Can a monkey own the rights to his own selfies?

Can a monkey own the rights to his own selfies?

A lawsuit that was filed in 2011 involving the rights to a monkey's selfie has finally been wrapped up.

In 2011, British nature photographer David Slater visited Indonesia and spent some time in the Tangkoko reserve. There, a crested macaque monkey stumbled onto David's camera setup and somehow managed to set the shutter off. The monkey, known as Naruto, had taken pictures of himself. A photography book that David later published included some of Naruto's "selfies".

When David sold some of Naruto's pictures in 2015, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stepped in as a "friend" of Naruto, suing David for the proceeds from the sales. PETA claimed that Naruto's pictures were "original works of art" that were protected under U.S. Copyright Act.

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The case has gone on for quite some time, with one notable ruling by a judge in 2016 stating that Naruto could not claim at all since he was a monkey, and only human beings can bring lawsuits before the court.  

PETA maintained that the rights should be extended to Naruto because the U.S. Copyright Act does not specify that the owner of original works must be human. This week, a judge ruled that Naruto was not protected under the U.S. Copyright Act, and that PETA may be using the monkey to further its own agenda. 

The eventual settlement between the two parties saw David agreeing to donate 25% of future proceeds from the sale of Naruto's pictures towards the protection of crested macaque monkey habitats.  

So, no, a monkey cannot own the rights to its own selfies. After all, as the judge noted: "We have no idea whether animals wish to own copyrights or open bank accounts to hold their royalties from sales of pictures."

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