For nearly two years, the wildlife photographer behind the famous “monkey selfie” has been fighting for the right of his own photo in court.
PETA has been suing David Slater after he spent several days photographing macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia. One of the black crested macaques pressed a button to take the “monkey selfie” photo that went viral, and PETA has been representing the animal in court, saying that “he” has a right to the photo copyright.
“If successful, this will be the first time that an animal is declared the owner of property, instead of being declared a piece of property himself,” PETA said in a statement on the case. The case is now in a federal appeals court after a lower court judge ruled in 2016 that animals can’t hold copyrights to photos.
“PETA drives me insane,” Jeffy Fisher said while looking at the story on this week’s episode of “The Jeff Fisher Show.”
PETA’s lawsuit could essentially gut the internet if it is successful. Because PETA is additionally suing the online publishing platform Slater used to create a book that included the photo, the case could have long-term implications for copyright infringement and user-generated content, according to an Ars Technica report on the case. If an online platform is liable for a user’s content, everything from personal blogs to eBay to social media apps is under threat.
The lawsuit has plenty of issues – including the possibility that they are representing the wrong monkey in court. According to Slater, the monkey in the picture is not Naruto, the monkey bringing the lawsuit thanks to PETA, but a female macaque named Ella.
“I’m bewildered at the American court system,” Slater told the Guardian. “Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”
After years of fighting the case in court, Slater says he is now broke and trying to find other ways to make a living. Ironically enough, his mission for the photoshoot was to highlight the unique monkey tribe and show that conservation efforts are essential for their survival.
“The crested black macaque is an extraordinary animal, but one that is severely threatened and need of urgent conservation,” Slater said on his website. “Photographing and publicizing their plight was the main driver when I visited the island.”