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This photographer got sued by a monkey, lost, and went bankrupt

If you’ve been following Lost at E Minor for a while, you probably already know all about the legal battles being fought over the famous monkey selfie.

For those who haven’t heard, the case revolves around the question of who actually owns the copyright to the photo — should it belong to the photographer whose camera was used, even though the monkey went ahead and snapped the picture himself? Or should the intellectual property somehow be belong to the monkey itself?

The case has been the subject of ongoing litigation and media coverage for some time now. And when you see the photo, you can understand why — that really is a classic selfie, I think we can all agree:

a selfie of a monkey

So what’s the latest development? The photographer in the case, David Slater, is sadly paying the price for his legal battles, and has now been forced into bankruptcy.

We all know litigation isn’t cheap, and if you bet it all on a big case which fails to pay off, the consequences can be devastating.

Many would argue that this is one of the major flaws of tort law in Western legal systems: the prohibitive costs associated with litigation often mean that people simply cannot afford to litigate, even if they have a slam-dunk case — effectively allowing an imbalance in our judicial system, wherein the richer party has the upper hand in a lawsuit.

That’s the hard lesson that David Slater is learning all too well, as he is now reportedly offering tennis lessons and dog-walking services just to get by.

But you might be wondering: if it’s true that litigation requires deep pockets, how the hell did the monkey manage to win? Well, it wasn’t really the monkey who was paying for the lawsuit, which should hopefully be obvious enough. The monkey’s cause was taken up by PETA, a notoriously litigious organization with some very deep pockets indeed.

Slater even thinks the monkey on whose behalf PETA filed the suit isn’t even the monkey depicted in the photo. But in the end, it probably won’t make a difference, as Mr. Slater doesn’t have enough money to pay income tax, let alone continue a legal battle with PETA.

So let that be a lesson to anyone out there who might be thinking about suing a monkey: you could actually still lose everything. So don’t monkey around (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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