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Wikipedia refuses to delete photo taken by monkey (telegraph.co.uk)
201 points by christop on Aug 6, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 203 comments

The bigger picture here is that the Wikimedia Foundation is apparently willing to spend donors' funds on defending the claimed right to publish this.

Is "professional photographers don't have the right to claim ownership over expensively set-up and finished work if an animal presses the shutter button" really an important principle of freedom of information worth fighting for?

Or is it more of a complicated case that may possibly be winnable through an arcane technicality in the US legal system, but even if successful would probably be less useful to the average Wikipedia-user than the equivalent amount spent on cleaning up existing copyright-free content. Nice as the image is, more useful and interesting stuff gets deleted from Wikipedia every day.

This is my perspective as a donor.

I have gotten incredible value from wikipedia personally. So have most people I know. Wikipedia is incredibly efficient with money. They get a lot of valuable and entertaining educational material to a lot of people.

In fact, its been so useful and pleasurable to me and I reckon that it is such an efficient use of donor funds compared to nearly any other cause that I am willing to defer to their judgement. Use my money however you see fit.

Clarifying the class of physical phenomena which are considered legally able to hold copyright does sound like a foundational inquiry.

But I would not have expected a donation to Wikimedia to be put toward it.

Not really, it very rarely comes up. There are much bigger battles to fght.

One of the other legal fights they've started is to put online public domain artworks that have been scanned by museums at great expense since (at least in the US) "effort" alone is not enough to grant you copyright protection.


This seems to me to be exactly the kind of thing Wikipedia should be doing, though similarly there are some people outraged that the poor museums don't get to exploit a monopoly on the cultural works they control.

Just sparking debate about exactly what copyright is for is a good thing in my opinion, and helpful in fulfilling their mission:

"The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally."

With emphasis:

"The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower ... people ... to collect ... content ... in the public domain, and to disseminate it."

If you don't believe in that mission then donating to Wikipedia is probably not a recommended action.

Yes, Wikimedia is willing to spend money to defend against completely bogus copyright claims that contravene all law and precedent. You're welcome :-)

This is one of the best things that Wikipedia has ever spent money on. If Wikipedia has just been building up to a court case about whether art is uniquely human, then I think that would be enough to justify its existence, let alone the fun that can be had from browsing a load of stories that might be roughly accurate.

In this particular case I'm not sure, but I certainly do want Wikipedia to be zealous in challenging doubtful copyright take down requests in general so that we don't see, for example, all mention of Xenu removed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology.

They barely use any of the money they raise for Wikipedia itself. It's used for a wide variety of other purposes. As with all donations, once it's out of your pocket, you have no say on where the money goes.

[citation needed]


40% of their projected expenses go to product & engineering. Last year they had expenses of 32.3 Million on 50.9 Million of revenue. Which really means they used 25% of raised money on product & engineering, and Wikipedia is definitely not it's only product.

They spend 24% on "Legal & CA, HR, Fin & Admin".

So they spend at least 64% on running the Wikimedia projects, no?

You forgot to take out the 16% they spent on grants, the 9% on fundraising, the 9% on grant making and development.

I agree with wikimedias stance though... its not a legal technicality, its just not a common topic. The law is quite clear. If an animal or nature makes some thing then it belongs to no one. Its public domain

The monkey was aiming the camera, so what effort did the camera owner put into setting up the shot? The monkey aimed the camera and pressed the button. No one owns the copyright.

The Wikimedia Foundation long ago fell to the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Many people assume they're donating to cover server costs, and Wikipedia's advertising is carefully constructed to avoid challenging this assumption. But in fact most servers are already donated inclusive of all costs by large companies like Google and Yahoo. Most donations go to funding the ever-increasing Wikimedia payroll.

You actually have some proof for these silly insinuating claims you're making? The Wikimedia Foundation produces monthly reports on everything that they do, and large part of donations are actually used to 'run the servers'.


moreover, exactly what other parties would be in this oligarchy?

Oh, I think Imm means that wikipedia is run for the benefit of its runners. Just like companies are run (in practice) for the benefit of the managers---no matter what stories we tell about shareholder capitalism.

The monkey does not own the copyright, just as my intervalometer does not own the copyright to my time lapse photos, and a carefully constructed rube goldberg machine triggered by an ant (and later pressing the shutter release button) doesn't make the ant the copyright holder.

Wikimedia's own argument states that "the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image." In creating the circumstances for the monkey to hit the shutter release button, the photographer did in fact make the most substantial contributions to the final image.

In another light, do we give camera operators the ultimate/highest credit for the work of a studio-produced motion picture? No - they are credited, but the director is the one who created the circumstances under which the camera operator's actions capture the essential product of a whole team's work, guided by the director.

But in this case the monkey was also the director. If David Slater had been intending or worked towards what ended up happening in some way I'd be a lot more sympathetic to his copyright claims, but as it is he didn't have any agency in creation of the photograph except in owning the camera and failing to secure it.

He didn't just own the camera, he went out photographing them. He went to where the monkeys were.

And I would argue that even if David Slater didn't fully intend for the monkey to take the photo, he had more intention or expectation for that happening than the monkey had for taking a photo. The monkey was only interested in the sound made by the camera, not in directing a photo shoot.

Well, it might be that the monkey wouldn't deserve copyright even if copyright could reside in a monkey. There are broad classes of works like phone books which don't get copyright at all:


> "But in this case the monkey was also the director."

The ape didn't really have any intent to direct. It was simply playing with an amusing object. I wonder what the situation would be like if this was a case of contact with an otherwise disconnected Amazon tribe. Would that individual have copyright? Would they even understand what that means? If they don't and their face ends up all over the internet as 'public domain' would they have any say about that? (I have no answers here, just idle thoughts).

> "... he didn't have any agency in creation of the photograph except in owning the camera and failing to secure it."

Once the ape took the camera and began taking pictures, Slater was astute enough not to get in the way. Thereby allowing the ape to take "hundreds of selfies". Despite that fact that "at first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back" -- Overall, I don't think this is at all clear cut about who owns the copyright but deciding without due process seems wrong (the court of public opinion is rarely the correct place).

"The ape didn't really have any intent to direct" Neither did the the photographer in this case.

We can scratch out the hollywood argument because the employer/employee relationship with regards to copyright assignment is very well defined in law.

My armchair-opinion would be that no-one owns the copyright. By his own version of events, the photographer imparted zero control, and zero creative input (in your timelapse, you at least point the camera). He didn't even encourage the primate - his greatest contribution was not interfering. And "I didn't do anything" is not a great argument for creative control.

