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Photographer Broke Due to Copyright Lawsuit by Monkey

Remember David Slater, the photographer whose camera was hijacked by a monkey and used for a series of selfies that went viral on the Internet? The photographer has spent years fighting a copyright battle in court over the photos, and now he’s broke.

The Guardian reports that the 52-year-old photographer has run out of funds and is now considering coaching tennis and walking dogs as ways to earn a living.

After the original monkey selfie photos went viral on the Web, a takedown request was sent on Slater’s behalf to a publication that shared the images. This sparked a huge debate on whether or not Slater even owned the copyright to the photos, since technically the monkey was the one who shot the images.

Wikipedia took a stand for the monkey, arguing that the photo is in the public domain since it was captured by the monkey and not Slater. PETA then filed a lawsuit against Slater on the monkey’s behalf to have the copyright assigned to the monkey.

The US Copyright Office stated in 2014 that it can’t assign copyright to animals, and a judge ruled in 2016 that the monkey can’t own copyright to the famous selfie.

Since then, the case has gotten bumped up to a US federal appeals court, which heard arguments this week, but Slater didn’t have the funds to attend the hearing in San Francisco and was forced to watch a livestream from his home in the UK.

“Every photographer dreams of a photograph like this,” Slater tells The Guardian. “If everybody gave me a pound for every time they used [the photograph], I’d probably have £40m [~$52 million] in my pocket. The proceeds from these photographs should have me comfortable now, and I’m not.”

Slater believes PETA may even be representing the wrong monkey in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a male crested black macaque monkey named Naruto.

“I know for a fact that [the monkey in the photograph] is a female and it’s the wrong age,” Slater tells The Guardian. “I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”

Slater says he now doesn’t make enough money to pay income tax, and is “seriously on the verge of packing it all in.”


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