In 2011 British wildlife photographer David Slater was on the island of Sulawesi, following a troop of macaques. He set up his camera and waited. Suddenly, a cheeky monkey grabbed the camera, smiled into the lens and pressed a button. The photographs that followed went on to become internationally known – featuring in a wildlife book by Mr Slater.
Now, animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken legal action in the United States on the monkey’s behalf (naming it Naruto), claiming that the animal owns the copyright in the successful photographs and should therefore reap the benefits financially. Slater contends that he, in fact, was the brains behind the set of photographs of the monkey he named Ella. “A monkey only pressed a button of a camera set up on a tripod,” he argues. “A tripod I positioned and held throughout …”
Meanwhile PETA’s argument is that it is not the person who owns the camera that owns the rights but the being (in this case, a monkey) who actually took the photograph. The case will be decided by the US federal court in California.
For more details, and their legal analysis, see the IPKAT here.
I don’t think this is a laughing manner.
PETA believes that all animals have feelings and therefore rights. They are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way. The basis for their perspective on animal rights is that animals suffer and have a right to live free from suffering and pain.
I don’t agree with their agenda, but I can understand their logic. I have at least one vegan friend who won’t wear leather shoes. As long as they merely demonstrate and persuade nubile young actresses to show their pubic fur in their campaigns against the fur industry, I have no problem.
However, by claiming IP Rights for macaques, PETA is going from a very radical position to an even more radical one.
This would not be serious except that there have been judges willing to see apes as having rights.
In 2013, an organisation called the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court on behalf of four chimps kept for research by Stony Brook University. The eventual conclusion of Justice Barbara Jaffe on 27 April 2015 was that they were not to be treated as property, but as legal persons. Not as persons with full human rights, but as persons with a right not to be held in captivity and a right not to be owned.
It is not inconceivable that some left-wing judge could recognize animals as having the right not merely not to be owned, but also the right to themselves own property. From here, the jump to allowing ownership of non-physical property, such as intellectual property, is not so large as to be beyond comprehension.
Whilst this sort of thing is happening, and California is a center for this type of thought, I note that Islamic fundamentalists have decided that they can go around executing and raping people. They are rejecting Western values in favour of some highly extreme interpretation of their religion. Let’s not provide them with additional evidence that Western Liberal Democracies have gone completely nutty.
It may also be worth remembering that the selfie is not the highest form of Western expression.