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PETA bankrupt photographer over monkey selfie… because they say monkey owns the copyright

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Sam Diss
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PETA have spent an untold sum of money fighting for the intellectual property rights of Naruto, an Indonesian crested macaque, a selfie of whom photographer David Slater set up by encouraging the monkey to click the shutter button while looking into the camera lens. This seems like... not the most useful way for them to spend their time. 

“It wasn’t serendipitous monkey behavior,” Slater told the Guardian. “It required a lot of knowledge on my behalf, a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish and all that stuff.”

But PETA says that Slater deserves nothing, that the monkey is the artist and, as such, deserves to retain total copyright of its art. 

Slater argues whether or not the organisation have even identified the correct macaque. “I know for a fact that [the monkey in the photograph] is a female and it’s the wrong age,” he said. “I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”

“When science and technology advance, the law adapts,” said Jeffrey Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, in a statement. “There is nothing in the Copyright Act limiting ownership based on species, and PETA is asking for an interpretation of the act that acknowledges today’s scientific consensus that macaque monkeys can create an original work.”

PETA filed its initial lawsuit on the macaque’s behalf in September 2015 after Slater attempted to register the monkey’s photograph as his own with the US Copyright Office, but the Copyright Office announced that it “will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants.”

It’s kinda funny that this has gone to court and actual professionals are arguing as to whether a macaque can “acquire or hold money” (says Judge N Randy Smith) until you find out that Slater himself has a seven-year-old daughter and is flat broke after spending all of his money fighting the protracted case, and couldn’t even fly out to San Francisco for his own legal hearing. 

Judge Carlos Bea says: “In the world of Naruto, is there legitimacy and illegitimacy? Are Naruto’s offspring ‘children’, as defined by the statute?”

“I can’t afford to own a car. There’s no camera equipment for her to inherit if I die tomorrow,” Slater told the Guardian. “She should inherit this [copyright], but it’s worthless.” Now he’s trying to become a tennis coach, hoping to earn enough money even to try and pay his own income tax. 

“I’m even thinking about doing dog walking,” he added.

(Main Image: Wikipedia / Public Domain… we think)

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Sam Diss

The Associate Editor of New Projects at ShortList, Sam enjoys making up words to annoy editors, writing features about sports, music, weird things, and cool people, and listening to Mark Morrison's 'Return Of The Mack'. He's also a fairly capable centreback. Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamDiss

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