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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – The Cost of Protecting Your Work

Further to my blog post about the monkey selfie copyright battle, photographer David Slater has recently spoken to the Guardian about the impact on his life of the 6 year legal wrangle.

Life has been tough for Slater since the legal wrangling began. Instead of being comfortable living on the proceeds of the image of a macaque grinning for the camera, he is now struggling to make ends meet.

Slater maintains that “if everybody gave me a pound for every time they used [the photograph], I’d probably have £40m in my pocket” (Wong 2017). Instead, he does not have the money to repair or replace his broken camera or even the money to pay the lawyer who has been defending him throughout the court cases and appeals.

Now Slater is now looking at other ways to support himself, including dog walking and tennis coaching. Slater has concerns of the impact on his daughter and his continuing belief that he owns the copyright to this image, “I can’t afford to own a car. There’s no camera equipment for her to inherit if I die tomorrow, she should inherit this [copyright], but it’s worthless. (Wong 2017)

So who gained in the court case? Certainly not Slater, who although he won the cases, has not seen any money for retrospective use. Wikipedia lost their claim that the photograph was uncopyrightable, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lost their lawsuit filed on behalf of the macaque. Future photographers may see the benefits of this case in any copyright issues, but that is still to be determined. The main winner here must surely be the crested black macaques, as their plight and battle with extinction have been brought to the forefront and this has had around the world as a result of these legal battles. At least that may be some consolation for Slater and his family. I will be interested to see where this goes in the future.


WONG, JULIA. 2017. “Monkey selfie photographer says he’s broke: ‘I’m thinking of dog walking'”. the Guardian [online]. Available at: [accessed 13 July 2017].

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