So, traveling to the location of the monkeys, bringing photography gear (that would otherwise not be there), putting batteries and a card in the camera, turning the camera on, setting the proper exposure in the camera, and intending to produce photos of monkeys... that amounts to "zero creative input"? The photographer did nearly everything here but press a button that makes an interesting sound (from the monkey's perspective).

> So, traveling to the location of the monkeys, bringing photography gear (that would otherwise not be there), putting batteries and a card in the camera, turning the camera on, setting the proper exposure in the camera, and intending to produce photos of monkeys... that amounts to "zero creative input"?

Precisely. It's heartening that you understand this so well. As you have correctly discerned, none of those acts are in the least bit creative. They are essential preparations for creativity, but they are not themselves creative. The creativity comes solely from the creation of the particular image - the act of capturing a chosen scene in a chosen way.

As another example, if the photographer had done those things, then handed his camera to a random passer-by and had them take a photograph, then the copyright in that photograph would belong entirely to the passer-by. This is a matter of settled law which is beyond any doubt, and for exactly the reasons you outlined - the preparative steps are not part of the creative act.

Random passerby's indicates another human, who the law indicates can create a work of art. Animals aren't recognized as such. If he accidentally tripped, and the shutter went off, does that mean he loses copyright if the camera happened to take something interesting?

No, he doesn't lose copyright, he simply never gets it in the first place since he doesn't meet the criteria set down by law.

In the US you can't get a copyright on a database at all. I doubt you could get it in the EU for a database created by a random accident either.

None which has anything to do with the fact that if the monkey hadn't pressed the button we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

The thick of the creative input here was made by the monkey. The photographer's input would be at best a minor contribution; the light settings and particular choice of gear add very little to the original content of the image, and the particular framing and circumstances were not purposely influenced by the photographer.

If he had purposely allowed the monkey to take the gear to experiment with it then there would have been a creative intention that would have value, but as it stands it doesn't convince me much.

> The photographer's input would be at best a minor contribution

Alright - try taking a photo (shutter released by yourself or a monkey) of a monkey using a camera that (1) isn't present, (2) isn't on, (3) has no batteries, (4) is set to be completely under/over-exposed, (5) has the lens cap on, and (6) is nowhere near a monkey. Let us know how that turns out.

The fact is, the photographer brought gear to monkeys with the intention to take photos of monkeys. A monkey saw a little box and figured out how to make a funny sound with the box.

There are artists who "paint" with bacteria and other live organisms. The bacteria may be producing nearly 100% of the final image (the only reason the works are noteworthy), and in many cases, the result may not be entirely anticipated by the artist. That doesn't mean the bacteria owns the copyright.

If the monkey had communicated in any way that it wanted to take a selfie (or if someone familiar with monkeys could tell that's what it was trying to do), then we could look at the monkey having "creative intention" as you say. Otherwise, either the photographer has the copyright or no one does.

> There are artists who "paint" with bacteria and other live organisms. The bacteria may be producing nearly 100% of the final image (the only reason the works are noteworthy), and in many cases, the result may not be entirely anticipated by the artist. That doesn't mean the bacteria owns the copyright.

But the artist has deliberately set the experiment and put the culture in place to produce things.

In order to make it a valid analogy, the photographer should have acted in a way that purposely invited the monkey to take the camera.

This is did not happen; it was entirely an accident, and his creative input is a question of luck, whereby anyone else who carried a camera and had it stolen by a monkey who clicked around and got a selfie has the same level of input.

Really, this is all just because the guy is a professional who expects to get paid for this, but his experience in the matter has had zero influence on the result.

If I went to Southeast Asia, got my camera stolen by a monkey and had published, I did nothing special to merit attribution.

Honestly, if he had wanted to take the credit for the framing and the positioning then at least he could have done something slighly more elaborate on the matter. A selected curation of those pictures, structured as a narrative, well framed, and placed as an exhibition with accompanying material would have sufficient artistic merit. Instead he chooses to bitch about it on the Internet.

What if you go on an expedition specifically to get monkeys to take photos for you? What if you trained them? Is there some threshold amount of work you could put in before you could claim copyright, or would it always belong to the monkey?

If the monkeys were trained well enough to understand the intent of taking a photo, but not well enough to understand a contract of employment, then creatively I think they would have to own the work.

The fact that the monkey is not trained in pointing a camera is one of the things that might swing it legally away from consideration of ownership by the monkey.

Can a monkey own a thing under the law?

It's an animal. It can be owned, but it cannot itself own something.

Animals have been prosecuted as people a number of times in many different countries under the law. I don't see any absolute reason that they could not be granted ownership of something. Even if there was a specific law stating that this was not true, one of the moves available in the game of law is to change the law. Law is a subset of Calvinball.

If you're training a monkey who has no concept of art but you'll be orchestrating their actions for aesthetics according to your criteria then it seems evident that it qualifies for your authorship given your clear intent at achieving that specific action.

Like most things, it gets looked at on a case by case basis.

>No - they are credited, but the director is the one who created the circumstances under which the camera operator's actions capture the essential product of a whole team's work, guided by the director. //

The director here is the monkey, the photog was the technician that made available the equipment but any artistic input to the shot was apparently the monkey's.

Similarly if you do camera setup for David Hockney you don't get ownership of the shot rights because he only pressed the trigger.

Copyright isn't necessarily about who did the work, it's about who did the specific creative work at the point of creation, here no person did. There is a fine line between this an setting up a photo trap for wildlife imaging, but that line is intent and, whilst fine, is clearly enough demarked to see where this case lies IMO.

I've recollection of a similar case being heard but not of the details, nor even the jurisdiction TBH ... anyone?

The camera owner did everything but actually aim the camera, pretty much the entire creative process.

> In creating the circumstances for the monkey to hit the shutter release button, the photographer did in fact make the most substantial contributions to the final image.

That argument works just as well for camera rental companies. Because that's all he did in the end - lend the camera to a different kind of ape.

I think we need to ask:

Who would own the copyright had it been another human who pressed the button?

- One human sets up the camera -- another frames the shot and takes the shot.

I would say the second human who framed and shot the image is the copyright holder... meaning the monkey would own the copyright had the monkey been human... but since the monkey is not human (and copyright only applies to humans), then it's public domain.

Legal precedent is clear: it's who frames the shot and presses the button.

Since the entity framing the shot and pressing the button is the monkey, but non-human animals can't own a copyright, no copyright is generated.

It routinely explodes people's heads that copyright law works like it actually works, not like people wish it did.

If the second human didn't know a camera was involved (or what a camera even is), but had instead found a wireless remote control shutter release in his/her possession, and, not knowing what it was, proceeded to inadvertently take photos because the remote made a fun sound (as in the case with the monkey), then I think it'd be safe to say the second human had no involvement with the resulting photos.

We're not talking about a monkey (or human) framing and taking photos. We're talking about a monkey pressing a button because it makes an interesting sound. There is no authorship there.

