Monkey Selfie Case May Settle: PETA Knows It'll Lose, And The Photographer Is Broke

from the so-settlement-makes-sense dept

It may finally be ending. The dumbest copyright lawsuit we’ve seen in a long time (and that’s saying a lot) about a silly topic. We’ve been covering the story of the monkey selfie from basically the very beginning (and often get mentioned in stories about it, as we’ll discuss below). But, the story that began as a weird quirk of explaining how copyright law works — and how many people don’t believe it works the way it does — got stupid in a hurry once PETA and the formerly respected law firm of Irell & Manella got involved. And, now, finally, the case may be ending in a settlement.

A settlement totally makes sense here, because the plaintiff knows it’s going to lose in embarrassing fashion if the case moves forward, and the defendant is broke, in part because of this case (though some people — including the photographer — appear to be partially blaming us*). If you somehow haven’t followed this story the very, very quick recap is that a photographer named David Slater went to Indonesia where he was taking photographs in a national park, and at some point at least one (and possibly more?) macaque monkeys played with his camera and took some photos with it, including some selfies, which were mildly amusing. As we noted in a long discussion on this, technically the photos are almost certainly in the public domain (read that post to learn why if you don’t believe it). David Slater disagrees with this and insists the copyright is his, and has had various representatives at times send totally bogus and severely confused threat letters. However, nearly all serious legal commentary has recognized that the works are in the public domain. That’s just how copyright law works, whether you like it or not.

Either way, there’s one thing that Slater and I agree on: the monkey doesn’t hold the copyright… and PETA (an organization that often seems to care more about publicity stunts than animals) two years ago kicked off a monumentally dumb lawsuit against Slater, claiming that the monkey held the copyright and that PETA represented the monkey. And, again, this can’t be stated often enough: PETA brought on a previously respected copyright law firm, Irell & Manella, to handle this case and they proceeded to make some really crazy arguments, including suggesting that every work must have a copyright — apparently writing the public domain right out of the law.

Either way, PETA lost badly in court, but still appealed. That appeal has not gone well. At a hearing last month, it appears that the judges could barely contain their laughter at just how stupid a lawsuit this really is. PETA knows it’s going to lose and lose badly — and thus has every incentive to settle this case before such a ruling is released.

As for Slater, well, he’s been telling reporters that he’s completely broke — so clearly he has incentive to just get the case over with as well. And, I feel for him. Being sued over a completely bogus claim totally sucks. I know that all too well. So it’s pretty sensible that all the parties in the lawsuit have told the court to hold off on ruling while they work out a settlement.

And, really, what a despicable case this was by PETA and Irell & Manella. Yes, I know that PETA’s whole schtick is to do ridiculous publicity stunts, but this one had real costs. It wasted a bunch of time in the courts, and was really damaging to David Slater, who didn’t deserve to be dragged into court by such an organization. One hopes that, at the very least, part of the settlement includes an apology.

* So, this is kind of a separate issue, but Slater occasionally points to Techdirt’s articles about why the photos are in the public domain as part of the problem — and the recent reporting on his claims of being broke have more or less repeated this. The first report we saw, in the Guardian, mentions us and Wikipedia as “refusing” to take the images down — which… leaves out a big part of the story (i.e., it was in the context of explaining why the work was in the public domain under copyright law). We actually had a few angry people contact us over the Guardian story not realizing the details.

But that was nothing compared to what happened when the Daily Mail, the UK’s worst newspaper, basically tried to rewrite the Guardian story and twisted our role even more:

His problems began when Californian-based blog Techdirt and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (whose mission statement is ‘to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free licence or in the public domain’) muscled in.

“Muscled in?” Guys, all we did was write (accurately, I may add!) about the copyright issues when a monkey takes a selfie. That’s not “muscling in.” That’s journalism. The Daily Mail might want to try it some day.

They claimed the image was uncopyrightable because the monkey was the creator ? and so they uploaded the picture onto their websites, free for anyone to use. To Dave, this was an assault on his livelihood.

Understandably, he asked Techdirt and Wikipedia to stop using the pictures ? but they refused. Faced with little choice, Dave decided to sue for up to £18,000, saying: ‘There’s a lot more to copyright than who pushes the trigger.’

