Monkey See, Monkey Sue
The other night when three of us were so sick, I googled “drunk monkey” and then “monkey taking Nyquil.” One of those two searches brought up the image that I used in my post. It wasn’t my best work. Nyquil was masking the symptoms of death that had crept into my bloodstream and were slowly taking me over.
The next day, Todd texted me.
“Are you aware of the story behind that photo you used?” he asked.
Oh no. I was not aware. At the time I posted it, I wasn’t aware of virtually anything. But I was intrigued, so I did a little research.
The monkey in the photo was named Naruto by PETA. The photo was taken in Indonesia with equipment owned by nature photographer, David Slater. He had spent quite a bit of time following this family of monkeys around, but had been unsuccessful in taking photos up close of their faces. Every time he got close, they blinked. Or balked. The pictures were bad. So he taught them how to press the buttons themselves and then left his equipment in the jungle within their range.
It wasn’t long before curiosity took hold and–you know how monkeys are–they started pushing buttons. Soon he had a few selfies on his hands. Most of them were blurry or useless. A few of them were amazing. And he published them. Because it was his idea. His Equipment. His setup.
He sold the main photo and made a little petty cash. Then he published a few of them in a book he put out.
And then PETA came along and got mad. Because, in the name of Mary Todd Lincoln, NO ONE GOT THE MONKEY’S permission to print the photo. And the monkey received no extra bananas for her million dollar smile.
Where’s the justice in that?
Well, PETA will tell you. There was no justice in that. So they gave the monkey a name and named themselves Naruto’s “Next friend.” That meant that they could act on behalf of the monkey in his legal matters. And they filed a lawsuit against David Slater, the photographer, who couldn’t even afford the plane ticket to fly back to the states and represent himself. The case became known as the “Monkey Selfie Case,” or more officially, Naruto vs. Slater. Ridiculous.
Eventually, the court threw out the case and declared that animals could not hold copyright ownership. PETA appealed and in September of 2017, both PETA and Slater agreed to a settlement. Slater agreed to donate a portion of future revenues to the preservation of the endangered species, which, by the way, he was pretty much already doing. Ludicrous.
“In April 2018, the appeals court affirmed that animals can not legally hold copyrights and expressed concern that PETA’s motivations had been to promote their own interests rather than to protect the legal rights of animals.”
I find it a little funny that the photographer asserts that the male monkey of the lawsuit, Naruto, is not even the monkey in the contested photo. The photogenic monkey was an older female named nothing by nobody and she doesn’t have a lawyer. She’s off in the lush green trees of Indonesia enjoying the spoils of the American legal system.
And that’s what I get for googling drunk monkey.