The “Monkey Selfie” Copyright Case is Over, Court Rejects PETA’s Claim

Naruto, Photo by David Slater

The Monkey Selfie copyright case case is finally over. In 2011, Naruto, a crested macaque, took David Slater’s camera and took several selfies. In 2015, PETA filed a suit claiming Naruto owned the copyright to the photos, not Slater. The 9th Circuit found in favor of Slater.

For the record, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) does not own Naruto, or have any legal relationship with Naruto. Naruto is in a wildlife reserve in Indonesia.

The 9th Circuit Decision

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided in favor of Slater, agreeing with the district court ruling which also found in favor of Slater.

The court said:

Affirming the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by a monkey, the panel held that the animal had constitutional standing but lacked statutory standing to claim copyright infringement of photographs known as the “MonkeySelfies.” … The panel held that the monkey lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits.”

So there you have it. Animals do have “constitutional standing” before the court (which is why people can be taken to court for abusing animals) but they can not own the copyright for photos, even if they push the shutter button.

The court also affirmed that PETA has no legal relationship to Naruto and no legal right to represent Naruto.

The court also awarded attorney’s fees to Slater, which is a good thing. Fighting a copyright case in court can be very expensive. PETA started this mess. It is poetic justice to have PETA pay for Slater’s attorney’s fees.

You can read the court’s full decision here.

For the record, I love this photo!

The Person Who Pushes the Shutter Button Doesn’t Always Own the Copyright

As a general rule, when you are out taking pictures with your own camera, the moment you push the shutter button you own the copyright to that photo. But what if someone else pushes the shutter button?

For the record, a photographer does not have to push the shutter button to own the copyright to a photo. Some photographers have assistants and on some occasions they have the assistant fire the camera, but the photographer who hired the assistant still owns the copyright to the photos.

If you are at a famous tourist location, set your camera up on a tripod, stand in front of the camera with your family, and ask some random tourist to push the shutter button, you still own the copyright to the photo, not the random tourist.


United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, No 16-15469 – Naruto by Next Friend  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. David Slater

A Court Has Rejected the ‘Monkey Selfie’ Lawsuit Seeking Animal Rights to Photographs – Time magazine

Monkey copyright lawsuit finally over, court rejects PETA’s claims – DP Review