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‘Monkey Selfie’ Case Settled: Photographer to Pay 25% to Charities

In 2011, David Slater visited an Island in Indonesia where he strategically made the macaques take selfies.

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3 min read
‘Monkey Selfie’ Case Settled: Photographer to Pay 25% to Charities

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Remember the monkey who took a selfie from a British photographer’s camera, which got the man in a fix? The two-year-old legal battle has now reached a conclusion as David Slater, the wildlife photographer, has agreed to pay 25 percent of his future earnings from the image to PETA.

David Slater and the animal rights group PETA said in a joint statement that the money would be "dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto", a report by the BBC said.

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How Did it Begin?

In 2011, David Slater, a wildlife photographer, went to the Sulawesi island in Indonesia. He spent a week there, photographing the endangered Celebes Crested Macaques.

Naruto, a macaque, took a ‘selfie’ in a jungle on the island after David Slater said that the camera was set on a tripod deliberately by him, when some of the macaques started playing with it and the shots were taken accidentally, a report by a British news and photography website, AmateurPhotographer, said.

It wasn’t serendipitous monkey behavior. It required a lot of knowledge on my behalf, a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish, and all that stuff.
David Slater to The Guardian

David Slater gave the license of the pictures to Caters News Agency, assuming that he had the copyright. It became a contentious legal issue when Techdirt, an internet blog site, and Wikipedia, used the images freely in 2014, and Slater objected that they had no right to use it without his permission.

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The Legal Trap

Techdirt and Wikipedia claimed that because the pictures were taken by a monkey, there were no copyright issues. The US Copyright Office later on ruled that animals cannot own copyrights.

The American and British Intellectual Property Rights state that works created by non-humans were not to be copyrighted.

In 2015, the People for Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a suit in a Federal Court in San Francisco in favour of the macaque who took the selfies. According to it, the proceeds from the photo were to be used for the benefit of Naruto and other macaques in the Indonesian reserve of Sulawesi.

Jeffery Kerr, the lawyer appointed by the PETA, said that the “US Copyright Act does not contain any language limiting copyrights to humans.”

The act grants copyright to authors of original works, with no limit on species. Copyright law is clear: it’s not the person who owns the camera, it’s the being who took the photograph.
Jeffery Kerr

David Slater was dismayed by all this. The arguments against PETA were that, how can they represent Naruto in court and how has the macaque suffered after not being recognised as the owner of the images.

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The Conclusion

David Slater argued that being a freelancer he has suffered a huge loss fighting these cases. He said he even thought of becoming a tennis coach or a dog walker and added that he wanted to give the copyright of the image to his young daughter as a legacy.

After Slater’s announcement that he is willing to pay some amount for the protection of macaques in Indonesia, the case has finally reached its conclusion.

(With inputs from The Guardian, BBC and The Sun)

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