"Monkey Selfie" Erupts into Copyright Battle on Wikipedia

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"Monkey Selfie" Erupts into Copyright Battle on Wikipedia

The Wikimedia Foundation claims that photographer David Slater does not own the copyright to the picture of the crested black macaque since the monkey grabbed his camera and snapped the photo itself.

Hundreds of selfies show up across social networks every day, but rarely do they lead to copyright suits. Or involve monkeys. Needless to say, there's a barrel-full of weird circumstances in the case of David Slater, who claims Wikipedia and its parent company cost him thousands for improper use of his photographs.

First, some background - in 2011, wildlife photographer Slater took a trip to Indonesia to take some pictures of crested black macaque monkeys. During this trip, one of the curious apes took hold of Slater's camera and took a couple pictures of itself. The photos went viral, as things involving monkeys on the internet generally do, and eventually ended up on two branches of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedia and public domain photo hosting site Wikimedia Commons.

Slater asked Wikimedia to remove the photos, stating he owned the copyright, but Wikimedia had a different take. Since Slater didn't actually take the monkey's picture, there is no copyright to enforce, they stated, and they may use them freely.

In speaking with the Huffington Post, Slater said he was "angry" and "aggravated" by Wikimedia's actions, before accusing Wikipedia's editors of having "a communistic view of life."

"It's potentially being run by people with political agendas," Slater said of Wikipedia. "The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin ... They're using whatever suits their agenda."

He urged people to stop using Wikipedia. "It's important to tell people that Wikipedia should be not used as a source of truth," he said.

A spokeswoman for Wikimedia sent the following statement to the Huffington Post on the matter:

We take these assessments very seriously, and researched both sides of the argument. We didn't think the monkey owned the copyright -- instead, our assessment was that there's no one who owns the copyright. That means that the image falls into the public domain.

Under US law, for example, copyright claims cannot vest in to non-human authors (that is, non-human authors can't own copyrights). It's clear the monkey was the photographer. 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.

Because the monkey took the picture, it means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain.

In a separate interview with the BBC, Slater estimated he had lost somewhere in the neighborhood of £10,000 in income from the photo being made public domain. The debate over the picture resurfaced earlier this week after the Wikimedia Foundation published its first transparency report, following the lead of other tech companies like Google.

Source: The Huffington Post, BBC

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This is fucking great.

Seriously, one of the lines here in an official statement (by an actual spokesperson) says "It's clear the monkey was the photographer."

Monkey takes picture, its public domain. The man's tryin to hold down the monkey once again...

SKBPinkie:
This is fucking great.

Seriously, one of the lines here in an official statement (by an actual spokesperson) says "It's clear the monkey was the photographer."

I don't know if I should be angry or sad. But I do know I'm laughing my ass off.

BlameTheWizards:

First, some background - in 2011, wildlife photographer Slater took a trip to Indonesia to take some pictures of crested black macaque monkeys. During this trip, one of the curious apes took hold of Slater's camera and took a couple pictures of itself.

You make it sound like a casual accident in which the monkey just happened to grab his camera and accidentally pressed a button (like the Elephant that took a selfie when it picked up someone's dropped phone).

David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie. First it took him days of living with the monkeys to ingratiate himself with the pack and to be accepted as one of their own, as a pack member (or at least as not a threat), then he carefully composed the shot, set the camera up on a tripod and ensured it would take a good, in focus and well composed self portrait when the button was pressed, then finally he encouraged the monkeys to press the button, the last piece in the puzzle and arguably the least skilled and important aspect of the whole endeavour, more of a formality than anything.

I think that attempting to disown a photographer from the fruits of their labours because they didn't physically press the button that took the shot is disingenuous and could set a troubling precedent for all photographers that employ automatic or remote recording techniques. A lot of the best wildlife and nature photographs are captured by cameras that employ motion sensors or timers to take pictures where it would not be practical for the photographer to physically press the button for a single shot, but that doesn't detract from all their skill and effort in setting up the shot beforehand.

Who trys to sue Wikimedia? Will you sue Sesame street than Mr Rogers next?

