Eyes gleaming amber, teeth goofy and mouth wide as if in laughter. After returning to Britain, Dave made a few thousand pounds from distributing the photos — covering the cost of his trip to Indonesia. But over time, with the rise of the selfie, his monkey snap became a classic — published more than 50million times around the world.
But instead of bringing Dave financial security and a warm glow of professional pride, it has caused him untold misery, cost him his life savings and marked the end of his photography career.
His story has all the elements of a 21st-century farce — involving crazy controversy over copyright law in a Californian court, and the ‘inhumanity’ of an activist animal charity that has filed a suit against Dave on behalf of the six- year- old male macaque, claiming it is the rightful owner of the photograph’s copyright.
So it is that for the past six years he has been embroiled in what must be one of the most pointless, idiotic, money-wasting andaggressive legal battles of all time. So, who owns the copyright? Dave or the monkey?
Dave has never been in any doubt. ‘Of course it was my copyright!’ he says. ‘I set the background. I decided where the sun was going to hit the monkey.
‘I selected the lens and I processed the images. The creativity was all mine, and it required a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish.’
His problems began when Californian-based blog Techdirt and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (whose mission statement is ‘to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free licence or in the public domain’) muscled in.
They claimed the image was uncopyrightable because the monkey was the creator — and so they uploaded the picture onto their websites, free for anyone to use. To Dave, this was an assault on his livelihood.