> There is no authorship there.

Then why are we assigning authorship to a human? Just because he happened to be there?

(Also, I can make a song on a guitar without knowing what it is nor how to play it -- I still hold copyright over my work).

In that case I claim ownership. As far as I can tell I did the same level of creative input as mr batteries. So I should be just as entitled to the work.

David J Slater isn't a camera-rental company though: he's someone that earns a living from travelling to exotic locations and pointing his camera at wildlife in compelling situations and then processing the image before selling it as his creative output. The difference being, in this case, the wildlife participated a little more than usual in that creative process by pressing the shutter button.

The situation is a lot more analogous to a celebrity inadvertently taking a selfie in a scuffle with a paparazzo; the celebrity is the intended object of interest and inadvertently triggers a composition far more interesting than the paparazzo's original concept, but the paparazzo was there with the intent of making a creative work. I'm not sure whether any sort of legal precedent exists for that, but I'd be surprised if legal arguments the paparazzo was too creatively uninvolved to have any say in the image distribution rights were positively received.

The fact that he is a professional and intended to take pictures of monkeys is not relevant.

It probably wouldn't be as famous though if the monkey hadn't taken the image.

Exactly. The only reason the image is worth anything is the monkey took the photo. The owner of the photographic gear seems to be arguing both that it is his photo and not his photo.

Really? Because it's a pretty great picture just by itself, IMHO.

I agree that it's a good picture. But "I took a great picture of a monkey" doesn't sell nearly as well as "This monkey took a great picture of himself". "I took a great picture of a monkey" doesn't get you articles about that picture, "This monkey took a great picture of himself" definitely does.

Yes it is a great picture, but it would not be not worth anything (I mean economically, not artistically) if it was not taken by the monkey.

No. He scouted a location, planned and financed the expedition, and spent his time waiting and searching for the right conditions in which great nature photos could arise. He was much more than a rental company, the least for not having ever rented out his camera

In creating the circumstances for the monkey to hit the shutter release button, the photographer did in fact make the most substantial contributions to the final image.

It was accidental, though. he never planned for the monkey to take hold of the camera - as opposed to a camera set up to trigger when an object entered the focus area or broke an infrared beam (techniques employed for automatic photography of unpredictable or extremely fast-moving subjects).

I do work in motion pictures; the director is also a hired hand in 99% of cases, whose job is to manage the actors and the other department keys - a COO, if you like. The actual copyright owners are the producers (or the production companies they work for) that hire the director.

What is "creating the circumstances" ? The airline company that made the trip possible ? The company building the camera ? The upset wife that sent her husband away (probably not relevant here) ?

Would a burglar taken by surveillance camera be creating those circumstances ?

Clearly he's not involved in the monkey taking the pictures. He has no right to them.

> What is "creating the circumstances" ?

I would define it as "exercising the most volition that leads to producing the outcome". Not sure how the law would actually define it.

EDIT - Thought experiment: If a photographer spends days constructing all the elements of a shot (including subject, lighting, and camera settings), and, seeing that he/she is about to hit the shutter button, a passerby sneaks up behind the photographer and taps the button before the photographer, would the photo's copyright go to the passerby? What if the photographer had intended to wait a few more seconds before hitting the button? You could argue that the photographer had no intention to take the picture right at that (early) moment, but clearly (to me anyway), the photographer is still the author of the photo because he/she brought together all the elements - not because they simply hit the shutter release button.

If the person's sole input was tapping the button, then no that person doesn't own the copyright. But in this case the camera owner didn't construct any elements of the shit. The lighting is natural, the monkey aimed the camera, and it sounds like auto ficus was used. The camera owner contributed no artistic effort to the shot

I think a more apt analogy what be if photographer inadvertently leaves a camera on the ground, and I use it to take selfies. Who owns the copyright to my selfies, me or the owner of the camera?

You would. But the camera owner owns the equipment and all the physical materials your copyrighted work is embedded in, so he or she owns the only physical copy; you'd find it hard to make yourself rich with it without the photographer's permission.

And of course, the act of taking the picture might conceivably constitute some other crime, such as criminal damage (if a film camera, you're rendering good film unusable) or computer misuse (if digital), so in general, this selfie-taking exercise would be even less of a smart move than usual.

Photographers like to use the term "decisive moment" a lot.

The timing of the shot can be as important or more important than the composition itself.

So depending on the circumstances, I wouldn't dismiss the claim of the passerby right away.

Well, he set up a camera in that location with the intention of taking pictures. Pretty big finger in the pie of circumstance there, if you ask me.

The camera operator situation is totally different because it's a work-for-hire, in which no copyright can be claimed. The director is under the same work-for-hire contract, in fact.

Having taken the time to skim the rulebook (http://www.copyrightcompendium.com/), I'm noticing that a couple phrases keep coming up. One is negative, repeating that "materials produced solely by nature, by plants, or by animals" (emphasis mine) are not copyrightable. The second is a bit more positive, indicating that as long as there's any "appreciable element of artistic expression" on the part of a human, that's enough to make the work copyrightable.

To my non-lawyer eyes, it looks like one could mount a compelling argument that simply creating the conditions necessary for a monkey to take a selfie - even if only as a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing - would qualify as an "appreciable element of artistic expression" on the part of Mr. Slater, at least as far as the law is concerned. It seems like the sense of "appreciable" being used in the rules is somewhat akin to the sense of the word significant in the phrase "statistically significant".

OK, in that case, what if I took my camera equipment to a park, got it all setup, and hid in the bushes, hoping someone would use my equipment, that I setup, to take a picture.

You, seeing the camera equipment, become curious, and use the camera to take a picture of yourself.

I created the conditions necessary for you to take a picture of yourself, but you took the picture.

Who, in your non-lawyer eyes, owns the copyright to the picture? Does it make a difference if you're a human or a monkey in that decision?

That one's rather different, since there are two human parties involved. I didn't see anything that would resolve that question in the reading, but I imagine there might be some legal precedent from prior cases that one could dig up. But where US law doesn't allow for copyright to be assigned to non-humans, bringing an additional human agent into the scenario creates a hypothetical that is non-analogous and therefore unnecessarily confusing.

I think that a closer analogy would be if you were to set up a motion-activated camera trap in the park to take pictures of the local wildlife. In that case it would be fairly uncontroversial to say that you would get copyright to the pictures. Compared to that hypothetical, I think that as far as US law is concerned it could well be the case that the fact that for this photograph the action the monkey took to trigger the camera shutter involved actually coming into contact with the shutter release button is ultimately a distinction without a difference.

Except the is no artistic expression in providing a camera.

I suspect you're arguing from how you understand the term "artistic expression", now how it's defined for the purposes of the relevant law.

