Do animals have rights to their photos?

As mentioned by one of my peers, “I find that the guardians of the monkey are correct: Naruto owns his photo”. This conclusion about the famous controversy surrounding the Naruto and Slater case, caught my attention and makes me wonder if animals can have copyrights?

Slater is a British Wildlife photographer so I would here make reference to the Design, Copyright and Patents act of the UK. It was introduced in 1998 that gave copyright protection to the photographer and made him the first owner of it. It states, “In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken (GOV.UK, 2003).” So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the photographer is the same person who pushes the camera button to own the copyright but he is the main person directing the entire creative process. For instance, a photographer telling a subordinate to click a certain photo.

And also keeping in mind the fact that had Slater not traveled to the rainforest of Indonesia, had he not set up his camera equipment there which includes his skills and experience that he polished and imbibed in his career of 20 years as a wildlife photographer, then we would not have been able to actually see those photos (Lee, 2017). Without Slater’s direction of this creative environment and his “intellect”, the selfies would not have been possible. A monkey on its own wouldn’t possess the intellect to create such a piece of art.

Looking at two things here; the case was settled so there was not a ruling by the court and secondly the photographer being a British, don’t you think Slater’s copyright was protected under the UK law? Even if the US court had decided in Naruto’s favour, don’t you think the difficulty would have remained as laws are varying across borders? And the complexity of who set up the camera, who assisted or who pushed the button would have further increased the difficulty of choosing between multiple creators/authors?

I would end on an amusing note, where Lee (2017) states “If your household pet starts taking selfies or you have a query generally about copyright ownership, please contact Dennis Lee.” Don’t you think Lee is pointing towards the irony that we are amusingly complicating the process of copyrights by including non-human creators?




GOV.UK (2003) Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/pdfs/ukpga_19880048_en.pdf (Accessed: 4 February 2018)

Lee, D. (2017) Naruto V David Slater – Can An Animal Own Copyright? Available at: https://www.bdb-law.co.uk/naruto-v-david-slater-can-animal-copyright/ (Accessed: 5 February 2018)



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