Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

Make CT Your Homepage

Wikimedia Battle Over Monkey Selfie

Macaque Selfie - Wiki Page

(Photo : Cody Brooks Screencap) Wiki page displaying copyright rule.

Can animals own the pictures they take? What about a selfie? That's the question nature photographer David Slater and Wikimedia are fighting out.

A crested black macaque grabbed Slater's camera while he was photographing them on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and took selfies with it in 2011. One of the selfies came out great and pulled Slater into the limelight. Since then Wikimedia has uploaded it to their commons database, asserting that the picture has no copyright because the author - the person who pressed the shutter button, in this case the monkey - is the one who owns the photo. And since non-humans cannot own copyright, the selfie is therefore in the public domain.

Like Us on Facebook

Wikimedia released a statement saying "This file is in the public domain because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested."

David Slater begs to differ. "There's a lot more to copyright than who pushes the trigger on the camera. I set up the shot, I was behind all the components in taking that image."

This issue has been raised elsewhere. Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Ethan Kirschner explained to The Wire regarding Ellen DeGeneres's famous Oscar selfie "Historically, it's always been the person who pressed the shutter who's technically the person that owns copyright." The selfie includes a bevy of famous actors of which one, Bradley Cooper, took the photo on Ellen's phone. So technically he has a case to demand copyright. 

Mirror Online quoted Slater as saying "It makes me very angry, I'm a professional photographer - it costs me over £2,000 to do the trip. It's my livelihood."

Wikimedia is now holding a community vote asking its users to judge whether the photograph should be owned by Slater or have no copyright at all. 

David Slater is a freelance photographer from Coleford, Gloucestershire.

Real Time Analytics