Law works like programming: Nouns need to be defined before they can be used, and the operant meaning is the one you get form a scrupulous and pedantic reading of that definition, regardless of what your intuition says about the matter.

It would be different if the photographer was using a timer, remote, or other sensor to take photographs of the monkey. In those cases the photographer would clearly be in control of the situation and the copyright.

This seems a little different in that the camera was stolen from it's owner and pictures were taken. Right now the U.S. courts don't view monkeys as people (http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/09/us/new-york-chimps-personhood/), but what would happen if the monkey was someone's pet? Who owns the copyright on a picture taken from a stolen camera?

You are correct, the monkey doesn't own the copyright because a monkey can't own a copyright. But the camera owner did not put any substantial effort into the shot so he also doesn't own the copyright. No one owns the copyright.

Studio camera operators actually would be the ones creating the art.. its just that its work for hire so the copyright goes to their bosses.

I don't think you can sign a work for hire contract with a monkey.

That's a decent counter-argument. Perhaps this subject needs to be fought out. Robots (with or without AI) may be taking photographs in the future...

The photo would have been unremarkable, worthless were it not taken by a monkey. The value is the novelty, the random act. Not the "setup".

I can't blame him for trying to make a buck from it, but he's really pushing he boundaries of reason by claiming copyright for a creative work that he did not create.

> The photo would have been unremarkable, worthless were it not taken by a monkey.

When I first saw that photo, I had no idea it was taken by a monkey, and I thought it was an excellent photo. The monkey's pose and expression are close to perfect.

If I had seen it with no context at all, my guess would have been that it was not a photo, but a still from an upcoming animated movie...that monkey looks like he's about to do something hilarious...and have admired the realistic texturing and the expressiveness of the model.

Agreed. It's an excellent photo regardless of who took it.

Except that the monkey has no concept of creative licensing, payments, royalties, etc. In this case the monkey is really just a remote shutter release made out of meat.

I could see the argument if the monkey were a 9 year-old child, the child might not fully grasp these concepts today, but you could anticipate a point where the child would understand. Much like child actor laws protecting their earnings.

I could see the wikipedia logic if there was some expectation that copyright would eventually matter to the monkey.

Forget that the monkey is an organic being... If the camera were shot up in the air in a rocket and had a pressure switch to take a series of photos at 5,000 feet (or maybe more directly at some random altitude or point in travel), who would "own" the photos? The rocket? Or the person who put the events together to capture those images in that manner.

"Except that the monkey has no concept of creative licensing, payments, royalties, etc."

That doesn't matter. Plenty of grown adults have no concept of creative licensing, payments, royalties, etc., and might never be in a position to understand them. Similarly, the 9 year old child is the creator and owner of his work at the time of its creation, regardless of the expectation that he'll eventually learn what the legalities of that creation mean. A mentally disabled or permanently incapacitated individual who is incapable of understanding copyright, and presumably never will be capable, is still entitled to copyright protections.

What this really boils down to is the monkey's personhood. A person can legally create and own intellectual property, regardless of his cognizance of it. If we believe a macaque is in some ways a person -- not a human, but a person -- then this argument holds some merit. If we do not, then it becomes more tenuous. The question isn't whether the monkey understands the ramifications of her photo; it's whether the monkey had creative agency in taking the photo.

We are talking about aspects of a human-created and arbitrated legal system. All these rules and such are essentially designed to revolve around how we treat and compensate each other.

Monkeys have no concept or participation in this legal system in the same way you wouldn't find two dogs arguing about how to handle a human sniffing their asses and who is the "dominant" one in that case.

We as a society have decided to give certain protections and recognitions to humans who are too young and/or too mentally disabled to participate in this system at the "full" level. Presumably we have decided this because we choose to recognize all humans as equal and applicable to receive a certain level of inalienable rights.

Most of our laws that relate to non-humans (animals) treat them as a form of property or otherwise seem to indicate we have no explicit desire to grant them the same rights and protections as actual humans. This could change with legal precedent, but the general consensus (IMO) is not on the side of wikipedias arbitrary ruling.

I agree with you that Wikipedia's decision is arbitrary, self-serving, and more than a little silly. But it raises interesting questions about the personhood of animals with higher intelligence. I don't think we could be having this conversation, for instance, if a cat took the photo.

And yes, all of our laws are human constructs. The question is whether we start including human-like animals under the protections and rubric of some of those laws. I don't necessarily have an answer, but I do think it's a fun intellectual challenge.

[EDIT: It's worth noting that Wikipedia's actual claim isn't so much that the monkey "owns" the photo. It's that the photographer doesn't. In other words, Wikipedia is claiming that, in de facto terms, nobody owns the photo. The monkey is its creator, but because a monkey is not entitled to legal authorship, the photo is public domain.]

What is interesting is asking our court system to consider this question. Small children have as much concept of the legal system as this monkey, yet are still afforded its benefit and if you look at our legal history this was achieved by adults demanding this.

Is it only a question of whether the monkey had creative agency in taking the photo? I'm not a lawyer, but it seems possible to say that neither the human nor monkey did.

If there were no monkey involved and the picture were taken on my camera by pure chance, can I still claim copyright on it as a photographer? Say I set the camera down, walk away, and a bug in the firmware causes it to start shooting pictures. Or maybe a rock falls from a nearby cliff and just happens to bounce off the shutter button. Is there a precedent for copyright in those instances?

I think the human was hoping for a good shot when he let the Monkey play with it.

These photographs have good technical merit, albeit by accident.

The thing is, there's a LOT more to making a "good" photograph than just clicking the shutter release. There are exposure and focus (which were apparently in auto mode at the time these were taken).

But more importantly, there is composition, which was entirely up to the monkey here, and not at all attributable to the human. However, we haven't seen (afaik) the original image; it seems likely that the image was recomposed (i.e., cropped) in post-production, and probably had other adjustments, e.g., exposure, contrast, etc. I'd say that in the end, the human had a pretty significant part in the final product.

I'm an amateur photographer, which you can take to mean that a whole lot of the time, my pictures don't come out of the camera looking quite the way I intended them to. And that's just another way of saying that what did come out of the camera was just an accident. Many of my best prints were like this, and I "rescued" them in post production, fiddling around to make something nice from something that in its found form was unremarkable. In these cases, I'd like to think that I'm still the artist responsible for it.

I think my conclusion, then, is that the human probably is deserving of the credit for this work.

> just a remote shutter release made out of meat.

> Forget that the monkey is an organic being...

That's not a very endearing way to make your point. If enough people care about the rights of non-human sentient beings, we can envisage (more, better) laws being made protecting their rights. Think of the good the licensing money from this picture could do in e.g. conserving the habitat of that monkey.

