News: The U.S Court Rules That A Monkey Cannot Own Their Selfies Copyright

If a monkey takes photographs who will win the rights of the copyright- monkey or human? This question went viral with the publication of the selfie of a monkey. Finally, The US Court has answered this controversial topic that has been doing the rounds since 2015.  U.S court decided that no monkeys can own the copyright because copyright is only applicable to humans. A quick recap of this copyrights issue. One day British nature photographer, David Slater traveled to Indonesia to take photographs of critically endangered macaques called Naruto monkeys. Later David Slater published a book of his photograph that included two selfies taken by six-year-old Narutos, due to which, he was sued by animal rights group PETA on behalf of Naruto, the monkey.

                                                                                                             Photo: David J Slater

In 2017, this case seemed to get an amicable end as both the parties settled the lawsuit out of the court, wherein Mr. Slater could own the copyright; on condition that he would donate 25 percent of proceeds from the monkey selfies to an Indonesian organization that protects the macaques. Both the parties requested that the Ninth U.S Circuit Court of appeals dismiss the case, but it was refused, by upholding that Naruto’s not a human, so the Copyright Law doesn’t apply to them as “only works created by a human can be copyrighted under U.S law thereby excluding photographs and artwork created by an animal or by machines without human intervention and that because of copyright law is limited to original intellectual conception of the author. The office will not register works produced by nature, animals, and plants." Thus, upholding that a photograph taken by a monkey cannot be registered under the U.S copyright law. In addition to this, the Court has also ordered PETA to pay the costs of proceedings that were incurred by Mr. Slater in the present case.

Author: Yogita Shinde, an intern at Global Patent Filing. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at

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