Photographer and Wikipedia in battle over rights to monkey selfie

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 10:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 August, 2014, 10:20pm


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

A series of self-portraits taken by Indonesian monkeys has sparked a dispute between Wikipedia and a British wildlife photographer, who was not amused that the popular images were being used without a fee.

Photographer David Slater complained on Thursday that Wikipedia rejected his requests for the images to be removed from the website. He said he owned 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 free information-sharing site, argued that Slater did not own the copyright to the photos because he did not take the images.

It said no one owned the copyright, because under United States law, "copyright cannot vest in non-human authors", the monkeys in this case.

"We take these requests very seriously, and we thoroughly researched both sides of the claim," the group said. "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 transparency report, published on Wednesday.

The images are 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 such cases.


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