How Does The Law In A Case Applicable To A Monkey’s Selfie Potentially Impact Employers?

The monkey selfie case involves a federal lawsuit in California filed by PETA on behalf of a monkey, “Naruto.” Naruto apparently took a picture of himself with a camera set up by a photographer, Slater. Basically, the suit alleges that Naruto, not Slater, is the owner of the copyright on the picture. Naruto lost on some procedural issues, but Slater agreed to donate 25% of the proceeds from the picture to Naruto’s habitat.

Okay, what does this have to do with an employer? Let it serve as a reminder that issues can arise between an employer and its employee as to the ownership of copyrights on creative works. The general “work made for hire” rule is that creative works prepared by an employee within the scope of employment are considered to be authored by the employer, who would therefore own the copyright.  However, this is not as clear as it seems and an employer with potential copyright issues should consult with an intellectual property attorney regarding how to protect itself in this area.

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