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  • Monkey copyright lawsuit finally over, court rejects PETA's claims
    Photo: David Slater

    PETA's "monkey selfie" copyright lawsuit has finally, finally reached a satisfying ending. On Monday, a three-judge panel with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that only humans can pursue copyright infringement claims, upholding a lower court's decision after a judge refused to let PETA settle its way out of this likely conclusion.

    In its ruling, the court said:

    Affirming the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by a monkey, the panel held that the animal had constitutional standing but lacked statutory standing to claim copyright infringement of photographs known as the "MonkeySelfies." ... The panel held that the monkey lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits.

    The ruling follows the Ninth Circuit's decision earlier this month to reject PETA's settlement dismissal request.

    PETA had argued that the macaque named Naruto, not camera owner David Slater, owned the copyright because it took the image itself. Courts had expressed skepticism about PETA's argument, also questioning whether the organization had a suitable relationship with the monkey to sue on its behalf.

    In September 2017, PETA announced a settlement with Slater; it asked the Ninth Circuit Court to dismiss the case and vacate the lower court's ruling. However, in a decision earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit indicated that it had rejected the request because it seemed to be PETA's way to avoid establishing a precedent. The court had also stated:

    As one of our colleagues once warned in a similar context, “courts must be particularly wary of abetting ‘strategic behavior’ on the part of institutional litigants whose continuing interest in the development in the law may transcend their immediate interest in the outcome of a particular case."

    The ruling doesn't impact PETA's settlement with Slater, which requires the photographer to donate 25% of future revenue from the image to charities that protect crested macaques in Indonesia.

  • Video: Remember that your gear is more advanced than Ansel Adams'

    "Every famous photograph was made with a camera less advanced than the one you are using now." This paraphrased quote is the inspiration behind The Art of Photography’s latest YouTube video titled "Your camera is better than Ansel’s." In the ten-minute video, Ted Forbes breaks down his thoughts on the idea that, instead of taking an introspective approach to our photography work, we tend to blame the gear and use that as an excuse to our shortcomings as artists.

    How often do you hear the phrase "I don’t have the right lens to get the shallow depth of field I want" or "I don’t have this camera body that shoots 15 frames per second." These laments aren’t uncommon among photographers, but according to Forbes, they miss the point.

    Sure, it’s fun to gawk over the latest and greatest gear, but it’s by no means necessary in order to create fantastic artwork—this morning's Behind the Scenes article by Michael Benanav should more than prove that point. As Forbes elaborates throughout the video, gear is little more than a tool to create the artwork we’ve envisioned in our head—a means to an end.

    Forbes summarizes this concept in the video’s description:

    The truth is that important work… work that matters… doesn't have anything to do with the technology we have access to. It has everything to do with what we have to say and communicate visually. Photography is an act of speaking.

    It’d be an oversight to say there’s never a time when you need new gear. After all, it’s almost impossible to properly photograph a deer a few hundred yards away without a 400mm lens. But it’s something to think about when considering new equipment. Is that new camera actually necessary to produce the results you desire? Or is the gear you're lusting over little more than a crutch that will help you avoid addressing your lack of a vision or direction?