For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_personhood

I appreciate your comment. I made those statements particularly to try and evoke a different perspective, they do not reflect how I view/value the monkey in the grand scheme of things. I think what can happen in arguments like this is that people let personal feelings/compassion cloud their judgement. Where does that slippery scale end? What if it was a dolphin that took the picture? A dog? A reptile? A single-cell organism?

Yes, some of those examples are absurd, but they are all non-human organic life forms. Are we saying the more "personable" animals should be extended some human-like copyright rights because we can relate to them in some manner? (the Pulp Fiction conversation about "filthy animals" pops in my head here).

You talk about licensing money, but who would set the licensing fee, collect that fee, and then apply it? I could easily see that becoming a method for lawyers to strip human photographers of copyrights in certain cases and then suck up the majority of the licensing fee for "administrative purposes".

I think the monkey is "cute". I think this is a very interesting case. I do not think legal precedent is on the side of wikipedia. I do not think this is by any means a common enough problem (or will become so) that we need to have exception cases for photographs where the shutter release was pressed by non-human living organisms.

> What if it was a dolphin that took the picture? A dog? A reptile? A single-cell organism?

The 'slippery slope' argument almost never works. Women got the vote and society didn't crumble, au contraire. Dolpins can get some rights now reserved only for humans (e.g. better habitats in which their babies don't die abnormally often), without that same right being extended to reptiles.

> Are we saying the more "personable" animals should be extended some human-like copyright rights because we can relate to them in some manner?

It's a choice. A general principle of awarding these higher-sentience animals some limited form of personhood could improve their circumstances. Perfect is the enemy of the good.

> I do not think this is by any means a common enough problem [...]

I agree completely.

The "slippery slope" begins and ends with the mirror test [0].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_test

So why should the ownership go to the camera owner? Who owns the land? The monkey? Lots of people could claim ownership for "helping".

"In this case the monkey is really just a remote shutter release made out of meat."

So basically a photographer, then.

If it's in a court, I would ask for proof that the animal took the photo. Could have been savvy marketing. No one is trustworthy when fighting in a court.

If the story is verified, I sympathize with the photographer. Accidents are part of the venture.

How is this picture different from any taken remotely of a natural scene? The monkey did not know she was taking a picture.

If a human infant took a photo, IMHO the courts would hold they took it... regardless of the fact they did not know they were taking a picture.

>If a human infant took a photo

I'd bet that that idea has already been tested in the courts. I believe that the result is that the guardians of the child hold the rights in trust. A child is still human though, and courts do not yet assign (to my knowledge) property rights to non-human animals.

Which muddies that particular example, but the spirit of the example is unaddressed. For example, if a human adult with no understanding of what a camera is or what the act of taking a picture entails[1] took the picture by accident, would they not deserve the rights?

1: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140403-brazi...

To take that one step further - if they don't deserve the rights, can the owner of the equipment claim them by proxy?

That is to say, why are we so adamant these rights must belong to someone?

A lot of people seem to claim the monkey can't own the copyright, therefore the camera owner does. In fact no one owns the copyright.

The photos taken in your example were taken from overflying aircraft, and the video by Brazilian gov't agents.

However, I imagine you meant that if a camera were dropped among these people, would they have the rights to the photos they took?

Tricky... but I guess yes, according to the law... (I am not a lawyer).

>>However, I imagine you meant that if a camera were dropped among these people, would they have the rights to the photos they took? Tricky... but I guess yes, according to the law... (I am not a lawyer).

This was the point I was trying to make, animal or no, that matters, but I don't think intent does.

Intent certainly matters in the domain of intellectual property law.

For example, imagine that I were to instruct someone to make a device for me, and they made it exactly according to my design, and it performed some novel function that I had predicted it would. Under current law, I would be the inventor, not the person who constructed the device. This is since the "inventive step" was performed by myself. I'm not however sure how this relates to copyright (the issue at hand in the OP)...


Correct, the link was included only to show that such people recently existed and possibly still do.

There are many situations where the courts will provide "protection" to people who are not perceived to be capable of exercising their rights in the usual manner. Such cases are often referred to as "wards of the court", and include not only children but also adults with diminished capabilities to understand court proceedings.

I imagine that people from uncontacted tribes would fall into the same category, due to their lack of experience with the courts. in practice, though, I also imagine that the courts would not be very interested in any appeals they make...

In any case, none of the above applies to monkeys.

And neither did the camera owner.

It's an excellent photo of a clear, straight-on portrait of a wild monkey. It's both remarkable and worthy, regardless of who took it.

The image is used on the English Wikipedia page for "Selfie", and according to the image page on Wikimedia Commons:

"This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested."


It's interesting that the deletion nomination tag is still on the image, but the deletion discussion is marked as closed.

Which is too bad. I'm curious about rtc's argument around machines taking the pictures. It seems the logical conclusion of his argument is that if you buy a camera, and the software on the camera takes a picture without the act of camera owner, then the owner of the camera doesn't own the copyright but instead the company that made the camera? That seems like a very strange conclusion.

I think the issue at hand is that (from what I've read) the photographer set the camera down without intending for the monkey to pick it up and start snapping.

I don't think anybody would be arguing about the copyright had the photographer given the monkey the camera.

Googling I find the requirements for copyright:

"the work must have been developed independently by its author, and there must have been some creativity involved in the creation"

This case is certainly debatable on those points.

Serious question: If I steal a camera and take pictures with it, am I the copyright owner of those pictures?

Yes, though if you're taking a picture of a scene which was set up by someone else then they may own the copyright in that scene. There can be multiple owners of copyright of different aspects of an image, e.g. if I make my own cartoon and include Darth Vader as a character, then I naturally own my own the copyright to my work but it still infringes on Disney's copyright and I don't have the right to reproduce those aspects publicly.

Also if the images you take have no creative merit then there's no copyright.

Yes, and a thief.

People might be arguing but I tend to think they'd be wrong. (i.e. giving a bunch of monkeys cameras to shoot selfies is pretty clearly a planned creating act). But distinguishing that from the (apparent) situation here seems like splitting incredibly fine legal hairs and I don't really understand why Wikimedia seems to thin this is an important principle on which to make a stand.

It's not closed, the layout is just confusing. The discussion in January was closed, there's a new one now.

This is highly relevant to most startups in that it may establish a useful precedent on who owns code written by monkeys.

This fight is a fantastic way for David Slater to generate more royalty income. Think how many news outlet are going to use that image today!

Taken directly from Wikimedia?

At the very least, the Guardian have paid for it.

The monkey is a non-economic actor. She does not even need to be included in the equation.

