A fascinating copyright case

August 11th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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The Herald reports:

Staring straight into the camera, lips pulled back into a grin – it could be regarded as a perfect “selfie”.

The series of “self-portraits” of a crested black macaque monkey were shared around the world over the internet and on social media.

But the now famous images are at the centre of a bizarre dispute over who owns the pictures.

David Slater, the British nature photographer whose camera captured the picture, has asked Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, to remove the image.

He claims its inclusion in a media library that allows other websites to use it free of charge is harming his ability to make a living.

But Wikimedia has rejected his request, claiming the macaque that pressed the shutter on the camera owns the of the image, not Mr Slater, who now faces a legal bill estimated at 10,000 ($19,900) to take the matter to court.

He said: “If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me; that’s their basic argument. What they don’t realise is that it needs a court to decide that.

What a fascinating case. Copyright generally rests with the person who takes the photo, unless they are being paid by someone else to take it. So who owns the copyright when a non human takes the photo?

Does the fact the photo was taken on his camera give him some secondary claim to copyright?

Would it matter if he had encouraged the monkey to take the photo? Could he argue he had creative control?

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22 Responses to “A fascinating copyright case”

  1. rouppe (971 comments) says:

    In that case, prove they have the permission of the monkey to publish the photo

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  2. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    I think it’s implicit in this case that the human set up the opportunity for the photo and he should have the copyright. That would seem to be in accordance with the purpose of copyright laws.

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  3. Alan Wilkinson (1,878 comments) says:

    I can’t see Wikipedia has a legal leg to stand on. Copyright vests in the author or creator of art or craft. Clearly the human created the circumstances and provided all the facilities in order to produce and procure that picture. End of story.

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  4. wreck1080 (3,917 comments) says:

    The monkey has no property rights.

    this is not an interesting case at all.

    Just wiki ripping a person off.

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  5. Julian (177 comments) says:

    Either way, claiming a monkey owns copyright is hilarious.

    What about pirating ‘Babe’ and claiming a pig owns copyright? Or claiming Roadrunner owns the copyright to his cartoons?

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  6. Slipster (170 comments) says:

    That’s easy Bob, just grant those macaques full human rights and be done with it. No joke, there are some of the more radical animal rights activists (in the US) who demand exactly that. How they are going to deal with macaque court and jury (which must be included in those rights) is beyond me.

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  7. mjw (396 comments) says:

    If the monkey has copyright, then it is the monkey’s rights that are being violated. If Wikicommons don’t change their view, the macaque will no doubt be lawyering up.

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  8. kowtow (8,487 comments) says:

    slipster

    It’s not just “the more radical animal rights activists (in the US).

    No shortage of bullshit academics in dubious depts of universities too.

    Holland even has a couple of MPs from a specifically animal rights party.

    The west has lost all sense of proportion and common sense.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/animals-with-human-rights-will-be-more-than-a-pet-peeve-for-researchers/

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  9. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Obviously the monkey needs his own legal representative.

    There are issues of exploitation – if the monkey didn’t sign consent for the photographer to use his image – is he being exploited by said photographic equipment owner and publisher of the photo?

    And did the photographer even ‘own’ the camera at the time – given that he had clearly abandoned it at some stage.

    Was bribery involved? Did the photographic equipment owner coerce the monkey by offering payment, or did he ‘bribe’ him, or worse still – was entrapment involved?

    Was the monkey of a legal age to give consent?

    So many unanswered questions!

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  10. Tarquin North (298 comments) says:

    Who would want to copyright a Mana billboard?

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  11. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    If an employee takes a photo touching on his or her duties (eg an employee press photographer) especially with the employer’s camera, the copyright of the photo vests in the employer. The situation would be different for free-lance photographers. Indeed if a photographer is commissioned to take photos of say a wedding, while the copyright generally rests with the photographer, the person who commissioned the photo also has right to expect that the photographer will not sell the images to other people.

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  12. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    What a load of boring bollocks.

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  13. mjw (396 comments) says:

    Tarquin – that is a foul and despicable piece of racism. You should be ashamed. Try not to do it again.

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  14. Nigel Kearney (1,013 comments) says:

    Who would want to copyright a Mana billboard?

    The Labour party could use it in Auckland Central.

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  15. jp_1983 (213 comments) says:

    Well if this was Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge private property was illegal ergo, no one would own it.

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  16. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    So you are sitting around when a tourist asks you to take a photo of Him and his Missus with their camera, you took the pic so they cant use it?

    Bollocks.

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  17. MT_Tinman (3,187 comments) says:

    Julian (161 comments) says:
    August 11th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Or claiming Roadrunner owns the copyright to his cartoons?

    Of course he doesn’t.

    How do you think Wile e Coyote paid Acme for all the stuff they sent him?

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  18. Tarquin North (298 comments) says:

    Mjw are you laila or Colin?

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  19. Julian (177 comments) says:

    MT_Tinman (3,010 comments) says:
    August 11th, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Mr Coyote would certainly have a valid claim against Acme under the Consumer Guarantees Act then.

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  20. MT_Tinman (3,187 comments) says:

    From memory Julian the Acme goods worked as they were advertised to.

    That confounded bird didn’t!

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  21. thePeoplesFlag (245 comments) says:

    “…In that case, prove they have the permission of the monkey to publish the photo…”

    Animals are not capable of holding copyright. Shesh, no wonder you guys hate Dotcom so much. You don’t even grasp the the most obvious aspects of copyright law!

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  22. V (720 comments) says:

    I thought interfering with wildlife was an offence?

    Can’t have it both ways.

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