The ongoing saga of the copyright of the famous monkey selfie has probably filtered into your consciousness at some point in the last few years but been dismissed as “some nonsense.”
Yet the case drags on and the photographer’s career – and life – has been basically ruined.
David J Slater self-funded a month-long trip around Indonesia to photograph the rare and endangered crested black macaque monkeys to draw attention to their dwindling numbers so that the world might take notice. And so it did – because the monkeys liked the shutter sound on his camera and one accidentally ended up taking a photograph of itself.
Despite the fairly modest income the photo was going to make him, Wikipedia decided to reproduce the image, making it free for all and it has been shared over 50 million times.
The photographer became embroiled in a 6 year legal battle over the copyright and more recently in the last two years PETA has sued him, claiming that the copyright belongs to Naruto the monkey, and they have demanded to manage the funds on the monkey’s behalf. Last year, a US judge ruled against the suit, as animals are not covered by the Copyright Act, but PETA has appealed the decision.
The saddest thing about this bizarre story is that not only has a man lost his career, he has also lost his love of photography – the magic has gone. PETA has made its point and should end the stalemate – even if the monkey’s right to the image could be asserted in law, it cannot prove which monkey took the photo. Dave Slater even claims PETA is championing the wrong monkey!
Doesn’t PETA have anything else to spend its money on?
One good thing has come out of the monkey selfie image: Dave has achieved his aim and the local people no longer hunt the macaques; instead they love their ‘selfie monkeys’.