The photographer was the sole driving force in bringing the image to the human marketplace. He is the last link in the chain that is even capable of exercising ownership over the image. His equipment was at risk while in macaque hands. His judgement culled the hundreds of unfocused, uncomposed, or otherwise useless images. He probably did post-production work on the photo to make the colors look right in varying presentation media.

There is just no way--if you believe in copyright at all, that is--that the copyright on the photo is not 100% vested in David Slater. If he had any reason to believe he could not personally profit from putting additional work into macaque selfies and publishing them to a human audience, every last one would be deleted, to make room on the card for something that might pay the rent.

Besides that, unilaterally declaring it to be public domain just doesn't satisfy the "don't be a dick" rule.

Here's a hypothetical. Slater, instead of rigging the shutter button to take still photos, sets it up to start a video recording on the first press, then to apply a frame marker to the video for every subsequent press. Before allowing the macaque to take the camera, he starts the video recording. Upon retrieving the recording, he then deletes all frames that would not be usable as a still photo. By the "shutter button" standard, he owns the copyright.

If rephrasing the technical aspects of the creation scenario results in different copyrights, your criterion is too flimsy to be used as a copyright guideline. Clearly, the "shutter button" standard is bullshit, especially given that any monkey can push a button.

My criterion is that the market would never have had access to the image at all, were it not for Slater bringing it forth as trade goods. Therefore, I name him owner of the original photo, and from that, allow him the right to enforce exclusivity and license any copies, as permitted by established copyright law.

The monkey, being non-human, and a non-participant in human markets, is not competent to hold ownership over anything. It has no specific rights to its own likeness, or to any of its own creations. Original ownership of property derives from the act of making something available for trade, even if no price is specified, and in respecting the trade offers of others. Wikimedia Foundation really needs to rein in its own troop of button-pushing yard-apes before lawyers get involved.

"The market" is not a criterion for copyright; in fact it has nothing to do with copyright at all. Some things are marketable and cannot be copyrighted, some things can be copyrighted and are not marketable at all

The photographer did not set out to get monkeys to push the trigger on the camera; the final situation that set in motion the creation of the work was not put forth by himself and is a complete accident.

There was a case of a bird stealing a camera and flying with it; it was considered to be in the public domain. It's unlikely that a ruling on this would show anything different.

Marketability is not at issue. That just means that no one wants to own something more than the person that already has it. It is entirely possible to own something that literally no one else in the universe wants. There is no marketability, but there is still ownership. There is always the possibility that someone might change preferences and offer a trade.

The photographer did not push the image capture button. But the macaque didn't accidentally post-process the best images and sell them for publication, either. The human did all the work necessary to make the image valuable to other humans.

If the macaque painted a masterwork with oils on canvas, and left it in the jungle, the human that finds it owns it, and the copyright for it. In the same vein, the person who finds a piece of driftwood with an uncanny resemblance to Cthulhu owns it. It does not matter if it was constructed or found. The value lies in separating what is appealing to other humans from what is not.

Suppose that J.D. Salinger wrote a book and kept it locked in a vault, with orders that it be burned on his death. A thief sneaks in, cracks the lock, copies the manuscript, and publishes it under his own name. He owns the copyright. I guess J.D. should have shared his creation with other humans by publishing. Like patent, the monopoly privilege of copyright is predicated on bringing the product to the marketplace, even if no one wants to buy or no one can raise the sale price.

In the event he doesn't own the copyrights to the photos, I wonder if David Slater would have released the photos with the same story of the monkey taking a selfie if he had known it would be without financial gain.

Reading the nomination page https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Deletion_requests... just makes me feel bad for David Slater in the end. They argue that he had no part in the photos creation. If he had not been there taking the photos, this photo wouldn't have existed.

It's clearly nonsense anyway. Even if you accept the argument that he has no claim to the copyright of the original image as it existed in his camera (which I'm not sure I do), the image that he actually released was almost certainly a derivative work that he had made. Assuming that that derivative work included any significant modifications, e.g. framing, color, etc I would expect it to be copyrightable and that copyright would clearly belong to Mr Slater.

The burden of that argument is that you'd never be able to 'own' photos of strangers or anybody who doesn't sign a release, or stranger's pets, or any piece of art or architecture, because the scene or object that gives the photos its essence was actually created largely by other people. You have to tie photo ownership to the physical act of taking them, and this one was not taken by him. He hadn't even intended to give the monkey his camera or tried to arrange for it - it was pure fluke, unless you count the agency of the monkey. Which here almost seems more legitimate.

For clarity

This is public domain footage now, because the bird stole the camera: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/bird-steals-camera-...

This is copyright, because the photographer strapped cameras to the bird: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon_photography "A photograph of Schlosshotel Kronberg (then called Schloss Friedrichshof after its owner Kaiserin Friedrich) became famous due to its accidental inclusion of the photographer's wing tips. In a breach of copyright it was shown in German cinemas as part of the weekly newsreel in 1929.[16]"

Nonsense. Whoever owns the camera has a good common-sense claim to copyright.

By your logic, supposedly Slater could sue the monkey for illicit use of his camera.

"as it is jeopardising his livelihood" -- So if a monkey hadn't taken a selfie, he'd be starving and homeless.

Let's summarize, £5000 worth of equipment on a £2000 trip and the best picture has been taken by a monkey.

The monkey took "hundreds of pictures", increasing the likelihood of producing a few quality shots. Its quantitative approach has seemingly yielded the better results compared to whatever Mr. Slater has applied.

Mr. Slater can not be attributed the director role either, as the macaque has "hijacked a camera", disregarding his setup and direction.

But how could the macaque benefit from holding the copyright on the picture?

"For every 10,000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images." This is what it should be about. We should want him, as any other professional doing his job, to make a living. Instead of spending money on beating him on court, let's spend the money to buy rights to the picture to put it up under a creative commons license.

Why are we spending so much energy on finding out who's "right", instead of just doing "the right thing", in cases where there is a win-win situation like this.

>> Why are we spending so much energy on finding out who's "right"

Legal precedent

I'm struggling to imagine a less useful precedent than this.

The precedent to confirm is that those without artistic input in to the creation of a work should not be afforded automatic copyright in that work no matter the extent of their financial or technical input. This seems quite an important precedent to affirm to me.

I couldn't agree more. I think wikimedia is being incredibly unethical. I certainly won't be contributing to them anymore. If it's OK for them to use the product of Mr. Slater's equipment without his consent, why should I help them pay for their infrastructure?

Doesn't the monkey technically own copyright over the images? I mean.. just because it's this guy's camera doesn't mean he has copyright, unless the monkey transferred copyright to him via some sort of agreement.

The US Copyright Compendium states that “authorship”, which is a prerequisite for copyright, requires a human author. In previous cases copyright in natural patterns such as wood patterns has been rejected. If the purported author is a non-human animal, then there can’t be copyright (in the US).


