Monkey selfie photographer considers swapping careers to tennis coaching. Says he’s totally broke

Jul 13, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Monkey selfie photographer considers swapping careers to tennis coaching. Says he’s totally broke

Jul 13, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Do you remember the monkey selfie that went viral, and the ridiculous story that the monkey should hold the copyright to the photo? British nature photographer David Slater, who photographed the black macaque in 2011, ended up being broke. He considers switching his career, and he might just give it all up when it comes to the “monkey selfie” case.

After years of court debating whether an animal can be a copyright holder, the photographer’s had enough. He says he’s on the verge of giving up. He is trying to become a tennis coach, and even considers dog walking so he can cover the income tax.

Slater was taking photos of endangered crested black macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011. At one point, one of them hijacked his camera and snapped a ton of selfies. Some of the photos soon went viral, and later found themselves on Wikimedia Commons under public domain. When Slater asked Wikimedia to take the photos down – they refused. They claimed the monkey pressed the shutter and thus owns the copyright.

Although the monkey did press the shutter, it took photographer a lot of patience and knowledge to get the monkeys relax and play with the camera. He tells The Guardian that a photo like this is something every photographer dreams of. Unfortunately, it’s availability under public domain pushed the photographer back significantly: “If everybody gave me a pound for every time they used [the photograph], I’d probably have £40m in my pocket.” He says he was supposed to be comfortable from the proceeds of these photos by now, but sadly – he’s not.

As if the struggle with Wikimedia wasn’t enough, in 2015 PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sued Slater as well. They also claimed that the monkey named Naruto should own the copyright to his selfie. However, the Copyright Office released a document that establishes new policies and reaffirms existing ones. It clearly states that “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants.” Later on, the court ruled that the monkey can’t own a copyright on selfies, and one would say this should have ended here. But no, it wasn’t over, because PETA appealed the decision and the case went on.

Judge Carlos Bea raised an important question at one point – how copyright passes to an author’s heirs. “In the world of Naruto, is there legitimacy and illegitimacy? Are Naruto’s offspring ‘children’, as defined by the statute?” This got me wonder, would a monkey be hurt in any way if it didn’t own the copyright or have its offspring inherit it? I doubt it. On the other hand, Slater is concerned for the welfare of his own child: “I can’t afford to own a car. There’s no camera equipment for her to inherit if I die tomorrow. She should inherit this [copyright], but it’s worthless.”

It makes me sad to hear that a talented and devoted photographer is making ends meet just because of some ridiculous lawsuits. I do love animals and believe we should respect their rights and take care of them, but I don’t think the copyright over photos should be one of their rights. It’s just ridiculous. It doesn’t help the animals in any way, while it does a big harm to the photographer. After all, if he were a copyright holder, he could invest his earnings from the photo to help animals. This way, it’s a lose-lose situation for both the photographer and the macaque.

[via The Guardian]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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20 responses to “Monkey selfie photographer considers swapping careers to tennis coaching. Says he’s totally broke”

  1. Stefan Gavrilescu Avatar
    Stefan Gavrilescu

    now that’s just plain dumb…what the hell is wrong with today’s world?

  2. Andrea Gruber Avatar
    Andrea Gruber

    That’s a disgrace and a fucking joke. PETA in it’s origin was ok, but they ridicule themselves on a constant basis now. They should sort out their own animal shelters where killing dogs is a daily thing. That any court even considered that a legal issue is a joke in itself. He didn’t harm the monkeys, he didn’t destroy their environment. On the contrary he tried to do something good. That boils my blood …

  3. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    Absolutely ridiculous. Just because of some self righteous dumbos a family is now bankrupt, a family that served to document and promote nature. Good job lefties! You just created a few more lefty haters!

    1. Andrea Gruber Avatar
      Andrea Gruber

      Excuse me? What does “Left” have to do with this?

    2. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
      Theuns Verwoerd

      Blame the people that deserve it: PETA.

