"Selfies by animals are new to law, but the court has applied the traditional principles.The creator of a work generally owns the copyright."
Anthony Wooding, managing partner at Kerseys
ANIMALS cannot OWN copyright on creative work following the ‘monkey selfie’ court settlement, an Ipswich lawyer has said.
Welsh photographer David Slater was sued by animal rights group Peta (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals - on behalf of the monkey who had taken the ‘selfie’.
And Anthony Wooding of Kerseys Solicitors in Lloyds Avenue said the settlement - which confirmed the photographer as the creator -reflects that animals do not yet have recognised civil rights.
Anthony, who has over 30 years’ experience of resolving disputes, said: “Selfies by animals are new to law, but the court has applied the traditional principles.
“The creator of a work generally owns the copyright. David Slater was confirmed as the creator here as it was all part of his creative photographic process in effect.
“Animals cannot appear in court directly. This ruling also means that it is not legally possible for a human to claim the right to appear on an animal's behalf to enforce any alleged copyright in a civil court.
“The case was in the United States, but there are no cases here which have set a different precedent, for any civil claims by animals"
Back in 2011, Mr Slater was photographing crested black macaques in the jungles of Indonesia when one managed to press the shutter. The image went viral.
But Peta claimed that the monkey had taken the photo and therefore owned the copyright.
The monkey in question is referred to in the media as Naruto, but during the court case his exact identity was in dispute.
Anthony, who is also a qualified mediator, said the case could have broken new legal ground had Peta won.
He said: “Peta said it followed that David wasn’t entitled to use the image or keep any proceeds from such publication – unless, I imagine, he had permission from the monkey.
“The case could have broken new legal ground and would have established that animals have civil rights- and humans can enforce them on their behalf.
“This is different to criminal law, where lots of animal rights exist and are enforceable by criminal prosecution.”
Peta appealed the case and finally a settlement was reached whereby David Slater agreed to donate 25 per cent of any future earning from the image to registered charities ‘dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto’.
A history of rights for animals:
Civil rights for animals still have to be established. But many animals have appeared as Defendants in criminal trials.
· In 1266, we have the earliest recorded case involving an animal. A pig was executed following a trial in France.
· In 1457, also in France, another pig and her piglets were put on trial for murder. The sow was convicted and her piglets acquitted.
· In 2010, a pigeon was arrested in India for spying on behalf of Pakistan, having flown in with a Pakistani number stamped on its body with red ink (if it was in fact a spy, clearly it was not a very good one). It was eventually discharged for lack of evidence.
· In 2013, a case was filed against a cat after it was found smuggling mobile phones and chargers into a Russian prison.
· In June 2016, India rounded up 18 lions on a charge of murder. The sentence of the culprit was life imprisonment (in a zoo) which at least shows we live in more enlightened times than the Middle Ages.