If a monkey takes a photo in a forest and no one is around to get its consent form signed was it given? This is the argument currently being had between Wikipedia and David Slater (the man who gave the world the monkey selfie). Photographers should pay attention as it may bubble over from a boisterous radio debate into a wider challenge on the notion of copyright in the international digital age.
DPReview picked up on an article originally in Britain’s The Telegraph about Slater asking the image be removed from Wikimedia’s free image collection. Slater released the image to high light the illegal trade of bush meat after a monkey threatened with extinction ‘borrowed’ his camera. Wikimedia did not oblige instead setting their position out quite clearly against Slater:
‘a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable.’
First round Wikimedia. But, a heated ding-dong debate ensued on BBC radio between the photographer and a Wikimedia spokesperson, it was revealled that Wikipedia was acting in relation to US law and Slater is complaining under UK law. International Intellectual Property Rights lawyers must at this moment be poised by their telephones hoping this will become a full blown legal ding dong. And Slater appears to have a point, until he mentions a grander conspiracy among Wikipedia’s rulers. That aside the case raises some interesting questions for debate among the photographic community.
Some excellent points are being made on DPReview about the potential implications of this spat from whether this implies an animal trigger a camera with trip wire would count in Wikimedia’s evaluation. If so, good luck National Geographic. However user CHJ may have hit the nail on the head with his point of view on the case.
Excellent points. The origin of the photo is definitely owed to a human being. Regardless of the fact that the monkey was holding the camera at the time. The photo would never have been produced without all the conditions the human set up, including retrieving the camera and converting the data into an image. The monkey held a camera. The photographer produced a photo.
What do you think? Can a monkey have copyright?