    3. Kryn Sporry Avatar
      Kryn Sporry

      Theuns Verwoerd that’s the guys I meant

    4. Rob Eves Avatar
      Rob Eves

      PETA aren’t lefties, so you can continue loving socialism safely.

  4. Tim Covington Avatar
    Tim Covington

    PETA should be writing a massive check to this guy. The fact that they are not shows how broken our legal system is.

    1. andrei ioan Avatar
      andrei ioan

      Agreed! When PETA lose the appeal also they should pay including the losses (not only for legal costs) suffered by the photographer in this time!

  5. Prashan Narayanasamy Avatar
    Prashan Narayanasamy

    PETA is f*****g joke..

  6. Alexandre Bettencourt Avatar
    Alexandre Bettencourt

    It’s not a copyright issue, it’s more of an obsession of trying to elevate wild animals up to people status. Quick biology fact: we’re humans, they’re not. Animals don’t get to drive cars and pick up kids from school. This is a complete nonsense, a non-issue altogether — for sane minds, that is. By the way, I actually had to google this story to make sure it was real. That’s how stupid this whole thing sounds.

  7. Jessica Mendez Avatar
    Jessica Mendez

    PETA ruined that photographer’s life. ? Can he try to find a way to counter-sue them? ? Maybe someone that doesn’t mind pro-bono work?

  8. mikerofoto Avatar
    mikerofoto

    this is ridiculous, so everyone going at the zoo or on safari, taking animal photos should give the copyrights to the animal in question, is it going to the point we’ll need a liscence release for animal like for portrait and property?

    1. Michael Chastain Avatar
      Michael Chastain

      Are you planning to let the lion or the elephant press the shutter button? If not, you have nothing to worry about.

      1. Shannon Der Aldinger Avatar
        Shannon Der Aldinger

        Might need to get the lion to sign a model release though …

  9. Alex Minkin Avatar
    Alex Minkin

    As soon as he can fill out, sign and submit his copyright registration form, he can have it

  10. Adam Szach Avatar
    Adam Szach

    He should say it was remote trigger

  11. Rob Eves Avatar
    Rob Eves

    Ok am I the only one who noticed that the monkey is somehow named Naruto? How is this not cruelty to animals?

  12. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    I’ve been saying from start that this whole thing was frivolous, ridiculous, and indicative of a failed court system. PETA can go f themselves, but it’s far more problematic that a court would take the whole thing this far… the initial lawsuit should have been dismissed with prejudice from start.
    This entire case sparked a huge discussion on who should own the photos if the camera wasn’t triggered by the photographer him/herself, and there were several extremely unreasonable people commenting on this.

    I’ll just go back to my initial thoughts: the gear belongs to Slater, he was the one who carried everything there, he prepared the scene, he had the patience to wait for the monkey to go there, and the photo would never have been shot if he wasn’t part of it.
    No other humans were involved. It does not matter if he didn’t push the trigger, all the work involved in making the shot is his, and his alone.

    He owns those photos, and this should’ve been obvious from start. And I’m inclined to say that even if, for instance, a monkey stole the camera from his gear pack, took the photos, and than later Slater found it back, he’d STILL be entitled to ownership of photos. Because animals cannot have it, and the photos would not have been taken if it wasn’t for the gear that Slater bought and took to somewhere accessible to the animal.

    Now, for a parallel discussion: if the monkey was a human, or if the camera was taken by someone else to make the shot, wouldn’t Slater still own the photo anyways? Doesn’t the fact that the photo was taken with his property gives him the rights?
    Say someone takes my camera without my permission and shoots a photo, without contract and without anything, I publish it later on and it gets viral… what does the law say about cases like these?

  13. Michael Chastain Avatar
    Michael Chastain

    I realize this is an unpopular opinion but if the success of this guy’s entire photography career hinges on a photo he didn’t take and never intended to happen maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

    And sure, we could rewrite laws every single time something bizarre and unanticipated happens, but that’s how we end up with ridiculously complex laws that nobody can understand, which has it’s own consequences. Or maybe there are a rash of cases of animals taking selfies out there I’ve never heard of?