A monkey who took a series of internationally famous selfie pictures cannot own the copyright to his own photographs, an American judge has ruled.
The Macaque monkey, identified as a seven-year-old wildlife sanctuary named Naruto, had stood to be in rolling in bananas for life if the lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) had succeeded.
But district judge William Orrick ruled there was no indication that copyright law extended to primates as he dismissed the claim.
“I just don’t see that it could go as broadly as beyond humans,” he said, according to US reports.
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.
The pictures were taken using a camera set up by British wildlife photographer David Slater during a trip to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and were later included in his book Wildlife Personalities.
However, arguments soon broke out over exactly who owned the photographs, since the monkey himself had pushed the shutter.
Peta launched its lawsuit against Mr Slater last year, arguing that the monkey had “purposely” captured his own image and should be recognised as the copyright owner.
It had also pushed to be recognised legally as the monkey’s “next friend” and given the go-ahead to collect all royalties which it said would be used to benefit of the monkey and other crested Macaques, a critically endangered species.
Mr Slater had countered with a call to have the lawsuit dismissed. He argued that he had set up the shot by building a “trustful, friendly relationship” with the monkeys and preparing the camera's settings before leaving it for the primates to play with.
Judge Orrick said that he would confirm the dismissal of Peta’s lawsuit in writing, but added that he would allow the charity to file an amended case if it wishes, according to US reports.
Jeff Kerr, Senior Vice President at Peta US, said they would "continue to fight for Naruto and his community" despite the legal setback.
He added: This case is a vital step toward fundamental rights for non-human animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans."