The legal battle over the controversial “monkey selfie” now has an outcome, with the photographer agreeing to donate a portion of the proceeds to registered charities every time a copy of the pictures are sold.
Photographer David Slater from Monmouthshire has accepted a legal settlement of giving 25 percent of any future revenue from the “monkey selfie” to organizations “dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto,” the monkey’s supposed name.
Slater, a conservationist, travelled to Indonesia in 2011 and followed endangered crested black macaque monkeys in one of the country’s several jungles. After setting up his camera, the monkeys started to play with it and took photos of themselves of which one of them made several selfies.
In 2014, Slater and Blurb Inc. published a book, “Wildlife Personalities,” that detailed Slater’s adventures as a wildlife photographer. One of the selfies was used as a cover photo.
The images since then became widely used by several entities, including Techdirt and Wikipedia. Being identified in the book as the copyright owner of the selfies, Slater asked Wikipedia and Techdirt to stop using the photos without his permission.
However, Techdirt refused, as well as Wikipedia, who said he does not have the copyright because the actual creator of the photograph was the monkey.
The issue was brought before the U.S. Copyright Office where it ruled that no one basically has the copyright of the selfies because they were taken by the monkey. In the U.S. law, only those created by human beings can be given copyright.
Slater explained that the pictures were not “serendipitous monkey behavior” because it required “a lot of knowledge on my behalf, a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish, and all that suff.”
In 2015, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an American animal rights organization, filed a lawsuit against Slater before the federal court in San Francisco in behalf of Naruto. The organization said Naruto should be given copyright for the selfies because he did it “by his own independent, autonomous actions in examining and manipulating Slater’s unattended camera.”
PETA was also seeking a court order that would allow them to handle all the proceeds arising from the sales of the “monkey selfies” in order to use the money for the animals’ benefits.
Slater, however, argued that he was the creator of the image because he set up the whole thing.
“The facts are that I was the intellectual behind the photos, I set the whole thing up,” he said in an email to The Guardian. “A monkey only pressed a button of a camera set up on a tripod – a tripod I positioned and held through the shoot.”
The legal battle lasted for two years, with Slater admitting that the issue is taking a toll on his life. He said he has been struggling to get by due to legal fees and expenses. Fortunately for him, an agreement was just reached.
“PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal. As we learn more about Naruto, his community of macaques, and all other animals, we must recognize appropriate fundamental legal rights for them as our fellow global occupants and members of their own nations who want only to live their lives and be with their families,” Slater and PETA said in a statement.