News

A photographer has lost everything after being sued by a monkey

The photograph in question, by David Slater. Image: YouTube/The Young Turks

A British photographer has all but given up on his once beloved career during which he enjoyed taking wildlife and conservation photos, after being sued by a monkey left him broke. 

Yes, that’s right, he was sued by a monkey, and is now broke as a result of all the legal fees he’s had to pay. 

David Slater, 52, told the Telegraph that the years-long legal battle has left him penniless, to the point he no longer feels motivated to take photos and may become a tennis coach or a dog-walker instead. 

“This would be a new venture for me. It would pay peanuts, but at least it would be more than photography,” he said. 

The whole debacle came about after a macaque took a selfie of itself grinning into the lens with Slater’s unattended camera, and the picture went viral. 

Ad. Article continues below.

But rather than reaping the royalties from this amazing photograph, he got into legal trouble when he asked Wikipedia to take down the photo they had used without his permission. 

Wikipedia refused on the ground that the macaque own the copyright to the picture, not Slater. 

The US Copyright Office ruled that animals cannot own copyright, which should have been the end of the case, but animal rights group PETA went in to bat for the macaque, citing that argued that the seven-year-old monkey, Naruto, was the rightful owner because he created the images through “purposeful and voluntary actions … unaided by Slater, resulting in original works of authorship“.

A court hearing in front of a federal appeal judge in San Francisco this week, Judge N. Randy Smith said:

“There’s no loss as to reputation. There’s no allegation even that the copyright could have somehow benefited Naruto. What financial benefits apply to him? There’s nothing.”

Ad. Article continues below.

Slater, however, could not afford a flight to the US to attend the hearing.

He doesn’t regret taking the photo though, saying that he’s “delighted” the macaques are getting the attention.  

Do you think this case is absolutely absurd? 

Ad. More articles below.