A RESPECTED photographer has told how he has been left broke and demoralised after PETA claimed a monkey owns the copyright to one of his famous pictures.
Wildlife snapper David Slater, 52, has been dragged through the courts by PETA which has used its financial muscle to sue him on behalf of the monkey.
Mr Slater says he has got so little cash left after a £200,000 legal battle that he is now considering becoming a dog walker.
PETA claims the six-year-old monkey called Naruto owns the copyright to a “selfie” it took of itself after being encouraged to do so by Mr Slater.
The snap was taken in Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2011, when Mr Slater persuaded the crested black macaque to press a camera shutter.
He said the dispute had cost him “tens of thousands of pounds” in lost earnings and effectively ended his 17-year-career as a wildlife photographer.
A 45-minute hearing before a three-judge panel U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco attracted a crowd which burst into bouts of laughter during the hearing.
The federal judges also chuckled at times at the novelty of the case.
Andrew Dhuey, attorney for Mr Slater, said “monkey see, monkey sue” is not good law under any federal act.
Mr Slater, who lives in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, accused Peta of waging a “nasty campaign” against him.
He said that he would have loved to have been in court in person but could not afford the flight.
The photographer, who watched the live stream of the “bewildering” proceedings in San Francisco from his home claimed to have earned an annual income of less than £11,000 in recent years and that instead of enjoying the success he might have expected from the photograph’s popularity, he is unable to pay his legal fees.
He said: “I’m broke. I don’t make trips any more. I can’t afford to renew my equipment, it has become embarrassing. “This image has been stolen from me. It is being used all over the world, but no one wants to pay me for it.
“Now PETA want what little money I have and what little pride I have left.
“Dog walking would be a new venture for me.
“It would pay peanuts, but at least it would be more than photography.”
One of his legal team, Angela Dunning said the case was ridiculous.
She said: “It is absurd to say a monkey can sue for copyright infringement.
“Naruto can’t benefit financially from his work.”
Mr Slater also said that PETA is representing the wrong macaque and that it is not a male called Naruto in the photograph but a female called Ella.
He added: “Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”
Judge Carlos Bea asked why the case should not be dismissed and asked if anyone could point to the law which said “man and monkey are the same”.
The court is due to issue a ruling at a later date.