In Brief

“Monkey Selfie” Dispute Ends as PETA and Photographer Reach Settlement

Photographer David Slater will donate a quarter of any revenue from the viral “monkey selfies” to charities working to preserve the crested macaque’s habitat in Indonesia.

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, who had picked up photographer David Slater's camera and photographed herself with it. (via Wikimedia Commons)
Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, who had picked up photographer David Slater’s camera and photographed herself with it (via Wikimedia Commons)

The legal battle over a batch of self-portraits taken by a macaque has been driving lawyers bananas for years, but it appears to finally be resolved. Today the British nature photographer David Slater and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) settled their dispute, and Slater pledged to donate 25% of any revenue from the use and sale of the so-called “monkey selfie” images to charities that protect crested macaques’ habitats in Indonesia.

“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal,” a joint statement explains.

The viral and legally confounding photos were taken in 2008, when Slater visited Indonesia to photograph crested macaques, and a six-year-old named Naruto took his camera, snapping a series of selfies. In 2014, Slater sued Wikimedia for putting the images online, claiming they were his copyrighted work. In 2015, PETA sued him, claiming that Naruto should own the copyright to the works. In early 2016, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Naruto could not own the copyright to the images because he is not human, a decision that PETA appealed. Today’s settlement puts an end to that appeal, and ensures that the “monkey selfies” will be money-makers for the macaques’ cause.

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