Judge: Monkey can’t own selfie copyright

During September of last year, People for the Extortion, Torture and Abuse of human beings (aka PETA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a macaque monkey named Naruto in federal court in San Francisco. The group claimed the animal was the copyright holder of selfies he took with the camera of a nature photographer.

Naruto snapped photos of himself with a camera positioned by British photographer David Slater on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Slater’s defense was that he was the intellect behind the photos and was the rightful copyright holder since the photographs were taken with his camera. Slater (himself a self proclaimed animal rights supporter) also points out he set up the camera so that a monkey could take pictures of himself.

The selfies were part of a project Slater had undertaken for a new book titled Wildlife Personalities that includes a number of selfie photos taken by animals. During 2014 the US Copyright Office amended its policy stating that submissions for original products would only be accepted if they were made by humans. PETA stated in its case that the decision by the Copyright Office was just an opinion and that copyright law states that the owner of a photograph is the person who takes it and not the camera owner.

Fortunately, during January of this year, U.S. District Judge William Orrick rejected PETA’s assertions, stating that there is no indication that copyright law applies to animals.

This is good news, not just because copyright law does not specify tat it applies to animals but that the US Copyright Office changed its policy to apply it only to humans in accordance with the original intent of the Copyright Act. Thankfully, this is the third case where animal rights groups have tired and failed to implement rights for animals by litigation.

Animals lack the faculties of rational though or sense of morality which is why they cannot and should not be given the same rights as humans. An animal’s primary means of survival is predatory instincts and sensory perception. In the case of this selfie, the monkey in question conducted his act based on his instincts and not necessarily based on any ability on his part to take selfies. Hypothetically, if Naruto did have the same thinking abilities as a human, the monkey took that photo knowing the risks involved. In a proper copyright case, the dispute would, most likely center on the intent of the owner of the camera and if it was legal for him to profit over Naruto’s photo in order to make money.

Groups, like PETA, will probably keep trying until they score a victory and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that animal rights attorneys will find the right court with a friendly judge to do so. If PETA is successful, a court decision in their favor would be a disaster resulting in a Pandora’s Box of litigation that would eventually destroy individual rights. Consequently, the result will be the destruction of human life since human rights will be on par with beings (animals) who lack any sense of morality and whose kingdom’s primary ethic is one of savagery.