At least the Daily Mail mentions that we explained why the work is in the public domain, but they make it sound like we were the ones doing the initial distribution of the photo. That’s crazy. It was all over the internet. In fact, uh, we first read about the monkey in the Daily Fucking Mail. Seriously. Go look at the link in our first story. You want to know where we first got the photograph? The Daily Mail. Yet now the Daily Mail is blaming us for making the photo available? Are you fucking kidding me?

And, I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about saying that Slater sued us for £18,000. This is the first we’ve heard of it.

But, here’s the thing: after the Daily Mail article went online, we started getting quite a bit of hate mail, accusing us of bankrupting Slater. I feel bad for Slater, as his situation sounds bad. But we didn’t sue him. We didn’t take away his livelihood. We explained the law. That’s it. You might not like the law, but the law would have been the same whether or not we wrote about it. Slater wouldn’t have had the copyright either way. It’s fair to blame PETA for hurting Slater, because they sued him for no damn reason at all. But we just reported on the situation accurately — something it would be nice if the Daily Mail tried once in a while.

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Companies: irell & manella, peta

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Comments on “Monkey Selfie Case May Settle: PETA Knows It'll Lose, And The Photographer Is Broke”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I also feel for Slater but let’s leave reminders here:

He started the lawsuit happy environment and PETA was happy to jump in and throw a lot of shit in the fan.

That said, PETA is poisonous to the very cause they claim to fight for. I’m hoping they can’t settle and have to pay every single cent and the lawyers get sanctioned for the frivolous lawsuit. Let’s hope it gets too risky to defend PETA in courts so they’ll be neutralized on that front.

hij (profile) says:

Perfect Shit Storm

So the photographer thought he hit the mother lode but in the end his greed and refusal to back down turned out to be his unraveling. This would make a great children’s story if it had not been told a million times already in every form imaginable. Well, almost every form. The one involving a person trying to exploit curiously vain monkeys who was in turn exploited by curiously vain apes posing as animal rights champions is a fresh new take. Now to figure out how to make it rhyme.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Moving On

‘My daughter tells everyone her daddy took the monkey selfie, but I’ve got nothing to give her from it.

‘I can’t send her to the school we want, or even think about paying her university fees when the time comes. And all could have been sorted out with one photograph.’

Most hurtfully, he’s stopped taking pictures. ‘The magic’s gone. I get my camera out every now and again to try to recapture the joy, but I don’t seem able to. This was my livelihood.

‘I didn’t want to make lots of money — I just wanted a fair wage for my work, something to pass on to our daughter.’

The crazy popularity of one photograph is worth very little. Slater obviously thought that he’d won the lottery. TechDirt pointed out that the numbers on his ticket didn’t match the numbers in the drawing. Therefore, in his mind, it is TechDirt’s fault that he didn’t win the lottery.

What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that this was a fifteen-minutes-of-fame photograph. Everyone has moved on, except Slater and PETA. And now PETA is moving on because an adverse decision may cost them fees to Slater and, more importantly, simply doesn’t draw attention like it did a few years ago. No news is bad news for PETA.

P.S. Maybe you could sue the Daily Mail for defamation under the lax British laws to provide for your own defense. And these guys.

aerinai says:

Re: Moving On

What I don’t get is he could still capitalize off of it… He can make prints… he can sign it… he can literally do whatever he wants with this picture. Fair Use and Public Domain doesn’t mean that what he has created can’t be monetized… you just have to make a market for it.

A great example of this is I could print my favorite XKCD print off the internet and hang it on my wall (which is legal under CC BY-NC 2.5 license), but I’d rather spend $25 to buy it from the guy that created it. It helps him, I get signed art, and everyone leaves happy.

John says:

Re: Re: Moving On

He has been trying to do this for year, if it were not for Wikipedia promtoing theft of his work. I rememebr he offered free canvas prints. He donated to the monkeys off sales of his work. He seems to have done all the right things to help the monkeys but it’s only backfired each time because of sites like this encouraging theft, and of course the lying and detestable Wikipedia.

Steerpike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Moving On

Problem with this assessment is there is no infringement (or theft, if you prefer that term) because the photographer had no legal right to exclusive use of the photo to begin with. There is no copyright in it, and that would be his only means of controlling the photo’s reproduction etc. Since it is in the public domain and free for anyone to use, promoting “theft” of it is impossible.

this all applies to the U.S.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Moving On

‘The magic’s gone. I get my camera out every now and again to try to recapture the joy, but I don’t seem able to. This was my livelihood.

