Monkey Selfie Photographer in Bizarre Court Battle

Photo of author

( — July 19, 2017) –British nature photographer David Slater was in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2008, where he was trying to photograph critically endangered Celebes crested macaques, Old World monkeys living in the Tangkoko reserve.

Some of Slater’s photos have become famous – the selfies taken by a macaque using his camera.

But, instead of earning big bucks and glory, the photographer has been pushed into a legal dispute. In 2015, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a suit against Slater on behalf of the macaque, which it identified as a six-year-old male named Naruto, claiming that the animal was the rightful owner of the copyright, the Guardian reports.

However, Slater insists that the monkey in the photo is a female and that PETA has been wrong for years. He also claims that “it wasn’t serendipitous monkey behavior” and that the selfies were the result of his skills to persuade the monkey into pressing the shutter while looking into the lens.

“It required a lot of knowledge on my behalf, a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish, and all that stuff,” said British photographer, who has been fighting for years to prove who has the copyright to photos: he or the monkey.

He said that after all he doesn’t have money to pay the attorney who has been defending him or afford an air ticket to San Francisco to attend the latest hearing.

Slater is bewildered at the American court system and he has been exploring other ways to earn an income.

The US Copyright Office subsequently ruled that animals are not covered by the Copyright Act, but PETA has appealed to the ninth circuit court of appeals, which heard oral arguments last Wednesday.

Judge Carlos Bea asked how copyright can be passed to an author’s heirs, while Judge N Randy Smith said that there is no loss as to reputation for the monkey on the picture.

“In the world of Naruto, is there legitimacy and illegitimacy?,” Judge Bea asked.