David Slater, a British wildlife photographer, has battled with animal rights grou PETA for ownership of a selfie that a mischevious macaque took with his camera. The animal welfare group is taking Slater to court, on behalf of the monkey, in order to give the primate ownership of the famous selfie. Naruto, aged 6, took a series of photos when Slater visited Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2011 and left his camera equipment unattended. Slater insists that he set up the equipment that way on purpose so that monkeys could take the pictures that he claims to own.
Wikipedia hosted the image that went viral, and refused to take it down despite Slater’s objections on the grounds that the photo was not taken by Slater himself. The US Copyright Office agreed and went so far as to amend its policies to register copyrights only for human works.
PETA now wants damages for Naruto after the selfies were published in a book called Wildlife Personalities. They want all proceeds from the photos to go to the monkey community of which Naruto is a part of.
If successful in the courtcase, a precedent would be set that allows animals to own properties rather than be declared as a piece of property. The law would also allow for only the person taking the selfie allowed to republish any photo taken by themselves regardless of the equipment they were using!