No, Wikipedia Doesn’t Think A Monkey Owns The Copyright On This Selfie

“This is how Planet of the Apes started.” Or maybe not.

1. A monkey took this selfie in Indonesia in 2011.

David Slater/Caters

The crested black macaque managed to take the picture after playing around with British photographer David Slater’s equipment.

2. The monkey selfie is currently the centre of a copyright row between Wikipedia and Slater – supposedly on the grounds that Wikipedia thinks the monkey owns the copyright to the photo.

David Slater/Caters

Slater, who owned the camera that the picture was taken on, claims the copyright is his, and demanded that Wikipedia remove the image, as revealed in the transparency report released today by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that has oversight of Wikipedia and related projects. Wikimedia refused his demand.

Slater seems to be the source of the claim that Wikipedia thinks the copyright belongs to the monkey. “If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me, that’s their basic argument,” he told The Telegraph.

3. But that’s not true. The Wikipedia page is very clear that they think nobody owns the copyright. Because monkeys can’t own the copyright on things.

Wikipedia’s argument is simply that Slater cannot own the copyright, because (despite the camera being his) he didn’t create the picture himself. When Slater first sold the picture around the world in 2011, he was very clear that the picture came about by accident.

The case – which Slater suggests he is planning to bring to court – raises some interesting questions. How much intent does a photographer have to have to capture a specific image before they can claim copyright on it? Would this be different if, say, Slater had deliberately set up a tripwire or light trap to trigger the camera when a monkey moved into frame?

Equally, does simply owning the tools a picture was produced with (in this case, the camera) mean you own the copyright? Does the owner of a wall get the copyright to graffiti painted on it? If you borrow somebody’s paints and brushes to create a painting, do they have part of the copyright?

4. The interesting debate hasn’t stopped those on Twitter expressing their shock at the suggestion a monkey could own the copyright to something.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for goo... HOW CAN A MONKEY OWN THE COPYRIGHT TO HIS SELFIE?" ~ Twitter, Every Single Day

— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex)

Even if they use stolen equipment, the fact is that monkeys own the rights to their selfies. http://t.co/hHJXLBqtbO Yes. Really.

— J. Graeme Noseworthy (@graemeknows)

RT if you'd prefer to have the selfie-taking monkey as Prime Minister than Boris Johnson

— Boris Watch (@BorisWatch)

Wikimedia completely wrong on this > Wikipedia refuses to delete photo as 'monkey owns it' http://t.co/JT6LEJfyU4

— Jonathan Beeston (@searchbeest)

MONKEY APES PHOTOGRAPHER- easily the best story today- http://t.co/F1puIrQGTD #monkeyingaround #monkeyselfie

— alexmatchett (@alexmatchett)

The Internet is actually just a giant experiment to make us rethink our ideas about intellectual property. http://t.co/fVaEFczl8q

— John Burger (@johndburger)

so animal rights>corporate>human? mT @Sparkes: Wikimedia decides monkey, not photographer owns copyright http://t.co/zb9LA6OZmx #hmm

— deb louison lavoy (@deb_lavoy)

Does @Wikipedia intend to pay the money to the Monkey who owns Copyright? If they argue DJ Slater dont @Telegraph http://t.co/AC2GdhvQ1a

— Stefan Lindblad (@StefanLindblad)

oh what a brilliant victory for animal rights, wikipedia. so did the monkey release the photo for your use then

— mallo (@mallorydoe)

i hope there's a session about monkey copyright at the wikipedia conference

— Ed Jefferson (@edjeff)

I like copyright, I like monkeys. This is an amusing day.

— Jules Mattsson (@julesmattsson)

17. Sigh.

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Richard James is the UK news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Tom Phillips is the UK editorial director for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
 
  Your Reaction?
 

    Contributions

    Now Buzzing