Hey, David Slater? Please Sue Me!

The "Monkey Selfie" Guy Goes Bananas

Unless you’re new to this whole “internet” thing, you’ve seen this “monkey selfie” photo before, which was taken by said monkey. You may even have heard that the guy who owned the camera, photographer David Slater, got sued by PETA, which advanced the ridiculous claim that the monkey (not Slater) owned the copyright to that photo. And if you’ve really been paying attention, then you know that a federal district court quite rightly ruled that neither of them owned it. Copyrights are owned by human creators. And since this photo resulted from an entirely non-human process, it belongs in the public domain.

But there’s an epilogue to this made-for-law-school-exams story. Instead of following through with its appeal, PETA settled with Slater, and together they asked the district court to take back its obviously correct ruling. What’s more, Slater apparently somehow emerged from this whole tragi-comedy with the notion that he actually does own the copyright, and that he can continue to sue people who reproduce the photo. Which is what he has reportedly just threatened to do to Wikipedia.

Instead of burdening a nonprofit doing public good like Wikipedia, David, I’ve got a different idea. Sue me instead. Look, see? I’m using “your” photo. And copyright litigation is something I do for a living. Sure, they say he who represents himself has a fool for client, but hey, I’m a fool for free publicity, too. And I do mean free, since the Copyright Act allows prevailing defendants to get an award of their attorneys fees. Especially those who vindicate the rights of the public in what so clearly belongs to them.

So, by all means, do bring it on.