The British photographer who set up a shoot in which a monkey fired his camera’s shutter button, via a cable release, has welcomed a ruling that a monkey cannot own copyright.
A lawsuit, launched last year by animal rights charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), challenged photographer David Slater’s rights over the image (above) in a San Francisco federal court.
PETA is seeking 100% of the proceeds from commercial use of the photo, ‘to benefit Naruto [the black macaque monkey] and his community’.
The charity wanted the federal court to grant it the right to manage copyright and license the image.
But US District Judge William Orrick said that ‘while Congress and the President can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act,’ reported Associated Press.
‘I have always owned the copyright,’ said Slater in an interview with Amateur Photographer today.
He added: ‘It is Wikipedia and others who claim I don’t because a monkey pressed the shutter.
‘”Monkeys can’t hold copyright therefore nobody does” is Wiki [pedia]’s claim.
‘Total rubbish. I chose the lens, the exposure settings, even put a flashgun on the camera and mounted it on a tripod with composition set, and light direction fixed.
‘This is what confers authorship – the creative intent and actions before a button is pressed.
‘The button-presser merely fixes the intangible idea onto a sensor (in digital terms).’
The Gloucestershire-based photographer said he is ‘confident’ over the eventual outcome of the San Francisco court case launched by PETA.
However, he warned that the case has not yet been dismissed and that he faces, as yet undetermined, legal costs.
And he stressed that PETA has pledged to continue its fight for the monkey’s alleged rights.
Last year, Slater maintained that he held copyright in the photo in same way that a wildlife photographer would own an image when an animal fires the shutter remotely by crossing an infrared beam set up for that purpose.
But PETA claims that the animal ‘hijacked’ Slater’s camera gear to take ‘a few expert selfies of his own’.
In 2015, Slater told Amateur Photographer that one of his legal advisors was ‘dumbfounded’ by the PETA lawsuit.
On its website, PETA claimed last year: ‘The decision in this case could be the first time that a non-human animal has ever been declared the owner of property, rather than being declared a piece of property.
‘We could consequently witness a ground-breaking step forward in society – the acknowledgement that animal rights should be recognised for the sake of animals and not for the exploitative benefit of humans.’