Selfies have outlived fad status. The genre is so ubiquitous that there are offshoot genres like ghost selfies and selfies taken right before you fall off a cliff. But this story is about a selfie taken, ironically enough, by an animal. The photograph of the monkey was an instant viral hit. But who owns the rights to a picture taken by an animal?
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals may get to decide. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has sued a photographer on behalf of the monkey. PETA claims the monkey owns the right to his image.
Other judges have disagreed. An animal, who arguably does not have a defined sense of self, is incapable of expressing its self in an artistic rendering. That seems to be the basic conclusion in each of the examinations of this suit to date. PETA, though, is pushing forward with the case and appealing.
The image of the black Sulawesi crested macaque was “taken” by photographer, David Slater. After the image was posted on Wikipedia, and all over the internet, Slater claimed his image had been stolen.
Wikipedia claimed the image was the work of the monkey. PETA put up the funds to represent the monkey’s interest. When Slater used the image in a book about wildlife, PETA sued. They want all proceeds from the sale of the book to go to the monkey, IFL Science reports.
The earnings, PETA claims, would support preservation of the species. “If this lawsuit succeeds,” PETA claims, “it will be the first time that a non-human animal is declared the owner of property, rather than being declared a piece of property himself or herself.”
Slater, for his part in this defense, has exhausted his savings defending his rights. He went into the jungle. It was Slater who built the relationship with the animals that allowed him to get in close proximity to them, and it was Slater who processed the image after the monkey simply pressed the button.
So who is the rightful owner? We’ll soon see.