Monkeys take 'selfies,' sparking copyright dispute

Aug 07, 2014 by Sylvia Hui

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 copyright dispute between Wikipedia and a British wildlife photographer, who wasn't amused that the popular images are being used for free.

Photographer David Slater complained Thursday 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 in this case.

"We take these requests very seriously, and we thoroughly researched both sides of the claim," the group said in a statement. "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 and video clips. Slater said laws should be updated to address cases like his.

Explore further: Wikipedia says EU court ruling is Web 'censorship'

4.2 /5 (5 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brits rescue 88 research monkeys

Jan 30, 2008

Dozens of research monkeys used by a Chilean medical laboratory were sent to England following threats by an animal rights group.

First images of newly discovered primate

Jan 10, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers working in Northern Myanmar have captured the first photographs of the recently discovered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey.

Recommended for you

Protecting infrastructure with smarter CPS

4 hours ago

Security of IT networks is continually being improved to protect against malicious hackers. Yet when IT networks interface with infrastructures such as water and electric systems to provide monitoring and control capabilities, ...

Apple helps iTunes users delete free U2 album

17 hours ago

Apple on Monday began helping people boot U2 off their iTunes accounts after a cacophony of complaints about not wanting the automatically downloaded free album by the Irish rock band.

Habitual Facebook users: Suckers for social media scams?

23 hours ago

A new study finds that habitual use of Facebook makes individuals susceptible to social media phishing attacks by criminals, likely because they automatically respond to requests without considering how they are connected ...

YouTube to go offline in India on Android phones

Sep 15, 2014

YouTube users in India will soon be able to save videos from the Google-owned service, making it possible to watch them offline, and the feature will eventually be available globally, the company said Monday.

Facebook vs. loneliness

Sep 15, 2014

Are people becoming lonelier even as they feel more connected online? Hayeon Song, an assistant professor of communication at UWM, explored this topic in recent research.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Aug 07, 2014
So who owns the images from a 'trail cam' that trips for animal movement ?? Or our motion-sensitive CCTV guarding the door ?? Or the neighbours' dog, now sometimes fitted with a 'collar dvr' ??
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 07, 2014
So who owns the images from a 'trail cam' that trips for animal movement ?? Or our motion-sensitive CCTV guarding the door ?? Or the neighbours' dog, now sometimes fitted with a 'collar dvr' ??
@Nik_2213
from what I remember and have read thus far... the owner of the media is the owner of the picture/image/video/etc, however, there are laws regarding the use of the picture/image/video/etc and the likeness therein, be it personal (like your neighbor) or under copy-write/trademark.

you can take all the pics you want, but using another persons image or likeness is protected under law (in the US and within limits internationally IIRC)

del2
not rated yet Aug 07, 2014
If the Wikimedia Foundation's claim is upheld, it will affect the copyright of all wildlife photos triggered by animals via tripwires, infra-red beams and so on. A lot of wildlife photographers will be very upset.