Who Holds the Copyright on Photographs Taken by Monkeys?
by Alanna Bennett | 11:02 am, July 8th, 2011
By now you’ve probably all seen the above picture, a self-portrait taken by a macaque monkey after it stole the camera from award winning nature photographer David Slater. Now that the photograph has spread through the internet like wildfire, questions are being raised about who legally holds copyright over the photo–Slater, or the monkey?
If we’re going to be technical about it, most copyright belongs to whoever made the actual work in question. That is, if you ask a stranger on the street to take a photo of you and your family on vacation, the stranger technically holds the copyright over any photos they snapped. This is almost never enforced, but now with a strange increase in works of photography or film taken by monkeys (a while back there was a movie filmed entirely by chimpanzees), the question is being asked.
If a work is produced not by humans, do the animals in question hold rightful claim over the copyright? Tech Dirt points out that, while the self-portrait in question shows no copyright notice, but there are two other photos (presumably also taken by the monkeys) which do bear copyright notice.
So how did they get there? Logically, the answer is that Slater submitted the photos to the agency, which would make sense in all but the most technical of ways. But what would the monkeys think of this?