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Judge: Monkey Does Not Own Copyright For Selfie

A federal judge said that the Copyright Act does not cover animals.

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A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the macaque monkey who took a selfie with a wildlife photographer's camera cannot be the copyright owner of the photos.

David Slater/Caters

The crested black macaque managed to take the picture after playing around with British photographer David Slater's equipment.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA filed the lawsuit last year against nature photographer David Slater and his company, Blurb, in order to make the 6-year-old macaque Naruto the copyright holder of the images, according to the AP.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco that "while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act."

The photos were taken in 2011 when Slater left his camera unattended while on a trip to Indonesia. Slater has argued that the British copyright he obtained for the photos should be honored, AP reported. However, the photos have been shared widely on the internet with some, including Wikipedia, arguing that no one owns the copyright since the photos were actually taken by an animal.

PETA was representing the monkey and said that if the copyright was granted to Naruto it would make sure all of the proceeds from the photos would not only go to the benefit of the monkey but also to other macaques living in the reserve on Sulawesi island.

"Despite this setback, legal history was made today because we argued to a federal court why Naruto should be the owner of the copyright rather than been seen as a piece of property himself," PETA's lawyer Jeff Kerr told the AP. "This case is also exposing the hypocrisy of those who exploit animals for their own gain."

Jessica Simeone is a deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Jessica Simeone at

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