So he letting the popularity of a picture taken by accident destroy his career as a photographer. That is a sign of jealousy to the point of insanity. He should have shrugged and moved on, and figured out how to get animals close to a camera he controlled, or had set tp as a trap camera.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Haha! Have a +1 funny for reminding me of this...

Mr. Wiggin: …I see. Well, of course, this is just the sort of blinkered philistine pig ignorance I’ve come to expect from you non-creative garbage. You sit there on your loathsome spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker’s cuss for the struggling artist. You excrement, you whining hypocritical toadies with your colour TV sets and your Tony Jacklin golf clubs and your bleeding masonic secret handshakes. You wouldn’t let me join, would you, you blackballing bastards. Well I wouldn’t become a Freemason if you went down on your lousy stinking purulent knees and begged me.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Re: Moving On

I think it’s also worth nothing that this picture was popular to begin with BECAUSE it was a monkey, not Slater, that created it. If he’d managed to make the same image with his own hands it wouldn’t have achieved the same notoriety. Sure it was a good picture and he could have made some money, but it wouldn’t have been a lottery ticket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where did the guy get this idea that a single photograph could be sold for so much he could send his kid to private schools for the rest of her education. It could have all been solved be proclaims! If could I could have made money off of it. Who are all these people looking to license this photograph besides news people talking about the copywrite suit?

John says:

Re: Re:

Well maybe because its been used by companies, including this one, to promote themselves. Over 50 million uses I believe. The most popular image since the moon landings I would guess. So why won;t he think he could have made enough money to support his child and family? You try being a freelance photographer when sites like TechShit encourage the public to steal?

John says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I can see you’re an American lefty snowflake yourself, Mr. Anonymous Coward. The world has had enough of yankie nazis posing as socially aware “wawwiors”!

ANONYMOUS and COWARDLY. Social Justice Mangina Owning “Wawwior”. Too afraid to raise your pathetic head into the spotlight eh? Get into the man’s world little fluffy boy. Thanks for your petty little whine Fluffy.

John says:

Daily Mail

If the Daily Mail is the worst paper in the world, why did Techdirt believe the quotes and story in it back in 2011? A case of confirmation bias maybe? After all, you did appear to base your arguments upon this newspaper and the quotes allegedly from Slater’s own mouth. Looks like Techdirt are trying to wriggle from guilt. Did you ever read the story in The Guardian or on Slater’s website itself, from which it is clear the monkey only pressed the button hwereas Slater set up the camera? But Masnick and his childish grouppies want the public to somehow think photography is only about button pressing. You low lifes! As a site claiming some expertise on copyright, you are provably fraudulaent, and if anyone ever believes this site again, or worse, steals Slater’s images because of this, is possibly going to regret it.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Re: Daily Mail

Did you ever read the story in The Guardian or on Slater’s website itself, from which it is clear the monkey only pressed the button hwereas Slater set up the camera?

Nice try. In that very first Daily Mail story, Slater admitted that the macaque knocked over the camera and then proceeded to take "hundreds" of photos:

‘One of them must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy, said Slater, 46.

‘At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection.

‘They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.

‘The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it

‘At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back – it was amazing to watch.

‘He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn’t worked that out yet.

‘I wish I could have stayed longer as he probably would have taken a full family album.’

Only after the copyright issue came to light did Slater first claim that he was the creative force behind the photographs:

So it is that for the past six years he has been embroiled in what must be one of the most pointless, idiotic, money-wasting andaggressive legal battles of all time. So, who owns the copyright? Dave or the monkey?

Dave has never been in any doubt. ‘Of course it was my copyright!’ he says. ‘I set the background. I decided where the sun was going to hit the monkey.

‘I selected the lens and I processed the images. The creativity was all mine, and it required a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish.’

Only after meeting with a lawyer did he change his tune from hope-the-monkey-takes-a-family-album to it-was-all-me-I-promise-and-I’m-sweaty-and-anguished.

John says:

Re: Re: Daily Mail

Why do some people believe everything a newspaper states when it confirm their bias, and then say they are the worst newspaper when it doesn’t suit?

