Settlement Reached in the Case Between Photographer and Narcissistic Macaque

Chances are, you’re familiar with the story. A photographer tricks a monkey into taking a selfie with his camera, monkey becomes internet famous as a result, photographer gets sued by PETA on behalf of the narcissistic macaque. It’s a classic case of a monkeying around. Something that cost this photographer a great deal of unintended drama. Well, it looks like one macaques chances of cashing a fat paycheck have been squashed. 

The details of the case have been widely published, but in a short recap, photographer David Slater and his publishing company were sued for images taken in 2011 and used in a book titled “Wildlife Personalities”. The book featured monkey selfies - a coffee table book certain to put a smile on your face. Despite a federal judge’s ruling against PETA’s lawsuit just last year, which pointed out that there was no indication that Congress would extend copyrights to animals, PETA had been demanding that the proceeds from the images benefit Naruto, the crested macaque being represented by the animal rights group. Fortunately, a settlement has been reached in this case, as The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and photographer, David Slater recently announced:

PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal. As we learn more about Naruto, his community of macaques, and all other animals, we must recognize appropriate fundamental legal rights for them as our fellow global occupants and members of their own nations who want only to live their lives and be with their families.

Surprisingly, Slater agreed to donate 25 percent of his profits from the images to charities which protect the habitat Naruto the narcissistic macaque, resides in. 

Lead image copyright David Slater.

[Via CBS News]

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LA M's picture

On the surface it sounds frivolous...but this is an important step into regulation in our industry. There is an old saying...your not a big deal until you need to sue someone for messing with your business.

Personally though, I do not support any "deal" where the photographer agrees to do anything in order for the other party to recognize her/his copyright...this agreement to for him to donate money is ridiculous. That should have been a personal endeavour, not a condition.

Animals IMHO, have the right to be respected, treated with care but are not entitled to ownership of anything. Especially not copyrights to an image taken with a photographer's camera. This was a B.S. waste of taxpayer money.

Adventure Photo's picture

Your last paragraph sums it up brilliantly!👍

LA M's picture

+1 to this

However the rise of social media has produced a lot of noise about copyright issues. I know a handful of photographers who have had images used without permission or compensation because the (thief) say's it was your camera but my image. Sometimes you need to hammer the nails in a bit tighter so the existing rules are observed.

Anonymous's picture

I agree with the bulk of your comment but don't understand what regulatory need this suit addresses.

Anonymous's picture

PETA is yet another example of organizations, formed to do good works, that get out of control over time. I'm sure they're still doing good things but, this kind of thing is ridiculous and only makes them appear foolish. They should have made the suggestion, rather than file such a suit.

Anonymous's picture

Agree about The Sierra Club. I think what happens is, people with a more liberal world view infiltrate established organizations in an effort to legitimize their views. It's difficult to present radically different ideas on their own and all at once. While I admire their passion, I can't say I agree with their agenda.

James Dyrek's picture

Mr. Slater saved a lot of money by settling this case, and a settlement lets him control the outcome. But there were two issues presented by this case that would have been good to see adjudicated. The copyright ownership question (which apparently moot due to the copyright's office clarification). But this case presented an important issue of standing, the legal concept of who can bring a lawsuit. It would have been good to have PETA's standing to have been addressed.

Rolando Perón's picture

An important detail that most people seem to be missing: the lawsuit was not to decide if Mr. Slater owned the copyright (the case against wikimedia established that he doesn't) but to establish if Naruto could own the copyright (and as a sideshow if PETA had standing to represent Naruto). The lawsuit initiated because Mr. Slater published the photo in a book (which anybody can do since the photo is in the public domain) and PETA claimed that they should receive money from the book (in representation of Naruto).

Fritz Asuro's picture

Oh I can't wait for an advance alien race to attack us, or a meteor size off our moon hits earth, or maybe zombies? Just some serious issues to rise so this stupid stuff stops.
As if the monkey was even whining about those paychecks he could have gotten from the photos.

Jason Lorette's picture


J J's picture

So can someone tell me how this affects camera traps for wild animals?

Kevin Devos's picture

So if PETA, is for equal treatment of animals and wants an ape to own a copyright... Then why stop there? We should start taxing apes/animals! They are taking our land and not contributing to society as a whole! haha just kidding. But that's how ridiculous this whole thing is.
If a monkey and I snapped a picture together, who would own the picture? Would I have to sit down with the monkey and fill out a contract stating I would split the earnings? We sign at the bottom. Does the monkey get taxes taken out of his earnings just as I do? Does the monkey own a home and have a family? Does the monkey pay for anything?

I'm all for treating animals with respect and well being, but demanding an animal be given a copyright is absurd. PETA should be spending its resources on protecting tracts of land, stopping poachers, anything beside getting into legal battles over ownership of a picture. What a waste of the money people contributed to their cause and a waste of the photographers money (who is not at fault one bit). And an enormous waste of time. Truly ridiculous!

frank nazario's picture

This incident has to be the most frivolous and most depressing waste of money and time... screw PETA... they should all use the money they spent on dealing with this on them to find professional help... the idiots that forwarded this (not all PETA members are) should go into therapy.