Thursday, August 07, 2014

Hey, hey, they're the monkeys!

And people say they monkey around!
Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it should own the copyright. 
I say that if the macaque doesn't want the picture up on Wikipedia, she should have her lawyer contact them. She pushed the button, after all. (And if the macaque doesn't, then who does? I submit that nobody does.)


Kristophr said...

So I don't own game camera footage because the deer tripped the motion sensor?


These retards need to be beaten senseless in court.

Tam said...


Fair question. Who holds copyright to the security footage from the Kwik-E-Mart, I wonder?

Robb Allen said...

Tam, that one can be answered "Whoever hit 'record'"

However, who owns the photo when a bullet trips a light-beam for its mid-flight glamor shot? The bullet?

Paul said...

I say let the monkey have it. We could do worse.

Sklutch said...

I suspect that, if you've set up an auto-trigger, that you can claim ownership of imagery, but if a physical contact is required, the initiator of the contact is considered the owner, even if the equipment isn't owned by them. The standard cry of the photog is "I took the picture!" when declaring ownership, not "I own the camera!" That seems to be more of a business/corporate angle.

What is the protocol for rental cameras?

Yrro said...

David Post at the VC seems to think it's a pretty clear win for Wikipedia.

Not sure about the deer cam, but I think your intent would matter. You set up a sensor to be tripped. In this case, the monkey just stole the camera and figured out how to use it.

Anonymous said...

The monkey was in control of the camera, it composed the picture and it hit the button, that monkey owns that picture. With your game camera you placed the camera and set it to take a picture when there is motion, you own those pictures.


Scout26 said...

So if I steal your camera, use it to take pictures, then you recover your camera print/post the pictures I took including one which makes the world oh and ah over, I own that image? Wouldn't that be like fruit from the poisoned tree? I would think a crime (theft, whether committed by an animal or person) would render all claims of ownership null and void.

But hey, I'm just using common sense.

Sigivald said...

I'm pretty sure that the owner of the camera owns the copyright, in cases where a non-human or automated system "presses the button".

(Such as the "game camera" example above, or any number of tripwire or programmatic trigger systems.)

At least I suspect it's analogous to "work for hire", where the macaque was using the owner's equipment to take a picture "for him"; until we determine macaque sapience and authorial possibility, it cannot be the author and thus cannot own the copyright.

(See 17 USC 201(b).)

Anonymous said...

A new field of litigation has arrived--primate rights!

No doubt Chicago-Kent will be a leader in this dynamic new area of practice. Excuse while I e-mail the dean.

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

I was going to make a joke about "ownership of the camera" meaning AT&T holds the copyright on half the iSelfies in America, but then I remembered my Lakota name...

Rick C said...

How long until someone comes along and points out that non-humans don't have property rights. This could be seen as the thin end of the wedge for those kooks who want to give other hominids full recognition as human.

Mark Philip Alger said...

Not interested at this point who pushed the shutter button, Wikimedia manifestly cannot demonstrate that it DOES have the right distribute the picture, therefor, it does NOT.

However, on the shutter-pushing front, I would bet a case could be made that, since the photog owned the equipment that the monkey was acting in lieu of an employee and thus the picture is a work-for-hire.

Unless the monkey wants to claim it was operating as an independent freelance contractor, IWC, perhaps, the IRS may want to stick an oar in. [TIC]


Tam said...

I mean, we know who didn't take the picture.

And as everyone points out, the monkey is not a human; does a non-human have a legal right to contest the matter?

Charlie Foxtrot said...

As the monkey - and I - have proven, any idiot can take a picture. Copyright rests with the one that enabled up the shot - the photog.

Sheesh, any monkey could figure that out.

Paul said...

Lakota name? Now that is interesting.

The rest is all monkey shines.

Geodkyt said...

The monkey cannot hold copyright. Period.

I would argue that the lawful owner of the equipment has a good claim for ownership of copyright, if anyone does.

But you could just as easily argue that the picture is public domain.

Anonymous said...

The image did not exist as anything other than pixels until the camera owner "processed" it and published it. Therefore, he can claim copyright to that version of the pic. He may not have tripped the shutter, but he created the resulting photo.

If he wants to sue for infringement, he needs to register the photo with the US Copyright Office and have it deposited in the Library of Congress.

Wikipedia is claiming that the image is in the public domain to justify keeping it posted. I don't think a jury would buy their argument, especially since they typically have a hair-trigger* response whenever anybody else claims copyright infringement against them.

*note the clever reference to Tam's blog.

Anonymous said...

My previous comment applied to US copyright law. Slater, the photographer, is a Brit and the copyright law over there may be different. He could probably still register it in the US, though.

Fudgie Ghost said...

Everyone knows they were too busy singing, to put anybody down. .

staghounds said...

If an artist stole a box of paints, brushes, and a canvas from me and painted a picture with them, would he own the image? What if it were my paints, Tam's brushes, and he bought the canvas at a shop?

I believe in either case it's the thief's image for copyright purposes. (Not ownership of the paint and canvas, though, and the owner of the brushes probably has some quantum meruit claim too.)

My analysis is that the arrangement of pixels in the "photograph" is presumptively his, since he produced it by pulling it out of storage in his camera.

BUT, I believe copyright has to be asserted by claim of authorship. His admission that he did not conceive or create the actual image, means that he can't get a truthful copyright filing into Court.

It's public domain, since no one can get into court to say "it's mine".

And a great bar examination question.