When you read Slater’s original story up against the Daily Mail story you use to back up your argument (so The Daily Mail is a reputable source for you, TechDescartes!!!!) it is very clear what happened. Slater set up the shoot, dialled in the settings, let the monkey press the button. Slater has copyright. What is it about your doublespeaking thick head you can’t grasp? Answer – you believe in Techdirt. Nuff Said my controlled sheeple memeber.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

No, John. Slater didn’t "set up the shoot, dial[] in the settings, let the monkey press the button." I quoted the original Daily Mail story above. I’ll quote it again:

He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn’t worked that out yet.

‘I wish I could have stayed longer as he probably would have taken a full family album.’

Are you saying that the Daily Mail misquoted Slater? Or that Slater was lying when he said that? It seems that the only one who has a problem with the original Daily Mail story is you.

John says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Daily Mail

So the Daily Mail is reputable then! Why keep quoting from the Daily Mail. Your LEADER says it’s the worst paper in the world! Get with the preaching and do as your master commands.

Can I suggest you quote all the newspapers from this year, or even Slater’s website, or the Guardian from 2011? Why you insisting the Daily Mail is reputable now?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Reputations: Hard to build up, trivial to destroy

That really is the punchline to the whole thing, the fact that his short-sighted greed completely destroyed any value the picture might have had for him.

If he ‘won’ and somehow attained the rights to the photo by claiming to have set the shot up then it’s useless, as it’s just another picture of a monkey, of which I imagine there’s plenty.

He could have accepted that the very thing that kept him from owning it, the fact that a monkey took it, made for an interesting story and gone from there, adding that little tidbit to his resume and using it to get his name more widely known, but thanks to his greed the only thing he’s likely to be remembered for is being the person who tried to shake people down over a photo he didn’t own, only to be dragged into a train-wreck of a PR-stunt/lawsuit.

As it stands with the case likely finally coming to a close the monkey is the only one who comes out of the whole debacle not looking foolish/greedy/absurd, and that is all sorts of ridiculous(even if it does make for a good source of schadenfreude).

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

This is what an argumentum ad hominem is, even if the hominem is actually a corporation. The fact that The Daily Mail is a ball of crap does not have any bearing on undisputed quotations. If they are in dispute, Slater could have taken a far more profitable course of suing the paper for libel, in the land of easy libel suits, no less. Perhaps you could point out where his original story has any bearing on this.

wshuff (profile) says:

Re: Daily Mail

Exactly! Photography isn’t about buttons. I mean, the real unsung heroes are the manufacturers who make the cameras. They’re the ones getting screwed here. Without them, Slater couldn’t have set up the camera so the monkey could push the button to take the selfie. Who’s looking out for the camera manufacturers? Certainly not Peta. And not Techdirt.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

It might not be, Slater has moved on, per the article.

The Daily Mail has oases of news in a sea of twaddle. It often makes up stories, e.g. the psycho ex-girlfriend dentist. It’s basically a rage manufacturing machine, so the Slater story fits nicely in there.

Slater unfortunately believed that a) Copyright is a fountain flowing deep and wide and b) that one virally popular pic would see him in clover for life. That’s not the way copyright and licencing works. However, as other TDers have written, even now he could sell prints on t-shirts or mugs, etc., and make money off them. The trouble with the pics being in the public domain, though, is that anyone else can, too. Being the man who owned the camera ought to count for something among buyers, though.

I don’t think he’s greedy, just a man who can’t see past a cherished principle.

Alphonse Tomato (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

Nah, I don’t think that it’s Slater. It’s somebody who’s making Slater more of a fool than he actually is (I think Slater is just somebody who thought he’d hit the lottery and got greedy). The John used the word “sheeple”, which I would hope hasn’t infected British English yet. I’m not sure why an American rightwinger (that’s the group fond of that word) would be so adamantly on Slater’s side, though. Maybe the John is one of the presently unemployed Prenda Law folks?

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Daily Mail

why did Techdirt believe the quotes and story in it back in 2011?

Why, are they disputed? What’s your point?

Looks like Techdirt are trying to wriggle from guilt.

Your general intent here is obvious, but makes as little sense as the string of words you used in attempt to convey it.

