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The ‘Selfie Monkey’ Cannot Claim Copyright To Its Famous Photo, Court Says

In 2011, a crested macaque took a few selfies on a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia with a wildlife photographer’s camera. When David Slater, the photographer, discovered the photos, he wanted to share them with the world, and so he did. They instantly went viral across the internet.

The Issue

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought a lawsuit against the photographer, on behalf of the monkey, stating the monkey has rights to the photo, since he’s the one who took it. PETA lost the suit. Recently, they appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping they could sway the court to give the copyright for the photos to the macaque.

Just Singles

The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision in favor of the photographer.

The Selfie

The selfies were taken by the 7-year-old macaque innocently enough. Slater left his camera unattended for a bit when he was shooting wildlife in Indonesia. The young monkey grabbed the camera, pushed some buttons, and took a few pictures of himself. After all, a human could do it, so he could too.


He didn’t do it for the glory or for any other reason than pure curiosity. PETA felt the monkey deserved the proceeds from the success of the photos, not David Slater.

No Copyright

The court stated, “We conclude that this monkey—and all animals, since they are not human—lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.” Despite the ruling, the photographer decided to donate 25 percent of his future profits from the photos to help and to preserve crowned macaques.

AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck

PETA disagreed with the ruling and has stated that the organization will continue to fight for the rights of animals until “animals’ fundamental rights are recognized under the law.” The monkey; however, seemed happy with the result. Doesn’t he look satisfied?

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