How many of you remember the story of UK photographer, David J. Slater? For those who don’t, Slater has, for years now, been embroiled in a copyright battle relating to the infamous “monkey selfie”. Back in 2011, he travelled to Indonesia with the intention of capturing the Celebes crested macaque, an old world monkey native to the islands of the region. While among the animals, Slater attached his camera to a tripod and purposefully left a remote trigger nearby. At some point, a female macaque came across the remote trigger and several images were captured, the most famous of which would come to be known as the aforementioned ‘monkey selfie’.
Cute, right? The problem is, who is entitled to the copyright? Is it the macaque: the one who actually captured the image? Or is it Slater: the one who actually went to the location of the macaques and provided the camera, the remote shutter, and set up the conditions whereby the end result was possible? Or does the photo remain in the public domain due to the fact that a macaque is not a person and Slater didn’t create the photo by definition?
In today’s era of social media, where creative content is shared liberally and often without proper attribution, for many, copyright law can be confusing at best and at worst, disregarded entirely. The good folks at Clifton Cameras have put together a helpful infographic which explains copyright in a very simple and digestible manner. See below:
** note: As of 2016, a US federal judge has ruled that an animal cannot have a legitimate ownership claim to a copyright. The issue will advance to Congress. Slater continues to own the copyright to the image in the UK, which he believes should be honoured worldwide.
Who do YOU believe should be entitled to claim rightful ownership of the monkey selfie?