In yet more evidence that we’re living in the weirdest of all eras, a man being sued by PETA on behalf of a monkey over copyright of a photo taken in 2011 says he’s now nearly broke thanks to ongoing legal costs.
Just to break it down a little: photographer David Slater is being sued over the ownership of a photograph of an Indonesian macaque. The entity suing Slater is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They are suing him… on behalf of the macaque.
The legal issues started in 2014, when Slater asked Wikipedia to take down the photo of the macaque, which they’d used without credit or reimbursement. They refused, saying that the copyright of the photograph belonged to the monkey, as it was the one who’d actually pressed the button.
That bit is true, by the way – Slater had been in Indonesia expressly to create a series of monkey selfies by encouraging the macaques to take their own photos.
However, the US Copyright Office sensibly ruled that animals can’t own copyright.
HOWEVER however, bloody PETA stepped in and decided to sue Slater for ownership of the photo on the monkey’s behalf. They’re saying that a seven-year-old monkey called Naruto took his own photo and is entitled to the rights to it, as he’d created the picture through “purposeful and voluntary actions […] unaided by Slater, resulting in original works of authorship“.
Long story short, a judge threw the case out, but PETA have pushed it through to a federal appeals court, and Slater is fucken’ broke and strongly considering taking up a career as a dog walker. He’s also disputing that PETA are even suing on behalf of the right monkey. The whole thing is laughably tragic.
Still, the nonsensical legal proceedings have thrown up some absolute gems of absurdist comedy, such as:
— Ally Marotti (@AllyMarotti) July 13, 2017
— Polly Mosendz (@polly) July 13, 2017
And this incredible quote, courtesy one of Slater’s lawyers:
“It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement. Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.”
He is a monkey.
As for Slater, despite the financial ruin, he says he’s happy that his monkey selfie project seems to have had the desired effect: preserving the Indonesian macaques.
“No one had heard of these monkeys six years ago; they were down to the last thousands.
“The locals used to roast them, but now they love them, they call it the ‘selfie monkey’.”
Well that’s nice. Pity the monkeys’ other advocates are brazen manipulators of the American legal system.
Source: The Age.
Image: David Slater.