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'Selfie' monkey can't sue for copyright, court rules

A monkey that took a selfie using a wildlife photographer’s camera cannot sue for copyright, a US court has ruled.

Naruto, a seven-year-old crested macaque, snapped a photo with a toothy smile in 2011 using a camera belonging to David Slater.

The British photographer wanted to have financial control of the photo – but an animal rights group filed a lawsuit in 2015 that sought to give Naruto copyright over the selfie instead.

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said: “Naruto should be considered the author and copyright owner, and he shouldn’t be treated any differently from any other creator simply because he happens to not be human.”

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against Naruto and PETA after concluding that American copyright law does not “expressly authorise animals to file copyright infringement suits”.

In a separate opinion on the long-running case, 9th Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith called PETA’s lawsuit “frivolous” and said he would have dismissed the case on other grounds.

The court also ruled that Mr Slater was entitled to be compensated for his legal fees, and the district court is in the process of determining how much he will get.

Mr Slater said he welcomes the decision, as the lawsuit has taken an emotional and financial toll on him.

He has been fighting the case from the UK, and was contemplating taking up dog walking or tennis to get by as the case had seen his earnings from photography tumble.

The income that he receives from the selfie is “embarrassingly low”, he added.

PETA and Mr Slater reached a deal in September outside of court where he agreed to donate 25% of the revenue he receives from the selfie to charities that protect crested macaques.

The animal rights group is appealing against the latest ruling.

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