Thought Bubbles

The Case of the Monkey Selfie

A crested macaque named Naruto took a selfie with a photographer’s camera. David Slater (the photographer) was on a trip in the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011, when he set up his camera, and waited for the monkeys to get curious. That’s when Naruto took a few selfies, and became one of the most famous monkeys in the world. Since the selfie was so great, the photographer used that photo in his book Wildlife Personalities and online. Soon after Naruto became famous, PETA filed a lawsuit stating that Naruto had the rights to the photo because he physically pressed the shutter.


Judge William H. Orrick in the United States District Court in San Francisco ruled, “While Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the copyright act.” That means that Naruto was denied the rights to the photo, because animals weren’t addressed in the copyright act 🙁


PETA appealed the decision, and just last September the photographer finally agreed to give 25% of the money he made from the photo to the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where Naruto lives.

I think that Naruto should have gotten the rights to the selfie and he should have at least 50% of the money that is being made. Naruto couldn’t have taken this selfie without the photographer, and the photographer wouldn’t have this photo if it wasn’t for Naruto – so it was a collaboration between a crested macaque and human.


This case highlights the issue that animals should get similar rights to people. And, that we need to provide the same (or even more) protection for animals, as we do for humans. Animals like Naruto especially need protection because the crested macaques are under constant threat by poachers and considered critically endangered.

If your camera had these amazing selfies of Naruto on it, what would you do? Comment your answer down below!


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  1. Kurt June 10, 2018


    Your intellectual property lawyer father LOVES this post. Maybe you’ll pursue a career in law, although U warn you that precious few of my cases involve the defense of the IP rights of primates.

    I know Judge Orrick (and have had cases in front of him), and I am sure that if he could have found some hook in the Copyright laws to side for Naruto, he would have done so. But it sounds like it was a reasonable result (and one that helps him and his hairy friends) pretty well.

    And this would be a screensaver. No doubt.


  2. Natalie Dente June 10, 2018

    Hi Anna. I think a 50/50split would be fair if it weren’t for animals most photographers would be out of business. Love ❤️ Grandma natalie ❤️🦉

  3. donna June 19, 2018

    Hi Anna,

    What a great picture! I love how your blog brings us such interesting info. I don’t think I would ever have come across this story on my own. Also, love the clear and concise writing. You’re ability to get to the point elegantly and without unnecessary “filler” is impressive.

  4. Aunt Debbie June 26, 2018

    Hi Anna,
    This picture is fantastic! And so is your article. I particularly appreciate your presentation of the facts, as well as your vocabulary. 50/50 split gets my vote. If practicing law isn’t in your future, consider journalism!
    xo Aunt D

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