It’s a new day in bizarre news world. Today’s main feature is the story about a photographer who let a monkey snap a selfie with his camera and is now in a legal battle with said monkey over the rights of the photograph.
It was 2011 when then 46-year-old photographer David Slater, who enjoys wildlife photography, made a trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia, to take photos of wildlife — specifically macaques — for a week. He purposely set his camera on a tripod with the intent of teaching the monkeys, in a way, to snap their own photos. It took a little while, but eventually, at least one of the animals proved to be a fast learner and took a selfie.
The photo was instantly famous, of course. By 2014, Slater requested that Wikipedia remove the image from their website, but they refused, claiming that it was actually the monkey who owned the copyright for the work. A short legal battle ended with the US Copyright Office siding with Slater, ruling that animals cannot, in fact, own copyright.
But that wasn’t the end of the journey. In fact, it was only the beginning. By 2015, the decision had already been appealed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.)
The case was heard this week by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, CA. David Schwarz, an attorney representing PETA on the matter, argued that photographs can be copyrighted and the owner of the rights is who took the photo, making Naruto the macaque the rightful owner of the copyright.
Attorneys for Slater argued that “it is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement.”
“Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.”
While the court did not reach a decision, PETA is still not happy. The organization insists that the proceeds of the photo should benefit Naruto and his family.
Slater would be happy to just stop the madness, as he has been left completely broke by the legal proceedings. The photographer, who couldn’t even afford a plane ticket to be at the hearing, has even considered changing careers. But even though he is struggling financially and to find motivation to go out and take photos again, he said the following to the Telegraph.
“It has taken six years for my original intention to come true which was to highlight the plight of the monkeys and bring it to the world. Tourists are now visiting and people see there is a longer-term benefit to the community than just shooting a monkey.”
Sounds like the monkeys are actually benefiting from the selfie, though, even without Naruto owning the copyright.
[Featured Image by Maxian/iStockPhoto]