My Take

Could cyberspace turn into empty space?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 4:08am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2014, 7:04am

The way things are going, one shouldn't be surprised if cyberspace ends up as empty space soon. From one end it is leaking like a sieve. Emails and documents are falling off the web into others' laps while a whole set of hackers is prowling around, draining it of all kinds of information.

Disputes about copyright have seen pictures and clips vanishing off the net, replaced by messages that say a link is no longer available.

On top of this, people are taking to the courts to pull information they think shouldn't be there. It started with governments approaching web companies to take out information they thought was inappropriate. But with the top European court deciding an individual has the right to seek removal of references to themselves they consider offensive, web companies have been receiving many requests to remove links.

This week, Hong Kong's High Court ruled that entertainment tycoon Albert Yeung Sau-shing can sue Google because its search engine suggests terms such as "triad" when you enter the businessman's name.

So it was surprising to read that Wikipedia decided it would buck the trend and refuse to remove a picture as requested by a photographer who claimed he held the copyright to it, even though the photo was actually a selfie.

Wildlife photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 capturing images of macaques when one snatched his camera and started clicking away. When Slater got it back, it had hundreds of images. Some were remarkable selfies that would make even Ellen DeGeneres green with envy. And it went viral on the web.

Slater wants Wikipedia to pay him for use of the photo or take it off its database. Slater's claim of copyright has been rejected by Wikipedia, which says that as the original click was made by the monkey, Slater cannot claim rights to it. So the monkey owns the copyright? Oh no, monkeys cannot own copyright, only humans can. So they deemed it was freely available and would not remove it from their site.

Good to know that the internet won't be entirely cleansed of all monkey business despite the efforts of some people.

Alex Lo is on leave