Time to stop monkeying around: US court rules against selfie monkey owning copyright

King Louis, the king of swingers and jungle VIP, deserves some empathy: no doubt stalked at every move by jungle paparazzi, he yearned be just like the other men and stroll right into town.


His distant cousin, ‘Naruto’, is different: what she desires is the ownership of and ability to exploit rights in her own artistic works of photography, at least if animal rights charity PETA is to be believed.

You will be familiar with Naruto’s famous selfie which has been splashed all over the press and the internet, probably far too freely as far as the photographer is concerned (or, at least, owner of the camera – there are no reports of Naruto losing sleep).

In an ‘it could only happen in California’ twist in the saga over ownership of the copyright in Naruto’s selfie, PETA launched an action in California against UK photographer David Slater, whose camera Naruto borrowed to snap her toothy grin, alleging unauthorised use of the photo in his 2014 book ‘Wildlife Personalities’. It is reported that PETA claimed that Naruto had the "right to own and benefit from the copyright ... in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author" and sought an order permitting it to administer proceeds from the photo for Naruto’s benefit.

In a victory for common sense, Judge William Orrick of the US District Court for the Northern District of California rejected PETA’s claims on grounds that it is a matter for the US congress to determine whether the protection of laws should be extended to animals, and that, in relation to copyright at least, there was no indication it had done so.

But it seems that we may not yet have seen the end of this monkey’s tale. Mr Slater’s website reported yesterday that PETA has been given a chance to make a revised claim. If it is not equally bananas as the first, there may be further twists and turns ahead.

Indeed, in a moment of intrigue worthy of the final moments of any Scooby-Doo mystery, it turns out that Naruto is an imposter: the macaque in the photograph’s real name is… wait for it… Ella.