back to top

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

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

Posted on

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.

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.

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.

commons.wikimedia.org

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?

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

"The monkey owns the copyright" - a ridiculous interpretation of copyright law http://t.co/5ZmI3KKHP9 #photography #photographer

nigelnicholas.com@nigel_nicholas

"The monkey owns the copyright" - a ridiculous interpretation of copyright law http://t.co/5ZmI3KKHP9 #photography #photographer

2:22 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

this is how planet of the apes started http://t.co/OepdTKh9GK

Andrew Webster@A_Webster

this is how planet of the apes started http://t.co/OepdTKh9GK

2:40 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

"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

"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

1:45 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

2:29 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Boris Watch@BorisWatch

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

12:54 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Jonathan Beeston@searchbeest

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

2:38 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

alexmatchett@alexmatchett

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

2:31 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

John Burger@johndburger

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

2:33 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

deb louison lavoy@deb_lavoy

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

2:38 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

2:24 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

mallo@mallorydoe

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

2:21 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Ed Jefferson@edjeff

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

2:30 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Jules Mattsson@julesmattsson

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

1:16 PM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss