District Judge William Orrick issued a “tentative opinion” on the copyright dilemma, saying although Congress may extend the protection of law to animals, there's "no indication" that the Copyright Act extends to animals.
"I just don't see that it could go as broadly as beyond humans," Orrick said during a hearing on Wednesday for dismissal of the lawsuit filed in September by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on behalf of Naruto, a 7-year-old crested black macaque.
The judge said he will issue a written order of dismissal at a later date.
Naruto lives with other macaques in a rainforest reserve on the island of Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, in Indonesia.
The photos were taken in 2011 with a camera that Slater, a British wildlife photographer, left in the reserve.
Slater was “very saddened” by PETA's lawsuit, which claims that Naruto, accustomed to seeing professional cameras, used the unattended camera and created selfies "unaided by Slater."
When sued, a frustrated Slater said, "Sadly they choose to attack me personally in this ridiculous way, which puts me under more financial and emotional stress."
Slater’s lawyers said he set up the photos after "building a trustful, friendly relationship" with a group of macaques over several days and then making artistic decisions about the lens width, positions and settings on the camera he left in the reserve. Slater also took to Facebook calling PETA "greedy" and saying they wished "to exploit the selfie for their own agenda."
The photographer published the photos in 2014 in a book called Wildlife Personalities, developed with software obtained from San Francisco-based Blurb. The book is copyrighted in the names of Slater and his private company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., according to the lawsuit.
Slater asked the court to dismiss the case, saying that British copyright obtained for the photos by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd., should be honored worldwide.