The Compendium reflects the rulings of the Copyright Office and a court might see things differently. Or the Copyright Office might agree that this photograph was not authored by the human. If they don’t agree, then at the very least you can’t register the copyright and get statutory damages. (Unless you sue the Copyright Office to force them to register.)

Then is sounds like wikipedia is correct, a non-human took the photo, that is not disputed, not a human author, therefore the prerequisite for copyright is not met and the image is public domain.

There is no "technically" about it, as the right of animals to hold intellectual property has yet to be affirmed in a court.

Copyright isn't assigned to the tool owner, it is assigned to the person who created the work. I use Visual Studio, that doesn't make the code I write owned by Microsoft even they "own" Visual Studio. Bad analogy, but you get the point.

Actually, I think it's a very good analogy.

Here's another. If I leave my laptop running Visual Studio out and a monkey bangs on the keyboard to make a program (by accident, just as with this photo), I don't own the copyright to that program.

What if the monkey just press F8 and build it and that is the version you release?

You do if its your monkey!

Ownership is clearly stated as "Person", which a monkey is not.

But a corporation is?

If he hadn't made a popular photograph, his income would be lower.

Among other arguments.

There was a moment on time when Slated owned the photograph in a very real sense. At that moment he had all the rights to the photograph. It was in his possession. No one could have forced him to release it. He releases the photograph with the expectation of being protected by the copyright. If he looses the copyright then the copyright is not serving the purpose it was supposed to serve. To give certainty to people that invest their time and resources to create things and release them.

But he did not create the photograph.

Can't David Slater issue a DMCA take down request which Wikipedia would have to comply with?

In order for it to be put up again, wouldn't that require some action from the rights holder, which in this case is an animal and can't do any action?

Yes, the photographer certainly could file a DMCA takedown, if he hasn't already.

No, action from the rights holder is not required to restore the material. Remember, the rights holder is the person filing the DMCA takedown - at least it should be. For the material to be restored it requires the poster of the material to file a counter notice, not the rights holder.

Complying with a DMCA request isn't legally mandated, it simply shields the provider from liability.

So then would all art created by animals automatically go into some sort of unpublishable void?

If the issue is making money, perhaps they can come to some arrangement with the monkey for offering signed prints?

The article still leaves the reader in the dark as to how the image was made public in the first place.

From the article> Wikimedia's editors are split on the legal issues. One user, Saffron Blaze, said in a comment section associated with the photo: "I am not sure I am convinced by the no copyright argument. In this case the outcome was very disrespectful of the photographer who created the conditions that allowed these photos to be created. There are some jurisdictions where even the monkey could be imbued with the copyright as its creator."

Original source [0].

As an old art student, I can readily sympathise with this. Spontaneity is often considered to be an important component of great art.

[0] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_picture_...

Thanks for finding the source. The newspaper could have at least added a nofollow link to the wikipedia article for those of us who want to see the picture at full resolution.

So if I rob a store and I activate a motion-detecting camera, do I own the copyright on the evidence against me? Can I claim self-incrimination if MY footage is used in court against me? Can I sue my victim for copyright infringement if they share footage with the media?

No, such footage would not pass the basic creativity requirements for copyright eligibility.

I disagree. The burglary is obviously performance art.

Certainly if you write about it first and can therefore demonstrate that it was a considered act of the same with plans to publish.

From the article:

"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. This means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain," a recent transparency report from Wikimedia said.

Even if the photographer would not hold the copyright to the raw image, his post-processing would give him copyright to his alterations. Thus, the final image does not fall into the public domain and Wikimedia has no right to use it like they do.

I believe you need to substantially transform a public domain work in order to qualify for copyright on a derived work. If the original image is public domain, it's not clear that cropping and basic editing would qualify.

I think Wikimedia is in the wrong here, for what it's worth, but I don't think it's clear cut either way.

Right, and there is very little “public good” to come of this other than “Wiki(pedi)a get to benefit from the traffic this might bring”.

As an aside, what an unsettlingly photogenic animal this is, particularly its piercing eyes and expressive face. At first, I did not actually believe this was a real animal, and thought it was animated or from the planet of the apes .. then I googled the species (crested black macaque).

Though I totally agree with Wikipedia's stance, and am not a supporter of IP in general, it's an amazing picture, and its no wonder the photographer in question is attempting to claim it.

And a new monkey business is born - letting animals take pictures and make money.

Shouldn't they ask the monkey for permission before publishing it then?

This is a matter of degrees. (No, not that type of degree.)

Let's assume for the moment that the monkey, as a non-human, cannot own copyright. Therefore it is a choice between the human holding copyright and the image being in the public domain.

If a monkey draws a picture using mud on a sheet of bark that has fallen on the ground, and a human notices the picture and picks it up, does the human own copyright? (Probably not, in my opinion.)

If the monkey picks up a camera offered to it by a human, who has set up the camera, switched it on, etc., and the monkey takes a picture, does the human hold copyright? (Not sure.)

If a human sets up a camera on a tripod, pre-focusses it, sets up a motion detection system to trigger the shutter, and the monkey walks past it triggering an image to be captured, does the human hold copyright? (Definitely, in my opinion.)

>If a human sets up a camera on a tripod, pre-focusses it, sets up a motion detection system to trigger the shutter, and the monkey walks past it triggering an image to be captured, does the human hold copyright? (Definitely, in my opinion.)

Conversely, I see lots of cool pictures of people doing crazy stuff, kayakers, going off massive waterfalls, bikers doing backflips, street performers, magicians. To me it is the subject of the picture who has spent years training, he / she is what makes the picture interesting (the photographer may make the colours a bit nicer, or the focus sharper, but the subject is what makes the picture).

Yet the photographer owns the copyright.

(To be fair I kind of agree with your last point, but I think that the photographer automatically getting copyright is the problem. I doubt giving the subject ownership would be enforceable, and would likely lead to many more problems related to censorship).

Typically, those people would have to give the photographer a model release for the photographer to use the photos for commercial purposes.

And there's data protection law that might come into play.

You might want to check out the Desmond Howard lawsuit as a real world case of what you're describing.


"Howard ended up counter-suing for unauthorized use of his name and likeness on a website that Masck used to sell products".

Similar, but he wasn't suing over the copyright to the photo.

I suspect it will involve handing over a lot of money to lawyers to figure this one out.

who is the legal guardian of these monkeys? Indonesian government i guess - the same way if the selfie was taken by say an orphan toddler. So i'd guess the Indonesian government has the claim here.

Pretty sure monkeys don't have legal guardians in the same way human children do.

They have owners, though.

(i) Not all monkeys. (ii) My camera has an owner (me), and it 'takes' the photo. Does my camera own copyright on the photos it takes?

obviously a toddler is more close model for monkey than camera.

