Attorneys announced a settlement yesterday in a lawsuit over who owns the copyright to selfie photographs taken by a monkey before a federal appeals court could answer the novel legal question.

Under the deal, the photographer whose camera was used to take the photo agreed to donate 25 per cent of any future revenue of the images to charities dedicated to protecting crested macaques in Indonesia, lawyers for an animal-rights group said.

Attorneys for the group and the photographer, David Slater, asked the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the case and throw out a lower court decision that said animals cannot own copyrights.

A macaque tries to see his own reflection in the rearview mirror of a motorcycle. Photo / Getty
A macaque tries to see his own reflection in the rearview mirror of a motorcycle. Photo / Getty

Andrew J. Dhuey, an attorney for Slater, declined to comment on how much money the photos had generated or whether Slater would keep all of the remaining 75 per cent of future revenue.

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There was no immediate ruling from the 9th Circuit.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued on behalf of the macaque monkey in 2015, seeking financial control of the photographs for the benefit of the monkey named Naruto that snapped the photos with Slater's camera.

"PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal," Slater and PETA said in a joint statement.

Lawyers for Slater argued that his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd, owns worldwide commercial rights to the photos, including a now-famous selfie of the monkey's toothy grin.

Slater argued that he engineered the photographs in 2008 by travelling to an Indonesia jungle, spending three days with a troupe of monkeys to gain their trust and deliberately making his camera accessible to the animals to take photographs.

US District Judge William Orrick said in a ruling in favour of Slater last year that "while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act." The 9th Circuit was considering PETA's appeal.

The lawyers notified the appeals court on August 4 that they were nearing a settlement and asked the judges not to rule. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments in the case in July.

-AP