Jamash:
David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie. First it took him days of living with the monkeys to ingratiate himself with the pack and to be accepted as one of their own, as a pack member (or at least as not a threat), then he carefully composed the shot, set the camera up on a tripod and ensured it would take a good, in focus and well composed self portrait when the button was pressed, then finally he encouraged the monkeys to press the button, the last piece in the puzzle and arguably the least skilled and important aspect of the whole endeavour, more of a formality than anything.

That's not exactly the story he gave originally:

"They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.

"The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.

"He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn't worked that out yet.

If he can prove the photo was orchestrated, not happenstance, he ought to win the court case. I'm not sure Wikimedia was really in the wrong by taking story at face value, though.

These are the problems that matter.

Wow. This is almost as hilarious as SOE hosting a Planetside 2 tournament at SOE Live.

And how realistic is it that hes claiming £10k damages? When the photo went viral he had effectively lost control of it whether he admits it or not.

I for one hope that the monkey sues both Wikimedia and Slater, if only those shitty copyright laws didn't deny hard working monkeys of their intellectual property rights!

In speaking with the Huffington Post, Slater said he was "angry" and "aggravated" by Wikimedia's actions, before accusing Wikipedia's editors of having "a communistic view of life."

Classy. The best way to win an argument is to shout louder, if that doesn't work then accuse your opponent of being Hitler/Communists/The Devil/French (delete as appropriate).

Jamash:

BlameTheWizards:

First, some background - in 2011, wildlife photographer Slater took a trip to Indonesia to take some pictures of crested black macaque monkeys. During this trip, one of the curious apes took hold of Slater's camera and took a couple pictures of itself.

You make it sound like a casual accident in which the monkey just happened to grab his camera and accidentally pressed a button (like the Elephant that took a selfie when it picked up someone's dropped phone).

David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie. First it took him days of living with the monkeys to ingratiate himself with the pack and to be accepted as one of their own, as a pack member (or at least as not a threat), then he carefully composed the shot, set the camera up on a tripod and ensured it would take a good, in focus and well composed self portrait when the button was pressed, then finally he encouraged the monkeys to press the button, the last piece in the puzzle and arguably the least skilled and important aspect of the whole endeavour, more of a formality than anything.

I think that attempting to disown a photographer from the fruits of their labours because they didn't physically press the button that took the shot is disingenuous and could set a troubling precedent for all photographers that employ automatic or remote recording techniques. A lot of the best wildlife and nature photographs are captured by cameras that employ motion sensors or timers to take pictures where it would not be practical for the photographer to physically press the button for a single shot, but that doesn't detract from all their skill and effort in setting up the shot beforehand.

I gave this some thought, and I don't think (even if this version of his story is true) that he should have the copyright. The act of photography which can make it an art form or from which a photographer can derive a claim of ownership is the capturing of an image. It's that actual act of capturing the image which exercises authorship. And that requires the photographer to control when the image is taken. If he had set up the camera on a timer or had activated it remotely then obviously he would have ownership of the image, but in this case I don't think so.

From another viewpoint it's the camera manufacturer who puts in the most work to design and build a camera, but clearly they don't own the copyright to every image taken by one of their cameras. Arguably the designer and manufacturer does all the hard work before a photographer uses one to simply take a picture.

Jamash:

BlameTheWizards:

First, some background - in 2011, wildlife photographer Slater took a trip to Indonesia to take some pictures of crested black macaque monkeys. During this trip, one of the curious apes took hold of Slater's camera and took a couple pictures of itself.

You make it sound like a casual accident in which the monkey just happened to grab his camera and accidentally pressed a button (like the Elephant that took a selfie when it picked up someone's dropped phone).

David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie. First it took him days of living with the monkeys to ingratiate himself with the pack and to be accepted as one of their own, as a pack member (or at least as not a threat), then he carefully composed the shot, set the camera up on a tripod and ensured it would take a good, in focus and well composed self portrait when the button was pressed, then finally he encouraged the monkeys to press the button, the last piece in the puzzle and arguably the least skilled and important aspect of the whole endeavour, more of a formality than anything.

