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Recently one of the more bizarre copyright cases reached a resolution in California. The case involved a selfie, a camera and a monkey. In 2011 a macaque monkey lifted photographer, David Slater’s camera and snapped a cheeky selfie. The photograph soon went viral. The social media astute monkey was named Naruto and resided in the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Amazingly, Slater found himself the subject of litigation in California. The dispute has its origin in the publication of the photograph on the Wikipedia website. Slater, realising the popularity of the photo may bring commercial benefits, asked Wikipedia to take the photo down, as it had been published without his permission. Wikipedia refused, arguing copyright belonged to the monkey! That led to the US Copyright Office making a ruling that animals could not own copyright. This decision prompted animal welfare charity, Peta, to sue “on behalf” of Naruto. Peta were seeking financial control of the photographs for the so called benefit of Naruto. It seems Naruto’s lifestyle in the Indonesian jungle wasn’t going to fund itself. Thankfully, common sense prevailed in the court of first instance, when a US Judge made a finding that a monkey was ineligible to hold copyright over an image. This decision was appealed to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals before a settlement was reached, which provided for David Slater keeping control of the worldwide commercial rights of the photographs, including Naruto’s selfie. In return Slater agreed to donate 25% of future revenue from the images to charities associated with protecting macaque monkeys in Indonesia.

Monkey business aside, it is vital that SMEs have an awareness of brand protection and are proactive in protecting their brand. The intellectual property of a business is often one of its key commercial assets. It creates commercial value and makes your business identifiable and unique. Edwards and Co. have developed significant expertise in the area of copyright enforcement. We regularly handle copyright enforcement actions on behalf of a major satellite television broadcaster and we recently took instructions from an international IT company in a copyright enforcement matter. We are therefore well placed to advise on matters relating copyright enforcement. If Naruto the macaque monkey requires representation in matters of copyright then can any business choose to ignore such a commercially important area?!

If you require any advice on copyright enforcement or intellectual property you can contact Paul Lenehan by emailing paul.lenehan@edwardsandcompany.co.uk

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