Sep 12, 2017

Monkey 'Selfie' Ownership Finally Settled

We have previously written about the rather improbable case of a photographer being sued by a monkey for copyright infringement. The case has now finally been settled after a 2 year legal fight between the photographer, David Slater and PETA which attempted to bring the action on behalf of the monkey.

The dispute arose when a macaque monkey used a camera owned by Mr Slater to take a selfie in an Indonesian forest. PETA took action claiming that the copyright in the photograph should vest in the monkey and any funds received be used to protect the monkey's habitat. The claim was based on the fact that under US law human ownership is not necessary for copyright to subsist. This decision was originally rejected and was due to be ruled on by the Court of Appeals.

The Court also agreed with Mr SlaterĀ  who said that his efforts in taking time to bond with the animals and set up the photographic equipment properly, including altering suitable camera settings to avoid harm, means the copyright to the photograph should vest in him, given the effort, skill and labour involved in this process.

Mr Slater has reached an agreement with PETA whereby 25% of any revenues raised from the sale of the photograph will be donated to charities which are committed to protecting the welfare or habitat of the macaque monkey in the wild. As part of this settlement the parties are also to ask that the Court of Appeals throw out the decision of the earlier court that an animal cannot own copyright. The Court of Appeals has not yet confirmed whether it will do this.

PETA has sought to portray the matter positively by saying that in bringing the case they have sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals. Whether or not that is true and whether that particular cause has been advanced in any way following the Court's ruling in this case is a matter of opinion.

in: Copyright, EU/International

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