Monkeying Around with The Law?


A British photographer has finally settled a two-year legal battle against Peta over a “monkey selfie” – but was the animal rights group correct to take it this far?

A macaque monkey named Naruto picked up a camera owned by David Slater and took an image of itself back in 2011 when Mr. Slater was on a photography holiday in the Indonesian jungle.

Peta appealed on the monkey’s behalf and said that the animal should benefit from funds made by Mr. Slater for the image. US judges hearing the case said that copyright protection could not be applied to the monkey, and Peta’s stance was dismissed. However, Mr. Slater has agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue from the imagery to registered charities “dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto”.

Speaking about this unusual case, Peta lawyer Jeff Kerr said: “This has sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans”.

The case was listed as “Naruto v David Slater” but the identity of the monkey had also been initially disputed, with Peta claiming it is a female called Naruto and Mr. Slater saying it is a different male macaque.

So can we expect an influx of future cases involving animals and their copyright and imagery rights? Pinney Talfourd’s Company Commercial Solicitor Ed Garston says “it is unlikely to lead to a flurry of additional cases but you just never know – this one has certainly sparked the public’s interest.”


If you have more questions relating to intellectual property, image rights or copyright as a whole, do not hesitate to seek specialist advice from Pinney Talfourd’s Commercial Department – email us by using the form to the right.The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of September 2017.


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