This photo was taken with the camera of nature photographer David Slater, and in any other situation, we’d have to pay serious money for the use of it. However, we’re using it for free — that’s right, we are paying no dollars for it — because that monkey stole Slater’s camera and took his own photo, therefore holding the copyright and releasing the photo into the public domain. Slater, however, doesn’t see it that way, and recently filed a suit against Wikipedia for freely distributing the monkey selfie.
Wikipedia’s Creative Commons contains thousands of free images, and in the past three years since the monkey selfie was published, its editors have kept uploading the macque’s photo under the argument that the monkey is the original copyright holder “because it was the one that pressed the shutter button,” The Telegraph reports. And unless the monkey suddenly becomes litigious, the image will remain in the public domain. (Most countries would agree with this interpretation, with many outright stating that photos must be created by humans in order to receive copyright protection.)
However, Slater’s spending nearly £10,000 on a lawsuit against Wikipedia, arguing that the viral nature of the photo caused him to lose a lot of money in royalties, and we mean a lot:
“That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot. Not to mention the £5,000 of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images. Photography is an expensive profession that’s being encroached upon. They’re taking our livelihoods away,” he said.
“For every 100000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images. It was like a year of work, really.”
When asked for comment, the black crested macque hurled its feces into the air.
UPDATE — 9:02 p.m. ET: We received an email from the Wikimedia foundation clarifying who, exactly, holds the copyright for the selfie:
A photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A female crested black macaque monkey got ahold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits. The pictures were featured in an online newspaper article and eventually posted to Commons. We received a takedown request from the photographer, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs. We didn’t agree, so we denied the request.
Why we didn’t agree:
We don’t agree that the photographer in question has copyright over the images. That doesn’t mean the monkey owns the copyright: it just means that the human who owns the camera doesn’t.
For example, under US copyright law, copyright claims cannot vest in to non-human authors (that is, non-human authors can’t own copyrights) — and the monkey was the photographer. To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they’d only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image.
[Image via Wikipedia/Monkey]
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