Wildlife Photographer Who Was Caught Up In ‘Monkey Selfie’ Legal Battle, Says His Life Has Been Ruined After Being Sued By Monkey

The photographer who was caught up in the ‘monkey selfie’ legal battle has said that his life has been ruined and he’s been left completely skint after being sued by a monkey.


David Slater, 52, specialises in wildlife photography and was out snapping the endangered crested black macaque to raise awareness of the plight the rare animals face.

While in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011, he said he gradually encouraged the monkeys to press the shutter on his camera while looking into it. As a result, he ended up with this amazing photo:

Credit: Caters/David J Slater

Fast forward to 2014, and David was asked by Wikipedia to take down the photo, because it believed the copyright belonged to the monkey. Honestly.

The US Copyright Office then decided that animals can’t own copyright, and that should have been the end of that. Except, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) then sued David in 2015 on behalf of the monkey, Naruto.

Angela Dunning, who represented David, said in court earlier this month: “It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement. Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work. He is a monkey.”

Adding that PETA couldn’t even be sure that Naruto was the correct monkey.

The appeals court seems to be leaning in David favour, with one judge asking why the case shouldn’t be dismissed, adding: “Can you point to a U.S. Supreme Court holding that says “man and monkey are the same?”

Another judge, N. Randy Smith, said: “There’s no loss as to reputation. There’s no even allegation that the copyright could have benefitted somehow Naruto. What financial benefits apply to him? There’s nothing”.

Slater’s defence team outside court earlier this month. Credit: PA

As for David, he told the MailOnline: “Of course it was my copyright! 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.”

David has ended up blowing his life’s saving fighting his case in court, he’s been left so skint he told the Telegraph he might pack in being a photographer and become a dog walker or tennis coach, because he’s had enough.

Despite all he’s been through, David doesn’t regret taking the photo, telling the MailOnline: “Without all the attention, they’d probably be extinct now as a species.

“The locals used to roast them and eat them. Now they love them and call them ‘selfie monkeys’.”

Featured Image Credit: Caters

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