The US Copyright Office has ruled that humans can’t claim ownership of “works created by nature, animals, or plants”, putting to rest claims by British nature photographer David Slater to a selfie taken by a macaque monkey using his camera back in 2011.
The picture was taken after the monkey stole Slater’s camera. Turned out well as it happens.
The dispute began when Wikipedia denied a takedown demand by Slater, claiming that the photo is actually un-copyrightable as it wasn’t taken by a human. Slater’s counter-claim is that he owns the copyright as he was responsible for setting the equipment up, and all the monkey did was to press a button on his camera.
Photography, he said, is an expensive undertaking (which it is) and the trip that resulted in the monkey selfie cost him over two thousand pounds. It’s no surprise, then that he’s been very keen to make cash from a highly unique picture that came of it that went viral.
The specifics of the ruling were outlined in the US Copyright Office’s latest copyright law compendium, which went on to say that it also can’t register copyright claims to works “purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings”.
I feel for Mr Slater, as the monkey’s selfie is just about perfect and probably would have generated a lot of cash for him had he been awarded copyrights to it. But I also understand where the Copyright Office is coming from – its statutes were created to look after works generated by people, and even though we’re both technically primates, monkeys aren’t people.
I look forward to the made-for-TV movie starring lawyers who sue people on behalf of this monkey for using her picture without her consent. At least, I hope it will be a movie and not another stranger-than-fiction news story.
[Source – The Register]