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Photographer Says He's "Penniless" After Losing Legal Case To A Monkey

In 2011, British photographer David Slater took a trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia with an important goal. He was planning to shoot the endangered black macaque monkeys. There are only a few thousand of these animals left on Sulawesi, because the locals consider them a delicacy.

Slater wanted to capture photos of these rare creatures before it was too late, and he had a plan to capture the perfect shot. Instead of waiting in the trees, Slater would set a camera on a tripod with the a remote control, so curious monkeys could snap a "selfie" using it.

The plan worked like a charm, and a sneaky female macaque snapped some shots of herself. The photos became a hit, so it's no surprise they found their way onto the website Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Slate tried to get his photo taken off the site - since it was his copyright and his property - but the site's users claimed it wasn't his photo after all, but the monkey's. It turns out a photograph's creator has all the legal rights to that photo, and since the monkey pushed the button she was its creator!

Find out how the court decided on the next page!

For years, the battle over who owns the rights to the photo, Slater or Naruto - as the monkey has been named - has raged, with court cases in both the UK and America. Slater's argument, that since he set up the tripod the photo should belong to him, has been rejected time after time.

Instead judges have ruled that Naruto the monkey took the photo, so the photo belongs to her. Another case decided that animals (including monkeys) can't own copyrights, so instead the photo has become public domain, or free for anyone to use. These decisions have been a big blow to Slater's wallet.

"I made £2,000 [for that picture] in the first year after it was taken," he said. "After it went on Wikipedia all interest in buying it went. It's hard to put a figure on it but I reckon I've lost £10,000 or more in income. It's killing my business."

Now Slater says only earns about £100 every few months, he couldn't even afford to fly to America for his last court date. The experience has been so aggravating and damaging that he's even thinking of leaving photography for good.

The silver lining to his situation? He says he's glad that these monkeys are getting the attention they deserve. While they're still endangered, they're known as "selfie monkeys" now, and are attracting tourists from around the world.

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