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Should a monkey get Copyright protection for his 'selfie'?

American Copyright law has always presumed that the work receiving legal protection was created by a human being. However, an animal rights group is seeking to get a selfie taken by a monkey Copyrighted, and has taken the case the federal court.

The photograph in question, which can be viewed in this Times of India article, was taken in 2011 by Naruto, a macaque monkey who lives in a forest in Indonesia, where researchers have been studying him for years. According to the article, one day Naruto grabbed a camera when a photographer left it unattended. Having seen humans taking photos before, Naruto apparently figured out how to press the shutter.

He took several photos of the forest floor, other macaques and himself. The photo in question appears surprisingly sophisticated, with Naruto looking into the camera lens, in proper focus, his lips parted in what looks like a friendly grin.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed suit in U.S. federal court last year, asking the court to declare Naruto their author and owner under Intellectual Property law. The judge declined, but PETA has recently appealed, arguing that “there’s nothing in the law limiting such ownership on the basis of species.”

We suspect that PETA’s interests have more to do with establishing legal rights for animals than with affecting American IP law in particular. Still, the implications of a ruling in the group’s favor could have unexpected effects on a Florida business’ Copyrights, and how it protects them in court.

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