Proprietary Primate: Wikipedia Says Monkey Owns Copyright to ‘Selfie’

by Ian Tuttle

Monkey business — or legitimate copyright claim?

In Indonesia in 2011 a female crested black macaque hijacked the camera of British nature photographer David Slater and proceeded to snap hundreds of photos — among them several selfies, photos of himself, one of which made worldwide headlines and the animal’s Wikipedia page. Slater, citing royalty losses, has tried to have the photograph removed from the site. The Telegraph reports:

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained to Wikimedia [the U.S.-based non-profit that hosts Wikipedia] that  that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that Mr Slater has no claim on the image as the monkey itself took the picture.

Slater is attempting to take the matter to court — at a likely cost of more than $15,000. Slater believes the copyright should be his, since he made possible all of the conditions for the photograph. But Wikimedia’s editors disagree, contending that monkey owns the copyright, or that the image should be in the public domain.

Below is the contested photo as it appears in the Wikimedia database:

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