As a site claiming some expertise on copyright, you are provably fraudulaent,

[Aforementioned proof required]

and if anyone ever believes this site again, or worse, steals Slater’s images because of this, is possibly going to regret it.

Excepting that Slater’s monkey selfie pics are in the public domain by definition. Awesome he set up the camera and all, but he had no control over the actual subject of the photograph(s).

The sad thing here is he could have converted interest in this photo into lots of well-paying work and sales instead of trying to exert control over one image. Here’s the guy who goes to some interesting places, and not without effort or hardship, and seems to have done pretty good work. And any of his work would have a measure of recognition as "from the man who brought us the monkey selfie". Now he’s the guy who sent wack legal threats then got sued by a non-profit organization of loons. I rather imagine one bit of recognition, and not losing interest in one’s calling, is better than the other form of recognition and being too upset to continue as a photographer. It’s the result of poor decision making and an unreasonable will to control influenced by a horrifically bad climate of copyright trolling.

John says:

Re: Re: Daily Mail

You are a classic example of knowing zip about copyright and public domain especially. The proff of techdirt’s fraudulence is in the way you encourage therft of a copyrighted work without so much as a reasoned argument or effort to research the topic from the source – Mr Slater’s website! QED.

But this is why you, Orbitalinserting knobhead, visit this site isn’t it? To be comforted by like minded thieves who wish to ruin artists livelihoods. Let’s face it, you are so talentless you can’t create your own works of art. You want to be a parasite don;t you?

Copyright is an incentive for creative people to entertain us, and Slater certainly has done this. he derves to profit from his pics.

He shoul also be recognised for the conservation aspect of all this. Something Techshits will never care about I reckon.

Actions of people like you who encourage theft by stating a falsehood about the pics public domain status, is stifling creativity. Techdirt and Wikipedia are clearly monopolising the idea of steal first, claim innocence later. Copyright is Slaters and he should determine who uses it and how much he wants to make from it.

John says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Daily Mail

And once again the sheepla who follow Masnick in their unswerving faith based religion know nothing about Fair Use either.

What is fair about accreditation to a monkey or Wikipedia or the public domain when it is a lie. What is fair to rip off a photographer’s copyrighted pic? Know what you are talking about befiore you try to be clever. Being clever is not following the Sheeple on this site but it is thinking for yourself and doing your own research.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Daily Mail

You might try that "research" thing yourself, even though you keep imagining reasons why any source we find is invalid.

If Fair Use is in play, it doesn’t matter who owns the copyright. Fair Use would still apply if FULL AND UNDISPUTED copyright was held by the photographer.

That said, Wikipedia has never been attributed ownership of the picture. The macaque definitely took the picture, though, so if he was legally capable of holding a copyright, it would be his. Since the "artist" can’t have a copyright, then the photo can only be public domain.

If you want more research than I can get from reputable sources, that’s called "original research," and it’s generally considered unacceptable without peer review.

John says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Daily Mail

The MOST invalid source of the monkey selfie saga is Techshit.

Macaques don’t take pictures, humans do. Macaques press buttons, humans set up the rest. Why do you wawwiors not see this.

And are you now suggesting the Daily Nail is peer reviewed?

Is Wikipedia peer reviewed?

Idiots under the spell of consensus reality would say so.

Intelligent folk, including law courts, see facts, not Techshit drivel.

rk57957 says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

Copyright is an incentive for creative people to entertain us, and Slater certainly has done this. he derves to profit from his pics.

Not according to the law.

>He shoul also be recognised for the conservation aspect of all this. Something Techshits will never care about I reckon.

This has no actual bearing when discussing copyright. I helped someone change their tire the other day, recycle, and donated to several charities … and this has no actual relevance when discussing copy right. If you are also curious for other things that have no relation to the discussion at hand I had a soda at lunch, I am wearing shoes, and it rained today.

>You are a classic example of knowing zip about copyright and public domain especially. The proff of techdirt’s fraudulence is in the way you encourage therft of a copyrighted work without so much as a reasoned argument or effort to research the topic from the source – Mr Slater’s website! QED.

