Who owns this photoMan or Monkey? Monkey selfie (Wikimedia Commons)
Who owns this photoMan or Monkey?
Lexile

Monkey see, monkey do. But when a monkey takes a selfie, who owns it?

A series of self-portraits taken by Indonesian monkeys has sparked a dispute between Wikipedia and a British wildlife photographer. He wasn't amused that the popular images are being used for free.

This is called a copyright dispute. A copyright grants the creator exclusive rights to its use and distribution. The creator (for instance, the photographer of a photograph or the author of a book) can receive compensation for their intellectual effort.

Photographer David Slater complained that Wikipedia rejected his requests for the images to be removed from the website. He said he owns the copyright to the images of crested black macaque monkeys, which were taken in the Indonesian jungle in 2011.

Slater told the BBC that although the monkeys pressed the button, he had set the self-portraits up by framing them and setting the camera on a tripod.

"It wasn't that the monkey stole the camera, went behind the bush and photographed it all by itself. It required a large input from myself," he said.

But Wikimedia Foundation, the group behind the free information-sharing site, argued that Slater didn't own the copyright to the photos because he didn't take the images.

It said no one owned the copyright to the images, because under U.S. law, "copyright cannot vest in non-human authors" the monkeys in this case. "When a work's copyright cannot vest in a human, it falls into the public domain. We believe that to be the case here."

Wikimedia's spokeswoman Katherine Maher said Slater requested the photos' removal in January, but the case captured public attention after the group included it in its first transparency report, published Wednesday.

The images are currently free for use and downloading at Wikimedia Commons, the group's database of images and video clips. Slater said copyright laws should be updated to address cases like his.

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COMMENTS (3)
  • AllisonLogan1
    8/14/2014 - 08:24 p.m.

    A guy set up a camera in the jungle and the monkeys pressed the button and took pictures themselves. I liked this article was because the monkeys were smart enough to take a picture of themselves. I really didn't like how Wikipedia used his photos without permission and then said no when he asked them to take it down. I found interesting that the guy that had the photos didn't let Wikipedia do that to him. This was article was amazing because monkeys are honestly really smart.

  • GrantW-2
    9/17/2014 - 10:23 p.m.

    This article is about the ownership of photos. A monkey took a picture on a mans camera and he is saying it is his but it is actually the monkeys photo. I think this is pretty crazy and I think it is the monkeys photo

  • Reagan-Arm
    12/03/2014 - 07:15 p.m.

    I think the man should own the copyright to the monkey's selfies. Even if the monkey pushed the button on the camera, the man was the one who did all the work. He put in quite a bit of effort to get the pictures taken, so why should they be public domain? He had to pay for the materials, like the camera and the tripod. All the monkey did was press the button that took the picture, so why is he the "author" of the selfies?

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