A photographer has claimed he is ready to retire due to his dire financial situation after a multiple year-long legal battle over the copyright surrounding images taken by monkeys on his camera.
The debacle began back in 2011, when photographer David Slater traveled to Indonesia and photographed a group of macaques. According to the Guardian, the photos are a result of “[Slater’s] ingenuity in coaxing the monkeys into pressing the shutter while looking into the lens, after he struggled to get them to keep their eyes open for a wide-angle close-up.”
They were quite mischievous, jumping all over my equipment. One hit the button. The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back — it was amazing to watch.
The issue has recently been debated in a U.S. court, with a cash-strapped Slater watching via a live stream from his home in Wales, U.K.
Blogs and sites such as Techdirt and Wikipedia have refused to stop using the image without Slater’s approval, with the latter claiming it wasn’t possible to copyright the image because the monkey was technically the creator of it.
This is where things get really crazy. Back in 2015, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a suit against Slater on behalf of the macaque; their reasoning being that the monkey was the copyright holder. By 2016, a judge had ruled against PETA, on the grounds that the Copyright Act doesn’t extend to animals. PETA appealed to the ninth circuit court of appeals, which heard further debates last week. They were left to debate the following:
- Whether PETA has a close enough relationship to Naruto (the monkey in the images) to represent it in court.
- The value of providing written notice of a copyright claim to a community of macaques.
- Whether Naruto is actually harmed by not being recognized as a copyright-holder.
Is this a waste of the court’s time, or are those involved simply respecting copyright laws?
All images copyright, and used with the permission of, David Slater.