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Even That Monkey Selfie Fiasco Is Getting Turned into a Movie

Just weeks after photographer David Slater won his legal battle with PETA, Condé Nast bought the rights to his life story.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in 2011, a crested macaque named Naruto started playing with the camera wildlife photographer David Slater brought to the Indonesian rainforest and—voilà—the legendary monkey selfie was born. Slater later decided to publish the amazing photos—but they attracted a lawsuit from PETA, which argued that the monkey actually held the copyright to the image that he took.

Now, just weeks after Slater finally won the case that dragged on in court for three years, Condé Nast Entertainment bought the rights to his life story—meaning that the monkey selfie will join Colorado's "Killdozer" and that never-ending game of adult tag in getting its own movie.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, Condé Nast's film and TV department is still looking for writers to pen the script, so there's not much info on exactly what we can expect from the project. Presumably, it'll be part-Planet Earth and part-12 Angry Men—only instead of following the harrowing saga of a murder trial, it'll just be a bunch of lawyers yelling about whether monkeys can hold a copyright.

Alternately, whoever directs this thing might appreciate the absurdity of a monkey "suing" a man in court, and go for more of a Best in Show vibe, taking a mockumentary-style look at the band of lawyers willing to subject themselves to a three-year legal battle so an animal could claim ownership of a selfie. Who knows—maybe this thing isn't going to really be about the legal saga at all, instead painting a tender, heartwarming portrait of Naruto, played flawlessly by Andy Serkis.

If anything, we know how the whole thing will end. About two weeks ago, the 9th Circuit ruled in Slater's favor, amusingly calling PETA's lawsuit against him "frivolous" and essentially ruling that federal courts lack the authority to hear cases from an animal's point of view.

"We conclude that this monkey—and all animals, since they are not human—lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act," Judge Carlos Bea wrote in the opinion.

Hopefully, the monkey selfie movie will take full advantage of the gripping, heated arguments that flew around the courtroom, like PETA's allegation that Naruto "suffered concrete and particularized economic harms" by not getting credit for his photos, an ill that could only "be redressed by a judgment declaring Naruto as the author and owner of the Monkey Selfies." Condé Nast could also decide to dig into Slater's life outside the legal drama, examining the fact that the battle left him so broke he didn't make enough money to pay income tax.


Still, if Slater's getting paid for his life story, shouldn't Naruto get a cut too? I don't know about you, but I smell another lawsuit.

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