If a monkey takes your camera from you and snaps a selfie of itself, who owns the picture?
That is the question being argued right now after Wikipedia refused to remove a monkey selfie from its website. Nature photographer David Slater (who’s camera captured the image) requested it be taken down due to copyright infringement.
In 2011, David was in Indonesia trying to capture a perfect shot of the crested black macaque. He set up his camera on a tripod in the hopes that he could get a better shot of the monkeys if he was further away.
But then something unexpected happened: one of the more curious macaques went right up to his camera equipment to investigate. Then, it took the camera off the tripod and started snapping pictures. It ended up taking hundreds of selfies.
Though most of the pictures were blurry and out of focus, a few them were seriously incredible, including the now viral image of the smiling macaque below:
The problems began after Wikipedia uploaded the image to its Wikimedia Commons database. Wikimedia Commons is a collection of 23 million royalty-free images and videos that are free for public use online.
Earlier this year, Slater asked Wikipedia to remove the image, saying that he owned the copyright to the monkey selfie and that the image’s availability on Wikipedia was jeopardizing his opportunity to make money off of it.
But Wikipedia denied his request, saying that since the monkey was the one who actually took the picture, Slater can’t own the image. In their denial letter, Wikipedia said,
“To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they’d only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image. This means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain.”
They also said that “non-human authors” don’t have the right to automatically claim the copyrights to a photo just because it was taken using their equipment.
Slater disagrees with Wikipedia’s take on copyrights, but he also appealed to them as a photographer, pointing out that his work is extremely expensive and only produces an iconic shot (one which he can actually make money off of) every once in a while:
“That trip cost me about £2,000 [~$3,355] for that monkey shot. Not to mention the £5,000 [~$8,387] of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images. Photography is an expensive profession that’s being encroached upon. They’re taking our livelihoods away…
For every 10,000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images. It was like a year of work, really.”
Wikimedia’s editors are still divided on the issue. It’s most likely that the copyright debate will be solved in court.
Read the original story from The Telegraph here.