The question whether a macaque named Naruto can be regarded as the author of protectable works (self-portrait photographs, ie selfies) has captured popular attention, and has been the subject of litigation in the USA. Further to the 2016 decision of the US District Court for the Northern District of California that rejected that a monkey could have standing and the subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the case was settled out of court in 2017.
This short contribution discusses whether, generally speaking, copyright can vest in works by non-human authors. It does so from the perspective of international and EU laws, addressing issues such as originality, and the concept of ‘authorship’ in relevant legislative texts.
It concludes that, while there remain ambiguities regarding who can qualify as an author, arguments can be advanced against consideration of works by non-human authors as protectable by copyright. However, the article also highlights how this issue is likely to resurface with reinvigorated force (and relevance) in light of technological advancement, notably in the context of artificial intelligence.The appeal in the case is noted here.