prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Copyright Monkeybusiness

Posted by prof e on August 9, 2014

Macaque-Selfie-finalPerhaps you’ve seen this picture of a female Celebes crested macaque. The picture is unusual in several ways. First, the expression is priceless. To peer into the soul of a subject and capture it on film in such a powerful way is truly amazing.

But that brings us to the second way in which this photo is unusual. It is a selfie. That’s right, the photo was taken by the subject. According to an article on the Mashable website, the photographer David Slater was on a trip through the jungles of the Indonesian island Sulawesi in 2011 when he had his camera swiped by the macaque who then turned the camera on herself.

Okay, pretty interesting story so far, but it gets better. Several years later someone uploaded the photo to Wikimedia Commons. Slater, who claims copyright on the photo, asked Wikimedia to remove the photo. Wikimedia denied Slater’s request claiming that Slater did not own the photo since he didn’t take it.

Alex Magdaleno, writing for Mashable, continues…

according to Wikimedia’s licensing report, it remains in the public domain “because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

There you have it. Once the courts settle this case we’ll know whether animal selfies enjoy the protection of copyright. And what if the courts say that the copyright belongs to the critter who pressed the shutter? In the US, copyright is awarded for the life of the author plus 70 years. If a Giant Galapagos tortoises snaps a selfie it could remain under copyright for upwards of 250 years!

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