US court rules monkey 'cannot sue over selfie copyright'

A US court has ruled monkeys cannot sue over the copyright of photographs, the latest decision in the long-running saga of a selfie-taking macaque. 

The dispute began when Naruto, a rare crested macaque who lives on an nature reserve, snapped a selfie using a camera that British photographer David Slater left mounted and unattended during a 2011 trip.

The image of his grinning face went viral, leading to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) activists attempting to sue for copyright infringement on his behalf. 

Judges of the ninth US circuit court of appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled: “The panel held that the monkey lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorise animals to file copyright infringement suits.

The monkey grabbed Mr Slater’s camera during a 2011 trip (Mark Large/Daily Mail)

“Denying him (Naruto) the right to sue under the US Copyright Act emphasises what PETA has argued all along that he is discriminated against simply because he’s a nonhuman animal.”

PETA had argued the monkey was the legal owner of all photos he took. But a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in January 2016 that copyright law does not apply to animals

A settlement was reached out of court in the case last year. Attorneys for Naruto and Slater announced that Slater had agreed to donate 25 percent of future revenue from the photograph to charitable groups that protect Naruto and other members of his species in Indonesia.

It was not clear how much the photograph has been worth to Slater, who previously said that fewer than 100 copies of his self-published book had been sold, despite the publicity.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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