From: Andrew Charlesworth University of Bristol
Published August 11, 2014 03:48 PM

Monkey Selfies and copywrite considerations

Whilst visiting a national park in North Sulawesi wildlife photographer David Slater had his camera stolen - not by a thief, but by an inquisitive crested black macaque. The resulting selfies are causing controversy and raising questions about the ownership of images on the web. So just who does own the copyright when a monkey gets trigger-happy on your device?

Slater was photographing the endangered monkeys when he left his camera unattended. One of the monkeys began playing with the camera and, fascinated by its reflection and the noise produced when it accidentally took a photo, it snapped hundreds of images of itself. Most were blurred and out of focus, but several of the photos produced unique up-close and personal self-portraits of the rare creature.

But Slater now finds himself in a dispute with Wikimedia, the organisation behind the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Wikimedia has made the images available online in its collection of royalty-free images without Slater's permission. It argues that Slater does not own the copyright to the images as he did not take the photos. Their position is that copyright either belongs to the monkey or to no one.

One point is clear. The UK Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) states that the author of a work is the person who creates it. As a monkey is not a person under UK law, it cannot be an author, and therefore cannot be the owner of the disputed images.

Photo credit: Wikimedia.

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