'He is a monkey'

With the help of PETA, the monkey, whose name is Naruto, is suing Slater. The animal rights organization is asking for payment for Slater’s copyright infringement. Slater posted the photos on an online publishing platform as well as in his published book.

PETA believes animals should have the right of copyright of their own intellectual property. However, according to the US District Judge William Orrick, “This is an issue for Congress and the president.”

If you are wondering why PETA can take Slater to court based on their thinking that animals own their intellectual property, here is why. If the organization were to receive the copyright to the photo, then they would be able to manage the money received by the photo to better Naruto’s habitat.

Jonathan Bloom on Twitter

@adrianmg111 PETA is arguing a monkey holds the copyright to a photo published by a nature photographer. The monkey pushed the button to take the pic.

Jonathan Bloom on Twitter

In #MonkeySelfie appeal at 9th Circuit @peta lawyer suggests as definition of marriage has evolved, so should authorship to include animals.

Jonathan Bloom on Twitter

Oral arguments have adjourned in @PETA's 9th Circuit appeal of a monkey's copyright claim against the photographer who published its selfie.

However, noted that under the US Copyright Office, it states that works “produced by nature, animals, or plants" cannot have a copyright. This would mean that Slater would not be able to own the photos either.

As silly as this case may sound, a large grouping of people are siding with Naruto. As stated by the publishing site Blurb, “the Copyright Act permits animals to sue because authorship is not limited to humans.” One primatologist at the University of Notre Dame also sided with PETA. He stated that monkey could be the author since it “behaved in a way that fits within the definition of artistic expression.”

What do you think? Do you side with PETA or the photographer?



Sarah is a Hufflepuff living in NYC. When she is not traveling or talking to random animals, she is working as a script writer. Tweet her at @lumpyspacederp