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12th September 2017

Monkey business

Thrings partner Graeme Fearon, a specialist in IP, IT law and data protection, comments:

(Photo credit: A selfie taken by a macaque monkey on the island of Sulawesi with a camera positioned by British nature photographer David Slater Photograph)

 

David Slater, the Chepstow photographer whose “monkey selfie” photograph went viral, has beaten off a legal challenge over the ownership of the photo.

Although Mr Slater had set up his camera and equipment in a rainforest in Indonesia, the actual photograph was snapped by a macaque who picked up the camera and grinned into the lens.

When Mr Slater tried to assert copyright in “his” photo, he was challenged on the basis that he wasn’t the author of the photo and this in turn led on to a debate as to whether animals should be entitled to legal rights.

A US court has finally ruled in Mr Slater’s favour, throwing out an appeal by animal charity PETA “on behalf” of the monkey.  PETA had threatened to appeal, but has now reached an accord with Mr Slater who will donate 25% of any future revenue from the selfie to charities dedicated to protecting the welfare and habitat of Indonesian macaques.

PETA claim this “groundbreaking case sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals” but the US judges appear not to have paid this discussion much attention, sticking instead to the age-old rule of common law that animals can be the subject but not the beneficiary of legal rights.

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