Mr. Slater’s website is not a source for discussing copy right law. If you want Mr. Slater’s opinion on what copy right law should be that would be a good source but if you actually want to know what the copy right law is … I’d suggest starting here

And according to the law (and unfortunately for Mr. Slater) he does not get, let me repeat that for you, he does not get copyright on that particular picture. You may think it is unfair and you may think he should but that is your opinion on the matter not what the law states.

rk57957 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Daily Mail

Yeh right! Mr Slater was the only person there. His account is as close as you get to the source. His argument is valid not techshit’s nor any other anonymous coward trying to justify their theft or girly beliefs in what is fair.

No, that is not how the law works. If you are going to make the claim that is how copyright law works you are either a) willfully stupid or b) willfully stupid. Copyright law is very specific on when copy right can be claimed. By Mr. Slater’s own explanation of the account he is not the copy right holder. His argument claiming that he is doesn’t matter because legally he is not. If it comes down to someone’s opinion on how the law should work and how the law is written guess which wins? Hint it is the way the law is written.

You can argue any other way you want but if your entire line of reasoning that Mr. Slater was there so he must hold the copyright then you are being willfully stupid. Stop being willfully stupid. Copy right law is very clear on this and I have the feeling the only reasoning you won’t acknowledge it is a) your being willfully stupid b) you hate techdirt and you need a reason to bash them c) you think Mr. Slater should have the copyright even though the law says he doesn’t or d) you’re feeling yourself up right now because you get your jollies off being an obstinate ass on the internet … or e) all of the above.

michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

“Copyright is an incentive for creative people to entertain us, and Slater certainly has done this.”

Except for the part where he specifically said that none of the monkey images involved his own creativity, thus negating his copyright claim.

This isn’t a difficult concept to understand, and the contention around it is puzzling.

Either Slater lied and negated his own copyright, or he told the truth and doesn’t deserve it.

John says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Daily Mail

Where did Slaetr specifically say this – give me a video of this, not a cherry picked Daily Mail account that must be true – unless it you don;t like it, then it’s a lie. Here’s to the Doublespeaking brainwashed fools that you are.

Why do you lot believe everything you read? You must be American for goodness sakes!!! The world knows you are controlled this way!

Confirmational bias is the answer. This has no meaning in law. You’re a fwaud Techshit. I am beginning to believe that Masnick is behind everyone of the comments here. A fwaud Mr Masthick, you’re a fwaud. Stop trawwing your own site Mr Masthick.

Steerpike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Daily Mail

You can start with 17 U.S. Code. I don’t think there is an explicit definition of “author” there, but the use of the term throughout the code indicates that it is contemplated to be a human being. Also, back in 2014, the Copyright Office, who is tasked with interpreting the code and issuing rules, advised that works created by animals were not subject to copyright. The court is following along that same line of reasoning. If we want to extend copyright protection to works created by animals, Congress would have to amend the copyright act to provide for it.

wshuff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Daily Mail

Hey John, better get to work and let Judge Orrick and the U.S. Copyright Office know that they don’t know anything about copyright and the public domain. Maybe they haven’t looked at Slater’s website.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: could have avoided it all

He has, NOW.

The stories about the selfies hit in July 2011. In September his website changed, giving a new story that he set up remote triggers, with autofocus, and flashguns.
Only problem is, he said most of the photos were out of focus in July, and the pictures quite clearly show no flash (you can make out the gaps in the jungle canopy in the eyes) and no tripod.

He tried exactly what you said, but too late.

of course, a remotely triggered photo wouldn’t have made it interesting anyway, there are loads of those.

The very fact that made it marketable, is the fact that makes it uncopyrightable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: could have avoided it all

The original monkey page as of January 21, 2011:

The changed version with the camera setup story added, among other things, as of September 3, 2011:

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: could have avoided it all

Easy. go look it up in (and I have now saved copies)

thats Jan 2011

July 7th it’s gone
Still down (or removed) August 7th

It’s not until September 2011 that the new story is there

BTW, Since you hate the Daily Mail, hows about the Telegraph, which carried the exact same story verbatum

If he’s claiming they’re lying about what he said, maybe he can sue them for libel and make his money back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

There’s a guy round here that likes to eat paint. I think you two would really get along. You could go out for a Ttianium White milkshake, get to know each other. Maybe fall in love,and have a couple of children with an odd number of chromosomes. Finally find the happiness you seek in his pale anemic arms.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most sane people would simply not visit a site they do not like as there are so many, but John is no slacker… oh no. He goes to each and every site that he does not like and posts comments in a valiant attempt to educate all us idiots and morons – oh and girls too. The next great superhero JOHM in spandex and cape risking his life and limb for our safety – what a guy!

