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Wikimedia, photographer in legal battle over “monkey selfie” photograph — but why?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Wikimedia and a photographer are in a legal battle over a “monkey selfie.” The photographer has asked Wikimedia to remove the photograph from public domain — but Wikimedia says the photographer doesn’t have copyright over the image. Why? Because the monkey pressed the shutter button.

The Telegraph reports: “Wikimedia, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to stop distributing his most famous shot for free – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and should own the copyright.”

Wikimedia issued the following statement to FOX6 News:

“A photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A female crested black macaque monkey got ahold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits. The pictures were featured in an online newspaper article and eventually posted to Commons. We received a takedown request from the photographer, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs. We didn’t agree, so we denied the request. Why we didn’t agree: We don’t agree that the photographer in question has copyright over the images. That doesn’t mean the monkey owns the copyright: it just means that the human who owns the camera doesn’t. 

For example, under U.S. copyright law, copyright claims cannot vest in to non-human authors (that is, non-human authors can’t own copyrights) — and the monkey was the photographer. 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.” 

monkey selfie

The Telegraph reports nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 — when a “crested black macaque” monkey stole his camera and took hundreds of photographs — including the now-famous selfie that has been featured in publications throughout the world.

Slater is now in the middle of a legal battle with Wikimedia, after the images, including the selfie, were added to Wikimedia’s collection of royalty-free images.

According to The Telegraph: “In its report Wikimedia said that it ‘does not agree’ that the photographer owns the copyright, but also that U.S. law means that ‘non-human authors’ do not have the right to automatic copyright of any photographs that they take.”

Wikimedia says because non-humans cannot own copyrights, it has placed the image in its public domain.

Slater says Wikimedia’s decision has jeopardized his income.

Slater says he’s preparing to take the issue to court.

CLICK HERE for more on this story via The Telegraph.


  • Aaron

    This is ridiculous. If it was his camera and he developed or digitally downloaded those images from his own camera then he owns the copyright. He chose to keep or delete that photo with his creativity, that is the significance. He extracted the photo and published it then it is his. If an author dictated a story to someone else to type it that doesn’t mean he can’t copyright that story because it wasn’t him typing.

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