I think that attempting to disown a photographer from the fruits of their labours because they didn't physically press the button that took the shot is disingenuous and could set a troubling precedent for all photographers that employ automatic or remote recording techniques. A lot of the best wildlife and nature photographs are captured by cameras that employ motion sensors or timers to take pictures where it would not be practical for the photographer to physically press the button for a single shot, but that doesn't detract from all their skill and effort in setting up the shot beforehand.

Where did you get all this? Because Yal's news article (dated 11 of July 2011) is a little different.

I'm not sure what his end game is anyways. It's a digitalized photograph, it's not like he can just delete it from the Internet, without suing the thousands of news sites that now cited the picture. (and honestly, not even if he does sue them).

image

Slater's attempt to slander Wikipedia is some truly excellent comedy.

"They are COMMIES! They might be sheltering HITLER! Their website is full of LIES!"

Jamash:

I think that attempting to disown a photographer from the fruits of their labours because they didn't physically press the button that took the shot is disingenuous and could set a troubling precedent for all photographers that employ automatic or remote recording techniques.

To be honest, I wouldn't mind if ALL photographs would be Public Domain.

I'm sure that there are photographers who put a lot of work into their content, but the raw action of photography itself, is *not* a creative process, compared to how even the shittiest novel's writing, or the shittiest video game's coding, is.

With billions of photographs taken all the time all around the world, and making up a large part of our online communication as they can be duplicated with a single copy+paste, it is simple not realistic to treat them as anything else than pieces of communication, the simple and obvious recording of facts with no intent at original creation.

If some people want to pursue it on an artistic level, that's all right. Some people also design cloths, or invent recipes on an artistic level too. And they are getting by without those being copyrightable.

The "art of photography" is not some endangered activity that needs massive regulatory protection and financial incentivization, any more than "the art of cooking" is.

Its an interesting argument on wikipedias side. And this doesn't seem like they were out to rip anyone off. Especially as Slater has told multiple version of events about how the monkey took the photo. That the animals were mischievous and did it accidentally or that he carefully staged it to get the monkeys to take photos. That hardly helps his credibility.

And him comment "It's potentially being run by people with political agendas," Slater said of Wikipedia. "The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin ... They're using whatever suits their agenda." Just makes him seem like a crackpot.

I'd say he has an uphill battle winning this lawsuit.

Ed130 The Vanguard:

Jamash:

BlameTheWizards:

First, some background - in 2011, wildlife photographer Slater took a trip to Indonesia to take some pictures of crested black macaque monkeys. During this trip, one of the curious apes took hold of Slater's camera and took a couple pictures of itself.

You make it sound like a casual accident in which the monkey just happened to grab his camera and accidentally pressed a button (like the Elephant that took a selfie when it picked up someone's dropped phone).

David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie. First it took him days of living with the monkeys to ingratiate himself with the pack and to be accepted as one of their own, as a pack member (or at least as not a threat), then he carefully composed the shot, set the camera up on a tripod and ensured it would take a good, in focus and well composed self portrait when the button was pressed, then finally he encouraged the monkeys to press the button, the last piece in the puzzle and arguably the least skilled and important aspect of the whole endeavour, more of a formality than anything.

I think that attempting to disown a photographer from the fruits of their labours because they didn't physically press the button that took the shot is disingenuous and could set a troubling precedent for all photographers that employ automatic or remote recording techniques. A lot of the best wildlife and nature photographs are captured by cameras that employ motion sensors or timers to take pictures where it would not be practical for the photographer to physically press the button for a single shot, but that doesn't detract from all their skill and effort in setting up the shot beforehand.

Where did you get all this? Because Yal's news article (dated 11 of July 2011) is a little different.

I got this from a recent BBC article:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-28674167:

"I became accepted as part of the troop, they touched me and groomed me... so I thought they could take their own photograph.

"I set the camera up on a tripod, framed [the shot] up and got the exposure right... and all you've got to do is give the monkey the button to press and lo and behold you got the picture."

It does seem like he has changed his story, although I wasn't aware of his previous version of accounts.

I suppose this could make the precedent even worse for wildlife and nature photographers, that is if his most recent version of events that he is arguing his case on and in which he is embellishing his own involvement, is defeated in court, and sets a legal precedent for all future photography copyright claims.

