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Monkey scores legal victory


Staff member

Wikipedia refuses to delete photo as 'monkey owns it'

Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to delete his most famous shot as it is jeopardising his livelihood – because a monkey pressed the shutter button and "owns the copyright"

By Matthew Sparkes, Deputy Head of Technology12:03PM BST 06 Aug 2014

Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it owns the copyright.

British nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 attempting to get the perfect image of a crested black macaque when one of the animals came up to investigate his equipment, hijacked a camera and took hundreds of selfies.
Many of them were blurry and some were pointed at the jungle floor, but among them were a handful of fantastic images, including a selfie taken by a grinning macaque which made headlines around the world and brought Mr Slater his 15 minutes of fame.

"They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button," he said at the time. "The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.

"He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn't worked that out yet."

But after appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and television shows around the world, Mr Slater is now facing a legal battle with Wikimedia after the organisation added the image to its collection of royalty-free images online. The Wikimedia Commons is a collection of 22,302,592 images and videos that are free to use by anyone online, and editors have included Mr Slater's image among its database.

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained To Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.

Mr Slater now faces an estimated £10,000 legal bill to take the matter to court.

“If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me, that’s their basic argument. What they don’t realise is that it needs a court to decide that,” he said.
The image has been removed in the past when he complained, but different editors regularly upload it once again.

“Some of their editors think it should be put back up. I’ve told them it's not public domain, they’ve got no right to say that its public domain. A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.”

Mr Slater said that the photography trip was extremely expensive and that he has not made much money from the image despite its enormous popularity.
“That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot. Not to mention the £5,000 of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images. Photography is an expensive profession that’s being encroached upon. They’re taking our livelihoods away,” he said.

“For every 100000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images. It was like a year of work, really.”

Wikipedia refuses to delete photo as 'monkey owns it' - Telegraph
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


TRIBE Member
if he's hanging everything on a couple of photographs, blaming them for the ruination his career has become, he needs a few lessons in business. It's ok to let a few images get away.

In this case the cost of litigation outweighs the benefit, clearly. But it's an interesting test, and it would be nice if one of the various photographers' rights organizations would take up the fight. Can a non-human hold copyright? I doubt it would hold up in court. Monkeys aren't smart enough to make the kind of decisions that humans do in creating things. National Geographic regularly publishes photos that were captured automatically when an animal passed a motion sensor (leopards feeding, birds catching fish, etc) - who took the photo then? We assume the photographer because he was 'in control' of the camera. But if we accept that a monkey cannot carry out the act of photography in the same way that humans do (i.e. decide what to take a photo of and how), then all that happened here (albeit accidentally), was that the photographer set the stage for the photos to be taken by the monkeys and he owns the work they produce. The monkeys have no idea what they're doing. All they see is a shiny circle-square thing with a bunch of bumps on it that make noises when you press your finger on them. Click click. Pretty fun! Click click click. That's all the monkey gets from this.

This might be obvious to the rest of us but it has to be proven in front of a judge to establish a legal precedent.

btw this has been going on for three years now: