If animals take photographs of themselves, can they have copyrights over those photographs? The result of the Monkey Selfie case may be the very answer to this question.

David Slater who is a nature photographer, left his camera on the tripod and walked away out in the jungles of Indonesia where he went to take photographs of a group of macaque monkeys in 2011. As he walked away, one of the monkeys approached and took a photograph of himself. Slater published these photographs by naming them “Monkey Selfie” which attracted a great deal of attention on the internet. However, things changed after these photographs were used on the website named “Wikimedia Commons”.

Slater requested the photographs to be removed from the website by stating that the copyright of the photographs belonged to him. However, Wikimedia rejected this request by stating that Slater was not the one who took the photographs, but the monkey.

Following this event, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a case in the name of the monkey against the photographer in 2015. PETA requested that the copyright of the photographs should have been given to the animal by claiming that the photographs were taken by the monkey. However, the judge rejected the request, stating that the case cannot be sustained on the grounds of the fact that the animals do not have capability to file a copyright infringement case even though it was the monkey who took the photograph without the help of the photographer.

Even though PETA objected the court’s decision, later on the parties came to an agreement. According to the agreement, one fourth of the total income earnedthrough the photographs will be donated to macaque monkeys of Indonesia. However, this agreement did not affect the court’s decision and the copyright of the photographs was not given to the monkey in the end.

This case that could be considered as the first in its field may constitute an example for the similar ones that may occur in the future. Regardless of the result, it can be said that an important step was taken in terms of protecting legal rights of animals thanks to this interesting case.

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