"It's potentially being run by people with political agendas," Slater said of Wikipedia. "The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin ... They're using whatever suits their agenda."

He urged people to stop using Wikipedia. "It's important to tell people that Wikipedia should be not used as a source of truth," he said.

holy godwin's law batman, it reminds me of this

image

yup, sharing knowledge is basically like being one of the worst mass murderers in the history of human kind, honestly hitler means nothing at this point

Jamash:
David Slater's main argument is that it took him a lot of effort and planning to set up those shots and to encourage the monkey to take a selfie.

That's only when he tried to recreate the incident. The first time time monkey took his camera and took the pics completely on its own.

lacktheknack:
"They are COMMIES! They might be sheltering HITLER! Their website is full of LIES!"

We really should sue the Moon for harboring Hitler these past 70 years at the secret Nazi base. Extradition NOW!

On the subject of the picture, I'm kind of torn. I understand where both sides are coming from, but I lost all sympathy for the photographer when he alluded to a vast political conspiracy to deny him a paycheck. Invoking Hitler and Stalin was more than a little tacky - good luck to him in his crusade to convince people to abandon Wikipedia after that.

BlameTheWizards:
In speaking with the Huffington Post, Slater said he was "angry" and "aggravated" by Wikimedia's actions, before accusing Wikipedia's editors of having "a communistic view of life."

"It's potentially being run by people with political agendas," Slater said of Wikipedia. "The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin ... They're using whatever suits their agenda."

He urged people to stop using Wikipedia. "It's important to tell people that Wikipedia should be not used as a source of truth," he said.

This is probably the most ridiculous part of it all.

Is this ten thousand dollars hypothetical money? Tsk tsk.

Alterego-X:
I'm sure that there are photographers who put a lot of work into their content, but the raw action of photography itself, is *not* a creative process, compared to how even the shittiest novel's writing, or the shittiest video game's coding, is.

I'm sorry, but this statement is simply not true at all. You can't determine the validity of a creative process based on how much effort it requires. And even if you could, the best photographers put as much time and effort into learning and perfecting their craft, and getting their shots as any writer or coder does. And what they do is clearly creative. So at what amount of work does photography transition from being uncreative to creative? Same question would apply to anything else deemed creative as well. That it's impossible to define it only further invalidates your statement.

Now I would happily say to anyone who will listen that there are a lot of problems with copyright, and many of those problems stem from the fact that the laws predate modern technology, and in many ways no longer make sense. But you can't make any kind of reasoned argument about why photography isn't creative, but writing or coding are. There's simply no objective ground to stand on there.

CriticalMiss:
I for one hope that the monkey sues both Wikimedia and Slater, if only those shitty copyright laws didn't deny hard working monkeys of their intellectual property rights!

In speaking with the Huffington Post, Slater said he was "angry" and "aggravated" by Wikimedia's actions, before accusing Wikipedia's editors of having "a communistic view of life."

Classy. The best way to win an argument is to shout louder, if that doesn't work then accuse your opponent of being Hitler/Communists/The Devil/French (delete as appropriate).

That is kind of what I got from it.

We all know what Hitler and Stalin did, unbelievably evil people and you just compared them to a company that used your picture and wont pay you? Jesus Christ! Godwins law certainly applies here!

Vivi22:

I'm sorry, but this statement is simply not true at all. You can't determine the validity of a creative process based on how much effort it requires.

It's not so much about effort, as in time, or physical work, but about intent.

Let's not even talk about a novel, just about writing a poem.

Theoretically, I could scribble down a shitty little limerick, about as quickly as one could turn on a mobile camera, point it towards the mildly amusing thing they have found, and take a picture of it.

But the former inherently expresses a desire to express new ideas and produce a work that wasn't there before, while on it's own, the latter is just a practical, utilitarian action of archiving the reality that you see, with a machine.

OF COURSE Professional artistic photographers can be very creative, but the creativity is not expressed by the action of taking photogaphs, but by the surrounding behavior, and THAT can't be copyrighted.

Just like you can't copyright the difference between a single mom trying to put together some edible dinner, and a master chef creatively expressing himself. The former is clearly a purely utilitarian behavior, and the latter is an artistic one, therefore we shouldn't copyright the idea of mixing ingerdients into a food, because it's not a creative action in and of itself.

Vivi22:

you can't make any kind of reasoned argument about why photography isn't creative, but writing or coding are. There's simply no objective ground to stand on there.

The fact that monkeys can't write poems or code games, (not even shitty ones), but they can take photographs, shows that the former two inherently require the creative vision of a human, while the latter is, at it's simplest, the mindless recording of facts.

That some artists find rituals that turn the purely utilitarian recording into an art form is interesting and admirable, but there is no way to give THOSE copyright without also giving it to the billions of photos that were made with about as much creative oversight as this monkey's one. If I had to choose, I would much rather choose a world where Wikipedia (and other sites) can freely use any photograph, than one where Internet comunication gets stunted just to make life slightly easier for the few people whose pictures happen to have artistic intent.

CriticalMiss:
I for one hope that the monkey sues both Wikimedia and Slater, if only those shitty copyright laws didn't deny hard working monkeys of their intellectual property rights!

In speaking with the Huffington Post, Slater said he was "angry" and "aggravated" by Wikimedia's actions, before accusing Wikipedia's editors of having "a communistic view of life."

Classy. The best way to win an argument is to shout louder, if that doesn't work then accuse your opponent of being Hitler/Communists/The Devil/French (delete as appropriate).

Ever since I read the story about this lovable old lady getting her face and hands ripped off by a chimpanzee, I can't help but get a sour taste in my mouth enever I sees me un of em primate kins.

You damn dirty apes.. return to the world from whence you came and stop meddling in noble human business! *double fist shake at the sky*

Honestly though if that picture was such a big deal for Slater, then I don't understand why he didn't just claim "silly me, did I say the monkey grabbed the camera? I totally took it myself of course, ehem..", I doubt the monkey would have objected.

Judging by his behavior in the media shit storm he stirred up.. he probably was afraid he'd get sued by the monkey and so resorted to plan B: Public fecal fight.

Alterego-X:
I'm not sure what his end game is anyways. It's a digitalized photograph, it's not like he can just delete it from the Internet, without suing the thousands of news sites that now cited the picture. (and honestly, not even if he does sue them).

Royalties from all commercial sites, and physical publications that use the picture. Instead of a fat load of nothing for his work.

Cerebrawl:

Royalties from all commercial sites, and physical publications that use the picture. Instead of a fat load of nothing for his work.

Doubt that. Wikipedia, with which this started, is not a commercial site, they don't pay royalties for anything, but use Public Domain and Fair Use pictures, yet the whole thing started with him wanting to take it down from there.

Absolutely ridiculous. Who cares? I am dumber by even knowing this is a thing. Sorry.

"It's potentially being run by people with political agendas. The people who are editing it could be a new Adolf Hitler or a new Stalin ... They're using whatever suits their agenda." --David Slater

This guy is delusional. He talks like editing Wikipedia is grooming people to become genocidal maniacs. Of course Wikipedia editors could be anybody, but they could be the next Einstein, Gandhi or Ansel Adams too.

Legally, I don't think he has a leg to stand on. I know he's argued that the monkey was his assistant in his employ, so he owns the work of his employees (http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/selfie-monkey-was-my-assistant-legal-battle-photographer-says-n174781). Of course if monkeys were doing my own job better than me, I'd be feeling anxious about my economic prospects too.

Asked my lawyer mum's opinion of this and she said that he probably owns the copyright because it was his equipment, he was the one that trekked into the jungle and worked hard to get close to the monkeys, he set up the camera. It is a result of his hard work and not just a monkey taking a picture.

If he had set up a camera in the jungle with a motion detector to trigger it then there would be no question about the copyright.

And this case is why I don't bother with wikipedia anymore because everyone there is just a differant kind of arsehole and the admins are mad with power and just abuse it tremendously

This is the kind of tabloid journalism I love: monkey takes picture, copyright battle ensues.

To every single person who says the copyright laws are awful. You are 100% correct.

Haha serves the dude right. He should have taken the photo if he wants to claim it as his own.

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