Monkey selfie

August 15th, 2014 | Category: Copyright

There has been quite a bit written recently about the case of a British photographer, David Slater, where a monkey took his camera and took a “selfie”. Wikimedia posted the photo, the photographer asked them to take it down because it is a copyrighted work, Wikimedia refused on the grounds that the monkey actually took the photo, so its not David Slater’s to copyright, and the monkey has no copy “rights”‘.

I won’t post the photo here, because I think the photographer owns it and the copyright.

I have two arguments:

1) a nature photographer sets up a camera in the woods, attached to a trip plate or a motion sensor. A deer enters the scene, stepping on the plate or triggering the photo from his motion. Technically, I suppose the deer took the photo. But is there anyone who would argue that the resulting photo (and it’s copyright) doesn’t belong to the nature photographer? What if you triggered a security camera in a store? Would you say that you own that picture and the store doesn’t, because they didn’t “take” the picture?

2) a thief steals a woman’s necklace, and using only components from the original necklace, re-cuts some of the stones, removes some items, and reassembles the result into a bracelet. When he attempts to sell the bracelet to a fence who is an undercover cop, he is arrested and he confesses everything. Who owns the bracelet? I think it is immaterial, based on artistic merit, whether the resulting bracelet is now only worth a fraction of what the necklace once was, or is worth hundreds of times the original; the bracelet clearly belongs to the original owner of the necklace. And that’s with a “work of art” created by a human being who knew what he was doing.

In other words, if I had stolen the photographer’s camera and taken a picture, I don’t think anyone would entertain this specious argument, even if the picture I took was better than any of his.

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