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When a monkey snaps a selfie, who owns the copyright?
Close Caption
Self-portrait by the depicted Macaca nigra female.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Why did this monkey’s smiling “selfie” spark a copyright controversy?

Meet a real-life Curious George. In 2011, British nature photographer David Slater went to Indonesia to photograph crested black macaques, a species of endangered primates. During the photo shoot, Slater allowed the monkeys to play with his camera. They snapped hundreds of photos. Most of the shots were blurry, but one of the mischievous monkeys snapped the smiling self-portrait above.

Photographers like Slater usually have the copyright for their photos. This means that magazines, newspapers, and websites must pay for the right to use them. But Wikimedia Commons, a website where people can download images and videos for free, added the monkey’s selfie to its collection.

Slater asked Wikimedia to remove the photo, arguing that he owns the image and should be paid if it’s published. Wikimedia replied that since the monkey triggered the shutter, the copyright doesn’t belong to Slater. It is in the public domain, or free for anyone to use.

The U.S. Copyright Office seems to side with Wikimedia. It revised its guidelines to state that the office will issue a copyright only if “the work was created by a human being.” The new guidelines continue: “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants.”

Slater believes that these guidelines don’t apply in his case. “A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up,” Slater told a British newspaper. Slater brought the equipment into the jungle and edited the photo after it was taken. Besides, he says, wildlife photographers often use motion-sensor cameras. When an animal moves into the frame, the camera takes a picture, even if the photographer isn’t nearby. In these cases, the photographer does have a legal claim to the copyright.

What do you think? Should the copyright for the image belong to Slater?

1. Why does Slater believe he should own the copyright to the image?
2. Why does Wikimedia say that the image should be available for free?
3. Do you think the copyright for the image should belong to Slater? Why or why not?

I think slater shouldn't own the rights to the photo because of the fact no one can prove either side. They should just drop the whole thing an except the mirical event.
Posted by: Alyssah . | January 13, 2015 at 4:10 PM
Slater believes he should own the picture because it was taken by his camera that he set up. Because the monkey took the picture of himself, not slater. Yes, because it was taken on his camera.
Posted by: Vanessa S. | January 15, 2015 at 2:57 PM
I think the copyright should belong to Slater. This is because if he had not been in Indonesia, the monkey would not have taken the selfie.
Posted by: Ryan N. | January 28, 2015 at 2:54 PM
this would have never happened if the photographer wasn't there he should get the rights , if a unattended camera with a motion activated sensor qualifies then so should this camera and its owner
Posted by: lauraS . | February 6, 2015 at 3:05 PM
When the monkey can get him or herself to Best Buy and purchase a camera...then take and edit the picture; he or she would own the copyright.
Posted by: Gil V. | February 17, 2015 at 3:37 PM
Honestly, this is the dumbest thing that I have ever seen. The monkey didn't know what he was doing. at least that is what I think. Why would a state of the of the art photographer take a selfie around monkeys in Indonesia. I think the monkey was put up to it because... 1. The monkey lives in an Indonesian Jungle. 2. The photographer thought he would make money off of this. 3. Monkeys are very intelligent.
Posted by: ChanninF . | February 17, 2015 at 3:38 PM
let people see it for free.
Posted by: Richard H. | February 17, 2015 at 3:39 PM
1 vote for Slater 2 votes for the monkey 1 vote for Wikimedia in our art class
Posted by: suzic . | February 18, 2015 at 2:52 PM
With all due respect, I don't think Wikimedia has the right to the photo. Slater did bring the camera all the way out into the Indonesian Jungle to take pictures of the beautiful creatures. The monkey wouldn't have been able to take the picture if Slater hadn't set up the camera so he could. In all rights, I think Slater owns the selfie.
Posted by: Cassie C. | March 5, 2015 at 4:19 PM
Does it really matter who took the picture? It was on Slater's camera, and he deserves the credit for the picture even if he technically didn't take it. Who gave the monkey the camera? Who went to Indonesia to take photos of the monkeys?
Posted by: Bianca G. | March 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM

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