Wikimedia refuses to remove animal selfie because monkey ‘owns’ the photo

Wikimedia has denied a photographer’s request to remove a “monkey selfie” photo because the monkey pressed the shutter button making the photo ineligible for copyright, according to the Telegraph.

Nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 when a crested black macaque stole his camera and took hundreds of photos, including the famous selfie that was featured in publications across the world.

Many of the photos were blurry shots of the jungle floor, but among the throwaways were the selfie that gave Slater worldwide attention.

monkeySlater now faces a legal battle with Wikimedia after the images were added to the collection of royalty-free images. Wikimedia Commons is a collection of over 22 million images and videos that are in the public domain.

Wikimedia’s position is that because the monkey took the photo, he “owns” the photo. However, non-humans cannot own copyrights — which is why Wikimedia placed the photo in the public domain.

Slater told the Telegraph the decision to add the photo to the public domain library has “jeopardized his income.” However, Wikimedia lists the author as “the monkey on the photo.”

Wikimedia includes this caption under the photo:

“Taken by a macaque in Sulawesi, with David Slater’s camera. As the work was not created by a human author, it is not eligible for a copyright claim in the US. Non-humans cannot own copyrights. This file is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship.”

According to the Telegraph, Slater is now preparing to take the issue to court.

You can view the comments regarding the deletion request on Wikimedia’s website.

Read more: Telegraph

28 comments

    • Darion Pulen

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  • Kuldebar

    Hmmm, whose camera was it? Seems the monkey was playing the role of an agent/employee working on behalf of a recognized legal entity, “David Slater”.

    • hurf durf

      monkeys can’t sign contracts and could not comprehend such an agreement. they can, however create works

      • watergirl

        Doesn’t matter. I can buy a book, even if I can’t read, but I can’t copy the book without permission of the author.

    • Ffffff

      If you painted something while using a brush, paint, and canvas owned by another, they still do not own the copyright to your painting.

  • SkaardVaard

    Law is made for humans by humans. Animals, for obvious reasons, are not subject to human law. This means they have no expectation to act within the boundaries of the law, but are likewise given no legal protection unless a law is specifically drafted for them. In this case, because the monkey took the picture, the photographer has no legal claim to the image. Because the monkey is not protected under copyright law, the monkey also cannot claim ownership of the image.

    • Johnathan

      BS! Human law does not innately apply to “humans” by default, unless the law explicitly says so. In fact, laws apply to “persons”, but legal “persons” are not the same as humans. For example, in America, corporations are “legal persons”| as well.

    • SkaardVaard

      @Johnathan

      Law applies to legal “persons,” yes, and legal “persons” are firms, labor organizations, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, trustees, and receivers. Animals are not legally recognized as “persons.” Law, unless specified otherwise, applies only to persons. I thought I explained it in simple terms for the sake of understandability, but here we are.

    • SkaardVaard

      @Daniel

      It doesn’t actually own itself. It’s a legend. I can’t believe this needed to be said.

  • Chris

    so where’s the proof the monkey took the photo? how do we know that the guy wasn’t using a release? the guy should have been using one anyway…

  • mike savad

    so if a computer makes an image, or if you just drop paint on a canvas and didn’t physically touch it. or if the camera was set up by remote, then therefore any image is now public domain? i don’t thinks so.

  • Barry Kidd

    Slater owns the photo. Anyone with a even shred of common since knows that even the good folks a Wikimedia. They are obviously playing a legal angle in hopes of winning. End of story.

    • denommus

      Why? The monkey took the photos. He is the content creator. If you used other person’s brushes to make a painting, the owner of the brush wouldn’t have any copyrights over the painting. It’s the same reasoning.

      • mike savad

        that’s not the same reasoning, if the monkey found a camera in the forest and this guy found that camera that had those photos it might be a different story. but the fact the guy went out of his way just to shoot them, and then they grabbed the camera and shot themselves – the copyright belongs to the photographer. the monkey didn’t own the stuff and there would be no images if that camera hadn’t been there. right now the only thing that is in my head, how many other things is wikimedia claiming is public domain, when it really wasn’t at all. and how many stock companies are taking this image as their own because someone else claimed it was PD.

        taking someone’s brushes and doing the work is not the same as having your camera grabbed from you.

  • mike savad

    then of course there is the story. the only way wiki new that the monkey took the shot was, the photographer told them. he could have made the whole story up. and all of those were taken by the photographer. if you strip out the story, it’s simply wiki stealing someone’s image and making up a bogus excuse saying why it’s ok and nothing more. i do wonder what wiki really will get out of this, because copyright fines are pretty steep. there isn’t much argument, if you go out of your way to take pictures of something, its yours. even if a bird lands on the trigger.

  • Bryan C. Bartels

    It is public domain. I have seen arguements stating, setting up equipment and animals messing with equipment…etc. However, there was no “setup”. Re-read the the premise and info…based on the laws governing case…selfies are domain of photographer…that throws doubt on camera owner’s claim…then also based on laws governing case…animals are not “persons” with copyright laws, hence it becomes public domain…that throws camera owners’ claims into a grey area. He did NOT set up motion sensor…that would be HIS set up…and HIS domain. For folks understanding law…these two standings are NOT mutually exclusive…they provide a two layered defense that pictures are NOT photographer’s pictures…one must be defeated…then the next defeated…it’s not either or. Lastly, folks on here seem to be applying common sense or laws in their state, province, or area…and dismissing the intro which clearly states applicable laws…unless this webpage is in error. All other opinions and laws from other areas are “adjudicative facts” that can be weighed or dismissed entirely by governing body…which usually only uses “legislative facts” to determine a case. I stand with this with the aforementioned caveat…if webpage has intro legislative facts correct. ‘Nuff said.

  • mike savad

    i still don’t understand why this is a US matter – why are we looking at US copyright when it should be either UK (where the photographer lives) or Sulawesi, copyright law (if any exists). the US law shouldn’t be a factor at all.

  • Linear

    The photo is properly public domain because it was an accident, but if Slater attached a camera to an animal and it automatically took pictures, then I think the photos would probably belong to Slater. How much creative intent is required in the construction of the scenario in order to make Slater the owner?

  • Katie Kat

    The photos appear to have been edited – most likely by Slater… Therefore these photos do not belong to the monkey. Only the originals would be the monkey’s, per se. These photos should belong to the one who edited them.

    • mike savad

      unfortunately, i have to disagree with you there. otherwise anyone that edits an image will automatically get the copyrights. the only thing they can do is to look into UK copyright law or where that monkey comes from.

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