Quit monkeying around: Court weighs if macaque owns its selfies

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SAN FRANCISCO — A curious monkey with a toothy grin and a knack for pressing a camera button was back in the spotlight as a federal appeals court on Wednesday questioned lawyers fighting about an animal’s ability to hold a copyright to selfie photos.

Naruto is a free-living crested macaque who snapped the pictures with an unattended camera in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2011. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Naruto was accustomed to cameras and took the selfies when he saw himself in the reflection of the lens.

PETA sued British nature photographer David Slater, whose camera the monkey used, and a San Francisco-based self-publishing company Blurb, which put out a book called “Wildlife Personalities” that includes the photos.

The animal rights organization wants to administer proceeds from the photos to benefit the monkey. Slater’s company holds the British copyright for the photos, and he says it should be honored worldwide.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco PETA’s attorney why it should be allowed to represent the monkey’s interests.

Attorney David Schwarz said the question had not been raised in court previously, and he urged the panel to define authorship for copyright purposes.

The judges did not issue a ruling.