Not legally.

Legally, how would this differ from a monkey stepping on a remote trigger, or stepping in front of a motion detector to trigger a camera to take a picture? Are all of the pictures on Snapshot Serengeti (http://www.snapshotserengeti.org/) copyrighted by the animals in them?

Of course only humans can hold copyright. But an issue here is, the photographer never intended to take the picture (in this way); it was an accident. So its debatable.

It's not an accident - the photographer recognized the opportunity, and allowed the animals to continue. He put himself there to be part of the animal's scene. He was there to photograph the animals, and that's what happened.

Ultimately, every photograph is an accident; nothing bad happens in between the photographer's recognition of the correct moment, and the exposure of the medium. That time is non-zero, and bad things can happen in between those times, and when they don't you get the photo you want.

And how many photographers hold down the shutter, while they reel off a dozen pictures, hoping that one of those photos is a good one? Were those photos "accidents" and therefore not copyrightable? I don't think the courts would agree.

>> I don't think the courts would agree.

I'm actually interested in seeing this go to a decision in the courts. There's clearly a division of opinion in the discussion here, and it would make for an interesting case and precedent.

Probably not a lot of 'allowing' going on - don't want to get between a Macaque and its toy.

Anyway the idea is, the requirement for copyright is "developed independently by the author" and "some creativity involved". It was not 'by the author. And is it creativity if its an incident totally out of the control of the author? Debatable.

Do you consider war photography to be creative?

So if my phone takes a picture when taking it out of my pocket, is it immediately public domain? I would guess that it being accidental wouldn't play much into it.

Wikipedia is being disingenuous and immature here. I would be very surprised to see a court agree with their argument.

Courts generally try to avoid reaching perverse results that undermine the purpose of the laws they're enforcing. Copyright exists to support the kind of work that Slater was doing.

...and asserting that images accidentally created by non-human animals belong to the public domain undermines copyright how, exactly? I'm not seeing much of a slippery slope here.

Copyright exists to incentivize creativity. The fact that we're arguing about this proves that there's at least one photographer that would be disincentivized by your proposed rule.

This also happens more than you might think. See the video of a lion stealing a wildlife photographer's Go Pro video camera, for example (http://gizmodo.com/5805961/lion-steals-and-chomps-on-gopro-w...). If wildlife photographers know that they can keep copyright in such situations, that will incentivize wildlife photography generally (at the margin), and these kinds of pictures/videos specifically. The world will be that much more awesome.

I see no reason why "letting a monkey play with my camera" should be less of a creative act by a photographer than "clicking the shutter button". Artists have done much weirder things.

It's very common in wildlife photography to have a pressure pad that triggers the shutter. See http://macrocam.blogspot.com/2013/09/remote-shutter-release.... for example. Are those pictures not worthy of copyright because an animal pushed the button?

A rule based on incentivizing photographers will give Slater the copyright here. Whereas a rule based on the hair splitting advocated by Wikipedia would cast doubt on the copyrightability of all kinds of creativity that rely on an element of randomness or non-human actors (e.g. animals, the wind, sunlight, /dev/urandom).

Best headline I've read in a long time.

You must have missed this one, then: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/russia-loses-contr... (the actual title is funnier than what's in the URL)

Since the Monkey cannot hold the Copyright.

Lets suppose you drop your Camera and at that moment you get a great photograph. It was mere an accident, but how can somebody argue that you don't own the copyright ?


My understanding is that this image was captured by a camera trigger that was setup National Geographic photographer (Sorry, I'm unsure the name). This has been a highly published photo by National Geographic; does this mean that the tiger should be owed all the royalties and not the photographer?

Well the photographer set up the camera and the trigger. Framing the background is an artistic contribution.

And the important part is that the photographer would have still owned the copyright if it was a human who set off the trigger.

However, imagine a person picked up his camera and took a selfie. The person would own the copyright, not the owner of the camera. The photographer didn't contribute anything artistic.

This is a monkey selfie, so it's in an interesting legal situation.

The best comparison is to abstract paintings done by elephants. Does anyone own a copyright on those?

Whilst I am of the opinion that the original photo is not copyrighted because it was taken by a Monkey.

I would have to question what is the actual photo being distributed? Is it the original work or was it a version that had been edited before being posted online? Can you take a public domain item, alter it and it then become a copyright? If I used it in a logo, does that logo become public domain?

Personally I wish the photographer would use the work to promote himself rather than fighting for royalties.

Regardless of where the copyright ownership falls, it is not within Wikipedia's power to make that call. David Slater claims copyright, and without a legal opinion to the contrary, they don't seem to have a leg to stand on.

This seems like Wikipedia editors overreaching.

If I were to claim that I had copyright of the photo, would that prohibit David Slater from using it until the courts had settled things? It is absolutely Wikipedia's prerogative to use a photo they believe they are entitled to use. Now, they do lose the DMCA safe harbor exemption by not complying, but that only matters if a court should hold that they're guilty of copyright infringement.

Point of clarification: Wikipedia isn't just using the photo, they are offering it up to others to use as part of their "collection of royalty-free images" (Wikimedia Commons). In a sense, they are acting as a distributor, not just an end-user.

How exactly did Wikipedia confirm the photo was taken by a monkey?

Did Wikipedia get permission from the monkey to post the photo? Clearly they didn't think this through.

In cases like this there should be implied copyright holder. Let's say I'm on vacation with a friend. I hand a stranger my camera to take a picture of us. Does that mean I can't post the picture on my facebook page without officially assigning copyright to myself? Of course not.

Not all photos are burdened by copyright. If no human owns the copyright, it's in the public domain.

So does the Cow own the Milk?

I tried to research this topic further, but the Wikipedia pages about copyright makes no mention of monkeys.

Wikimedia Foundation is wrong. The photo belongs to the owner of the camera who captured the photo. This, of course, would be a total different issue if the operator of the camera was human.

He did more than owning the camera. He set up the camera and let the monkey play with it, hoping to get lucky with a great shot.

The monkey stole the camera. Either way though its the monkeys work. Not his

This is just ridiculous. Animal rights ideology taken to an extreme.

● The photographer owns the camera and placed it there.

● The photographer set up the shot.

● The majority of the work was done by the photographer.

● An animal cannot own intellectual property, or copyrights because it doesn't have the intelligence to understand what those are.

● An animal cannot administer copyright permissions.

The absurd notion that copyrights can belong to animals are no different than the absurd idea that a human can "marry" an animal or a tree. An animal cannot legally take part in a practice which it does not comprehend.

No one is (or at least should be) suggesting that the animal owns the copyright. Animals can't own copyrights, so "creative" works produced by animals automatically enter the public domain.

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