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: I guess it's too late now...

Think about it: would anyone have cared about the photo if he said he took it? I mean sure, it’s a nice shot, but the only thing that truly stands out about it is the fact that it’s the “monkey selfie”. I can hardly imagine the world being swept by viral headlines about “Nature Photographer Takes Kinda Cool Photo Of Monkey”

He may want to have it both ways (photo made famous for being a monkey selfie, but belongs to him) but he can’t.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I guess it's too late now...

There is one more happenstance that should be pointed out: the rise of the word "selfie." It was the OED’s word of the year in 2013:

Today Oxford Dictionaries announces selfie as their international Word of the Year 2013. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year…

One has to wonder whether the interest in this photo even would be the same if it hit the Internet today:

A monkey selfie? You mean, like, just a selfie? Was it snowboarding off the roof of a house? No? Meh.

This photo rode the "selfie" wave. That wave has passed.

SpaceLifeForm= says:

Naruto is a great troll

PETA and someone that goes by ‘john’, have bitten on the bait. There is no wonder why Naruto has that shit eating grin.

Maybe Naruto needs to hire a lawyer to sue for misappropriation. Call it the Crested Macaques Survival Fund. Maybe Jeff Kerr would do it pro bono. He is familiar with Naruto by now (but not legally a friend), and he has access to plenty of photographic evidence that he could obtain for free from the internet.

Naruto would have to appear in court, but that could probably be handled remotely using the internet, and imagine this, a streaming camera!

Naruto could even then do a live demo for the court demonstrating that Naruto does in fact understand cam tech!

Why PETA did not think of this in first place is a mystery.

Anonymous Coward says:


Slater occasionally points to Techdirt’s articles about why the photos are in the public domain as part of the problem

It sounds to me like Slater was hoping to pull off a fraud by claiming a copyright that he didn’t have. However, the publicity in the press from Techdirt and others made that fraud more difficult. So, yeah, I could see how that would be a problem for him. And I’m glad.

aerinai says:

'John' -- Care to Share?


Masnick has given his viewpoint on multiple occasions and has used logic, reason, and all here are pretty familiar with his stance.

Do you care to share what you believe to the be actual rules on the matter of copyright? I see you lashing out at others, but not contributing to the conversation at hand. It seems to me that you believe Slater has a valid copyright; and with this being a law blog and all, do you care to counterpoint with reasoned logic what your interpretation of the law is? Citations help when making a case, so please include any that are applicable.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Live by the sword, die by the sword

and the defendant is broke, in part because of this case (though some people — including the photographer — appear to be partially blaming us).

If the fact that he didn’t own a single photo was enough to completely tank his finances… then he was doomed from the get-go from banking his entire career on one photo. Even assuming he did have full rights over that single photo the odds of him being able to base a successful career on it were zero to none. It was an interesting photo thanks to the circumstances of it’s creation, but it certainly wasn’t ‘able to live comfortably for the rest of your life’ or even ‘send your child to university’ levels of interesting/valuable.

I would feel sorry for him having to pay out the nose in legal fees, but as Ninja pointed out he went legal first, so that bit strikes me as a ‘hoist by your own petard’, or perhaps ‘turnabout is fair play’.

PaulT (profile) says:

You can always tell when Techdirt have a factually unimpeachable stance on an issue – the comments are filled with some kind of deranged performance art. We don’t even get the usual contrarian trolls and attempts at misdirection. We just get ranting from someone who is pretending to have completely lost his mind (or, at least, we hope it’s pretend).

“Go look at the link in our first story. You want to know where we first got the photograph? The Daily Mail. Yet now the Daily Mail is blaming us for making the photo available? Are you fucking kidding me?”

The Fail have never let things like consistency, honesty and facts stop them from pursuing what they think will sell. You just happened to originally stumble across a story that they didn’t care enough about at the time to lie about. Perhaps, being honest on those kind of fluff stories (as this was to them at the time) is how they stop the husks of their souls from completely dying over their daily work of fabrication. Now that they have agendas and narratives they want to push, they will reject any such attempts at actual journalism.

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