8 August 2014
A row has been going on about just who owns the copyright on a rather unusual selfie. It's of a crested black macaque who took a snap of herself with a British photographer's camera in Indonesia. The photographer wants Wikipedia to remove the picture from its website - but the Wikimedia Foundation which owns the site won't do it because it says he doesn't own the copyright.
Click to hear the report
There you are in a national park for a bit of wildlife photography when a monkey comes up to your camera, presses the shutter and takes a selfie unlike any other. That's what happened to British photographer David Slater when he went to Indonesia three years ago. The self-portrait of the crested black macaque went viral and websites like Wikipedia started using it without Mr Slater's permission.
When he wanted it taken off the site though his request was refused because the Wikipedia Foundation, which runs the site, said he didn't take the photo. Wikipedia has started removing links from EU search results under new 'right to be forgotten' rules, but Katherine Maher, from the Wikimedia Foundation, says Mr Slater doesn't qualify because he doesn't own the copyright to the image. Which begs the question, who does? And it's not the monkey...
Katherine Maher from the Wikimedia Foundation:
Under US copyright law the copyright can't be owned by a non-human in this case a monkey; sometimes it can be a machine. So what that means is that because the monkey took the photo and the photographer, although it was his camera, didn't take that photo there's nobody who copyright belongs to in this particular instance. It doesn't belong to the monkey, it doesn't belong to the photographer and in cases like that, images and other works fall into the public domain and so when something is in the public domain it can be used by anyone for any purposes.
Needless to say that's not what the photographer wanted to hear and he's done with monkeying about...
Photographer, David Slater:
You could look at it like this - the monkey was my assistant and therefore I was the artist behind the image and I allowed my assistant to press the button. You know, this needs to be tested in a court of law.
So prepare for the lawyers to start going ape on this one.
Click here to hear the vocabulary
photo that you take of yourself on a smartphone, usually for use on social media
picture of yourself that you draw, paint or photograph
everywhere, spreading quickly via internet and social media so that many people see it
(here) have the right
legal ownership and control of how it is used
- begs the question
makes us ask a particular and important question
- public domain
place where something is available for everyone to see and know about
- going ape