Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property » Photographer Broke Due to Copyright Lawsuit by Monkey

Photographer Broke Due to Copyright Lawsuit by Monkey

17 July 2017

From PetaPixel:

Remember David Slater, the photographer whose camera was hijacked by a monkey and used for a series of selfies that went viral on the Internet? The photographer has spent years fighting a copyright battle in court over the photos, and now he’s broke.

The Guardian reports that the 52-year-old photographer has run out of funds and is now considering coaching tennis and walking dogs as ways to earn a living.

After the original monkey selfie photos went viral on the Web, a takedown request was sent on Slater’s behalf to a publication that shared the images. This sparked a huge debate on whether or not Slater even owned the copyright to the photos, since technically the monkey was the one who shot the images.

Wikipedia took a stand for the monkey, arguing that the photo is in the public domain since it was captured by the monkey and not Slater. PETA then filed a lawsuit against Slater on the monkey’s behalf to have the copyright assigned to the monkey.

The US Copyright Office stated in 2014 that it can’t assign copyright to animals, and a judge ruled in 2016 that the monkey can’t own copyright to the famous selfie.

Since then, the case has gotten bumped up to a US federal appeals court, which heard arguments this week, but Slater didn’t have the funds to attend the hearing in San Francisco and was forced to watch a livestream from his home in the UK.

Link to the rest at PetaPixel 


Copyright/Intellectual Property

15 Comments to “Photographer Broke Due to Copyright Lawsuit by Monkey”

  1. Seems only fair the monkey should chip in for his legal fees.

  2. At some point craziness like this will break a person who has the ability to extract real revenge.

    Then the body count will be noticeable.

  3. PG, you’re an attorney…any comments from that perspective? Like “there is a body of relevant case law that addresses this and such cognate matter” and “on first blush, it seems something-or-other, but.”

    Inquiring monkey minds want to know.

    • I think it’s a groundless suit and hope some court orders PETA to compensate Mr. Slater for his expenses.

      • Why does PETA even have a standing to sue?

        • They don’t. If any has standing (which is an open question) it would be the Indonesian government. The macaque in question was resident in a national park in Indonesia, which it could be argued makes her a ward of the government of Indonesia.

          PETA is just engaging in propaganda terrorism.

          There is case law regarding zoos and animal parks. Those institutions have likeness rights for the animals in their facility. Likeness rights are not the same as copyright, but they preclude you selling your images without permission from the image right holder. A rule of thumb for photographers is if the gift shop sells goods of a particular animal, edifice, or whatever, you are not free to sell your own images of the creature or item.

      • This whole thing is ridiculous. The monkey has no ownership, it can’t sign contracts. That someone would put this man through this is a shame on humanity.

  4. Just goes to prove that the only thing the PETA (and Wikipedia) get into these days is monkey business …

  5. My favorite part of the story at the link:

    “I know for a fact that [the monkey in the photograph] is a female and it’s the wrong age,” Slater tells The Guardian. “I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”

    It is unfair to be sued by the wrong monkey. And can attorneys really represent the monkey without the monkey having hired them?

    I hope the photographer didn’t mean suicide when he talked about “packing it all in.”

  6. Too bad Slater didn’t just claim that he and the monkey had an oral agreement that the photo was a work for hire, paid for with bananas. After all, if the monkey is competent enough to sue him, surely it’s competent enough to enter into a contract.

  7. I apparently missed the original furor, so had to look it up.

    My first thought was that, if the camera was actually “hijacked” by the monkey, that Mr. Slater also had no intellectual property interest in the photos. Sigh, so-called “journalists” strike again – he does, as it was his “artistic concept” to teach the monkeys to take selfies. To me, he has full copyright to them.

    PETA should be hammered for full legal costs, plus interest, plus damages.

    • Slater has changed his story. Originally he wrote and was paid for several humorous articles in which he described the macaque stealing the camera while his back was turned and running around, triggering many exposures. Most of those were blurry, out of focus, or had no subject, but by chance one or two were good. Far and away the best was the famous selfie. Slater specifically said the macaque was running free with the camera for as long as 20 minutes and by pawing at the camera had changed many settings.

      When news agencies ran the photograph in connection with the story without payment to Slater, Slater changed his story and said he had done everything to set up the photo and patiently coaxed the macaque to the camera. In this version, all the macaque did was push the shutter trigger.

      These two stories, both by Slater, differ on several fundamental points. At least one is a lie.

      None of which makes PETA’s lawsuit any less wrong.

  8. PETA is horrible. Just horrible.

    They should be forced to compensate him.

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