IT STILL SEEMS absolutely ridiculous to me that a photographer from
the UK, David Slater, could get caught up in a US court battle over copyright with,
in theory at least, an Indonesian black macaque that apparently went by the Japanese name Naruto. It’s a story many photographers know at least in passing, but I’ll recap.
In 2011 David Slater travelled to Tangkoko in North East Suluwasi to photograph the endangered crested black macaque, indigenous to the area.
He spent some time with the animals “getting to know them” and setting up his camera in such a way that the monkeys would learn to press the shutter.
These images were published in 2014 in the book, Wildlife Personalities.
For some reason, Wikipedia decided that, because a monkey couldn’t own copyright,
the images were public domain and distributed the images without paying royalties to David Slater.
That’s enough in itself since it’s not clear what authority Wikipedia has to arbitrarily decide such things ลาวสามัคคี.
Things then got worse for David when the organisation PETA
(People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) decided that the monkey
‘Naruto’ owned the copyright and took a case against Slater, as well as Blurb who had published Slater’s book.
PETA lost to Slater but appealed and Slater, wearied by all this, capitulated
and agreed to pay a share of future revenues to wildlife organisations and supported a motion to vacate the appeal.
The courts blasted PETA and refused to accept the motion and again decided in Slater’s favour and awarded costs.
Wikipedia still keeps the image in the public domain, however, so David Slater still loses out on royalties.
The case has long piqued my interest as it triggered my decision to travel to Tangkoko and examine more closely the context to the story.
Even before the trip, one obvious flaw to PETA’s argument was clear since the monkey’s name ‘Naruto’ was not bahasa (Indonesian) but Japanese! Further, the name Naruto was never mentioned by Slater
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