No monkey can keep from being mesmerized by the pieces of equipment that human beings leave lying around, and an unassuming macaque monkey named Naruto was on his natural home turf in Indonesia in 2011 when a camera caught his eye. It didn't seem to take more than a nanosecond for Naruto to master photography for beginners, and the result was a brilliant selfie image of the monkey’s gaze and glorious, toothy grin.

By the laws of the natural universe, not to mention the jungle, the rights to the photo that has gone globally viral in the most immense proportions imaginable should be assigned to the self-portrait artist himself, the monkey.

In this remarkable case of a Kodak moment, photographer David Slater just happened to own the camera and didn’t take any longer than a carnival photo booth session to secure copyright on the photo that he actually had nothing to do with on behalf of himself and his company.

It required virtually no passage of time for Slater's financial windfall, but when PETA stepped in to defend the rights of macaque monkeys, the gears slowed to a crawl. NBC News reports this morning, September 12th, that a settlement has been reached in the case. The ruling will hopefully, and finally, bring deserved benefit for others of Naruto’s species for a long time to come. Although it comes far too late and falls short of any kind of parity, the court’s ruling does initiate ongoing support for these striking primates.

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‘Cutting edge issues’

David Slater and his group, Wildlife Personalities, Ltd, asked through his attorneys that judges on San Francisco's 9th US Circuit Court Of Appeals to dismiss the case and threw out a lower court decision that had asserted that animals “could not own copyrights.” The photographer and PETA put out a joint statement, reiterating that this case involves “important, cutting edge issues about expanding rights of nonhuman animals,” insisting that both support that change and will work to achieve it. Considering that this process could have come to the same conclusion years earlier if Slater had conceded to a compromise, these conciliatory words sound like the obligatory “sorry” after being caught with hands in the cookie jar. Slater has indulged in some very profitable “crumbs” from Naruto’s accidental cookie for a long time.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals became involved in 2015, suing for rights on Naruto’s behalf. Last year, US District Judge, William Orrick, handed down a favorable ruling for Slater, which defended that Congress and the president can extend the protection of the law to both animals and humans, but that the Copyright Act makes no provision for animals or nonhumans.

Under the agreement between Slater and PETA, this decision is tossed.

A measure of justice for the macaques

Per the mutually agreed terms, 25 percent of future earnings from Naruto’s selfie will go directly to the protection of crested macaques in Indonesia. The original photo was taken in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011, on the Tangkoko Batuangas Nature Reserve.

Although attention sparked by the photograph and the subject has made the Tangkoko reserve the most known, a massive population of 100,000 crested macaques resides on the ancient islands of Bacan, southwest of Indonesia. With a diet rich in fruits and insect larva, these monkeys are known to destroy crops and need protection from hunters. Renowned wildlife cameraman, Colin Stafford-Johnson filmed crested macaques intimately for the 2013 BBC documentary, “Meet the Monkeys.”

With macaques growing more families to feed, let's hope that future camera shots created by these inquisitive creatures can be part of bestowing sustenance free from fear for many years to come.