back to article US Copyright Office rules that monkeys CAN'T claim copyright over their selfies

The US Copyright Office has refused to register the copyright of the infamous selfie taken by a monkey. The Office said in its latest copyright law compendium (PDF) that images taken by animals, including the 2011 primate self-shot, could not be registered for copyright by a human. Monkey Selfie "The Office will not …

  1. Chris_B

    "unless a human took the image, it cannot be registered and, thus, would be considered a public domain image freely available for use"

    So If I set up a camera that has an infra-red trigger that is set off by an animal, that photo doesn't belong to me but to the animal that set it off and thus is in public domain?

    Nuts

    1. Jolyon Ralph

      > So If I set up a camera that has an infra-red trigger that is set off by an animal,

      Then you're fine because you have set up and targeted the camera, you have framed the shot as you want it to be. It's your copyright creation.

      In this particular and highly unusual case this did not happen. The photographer did not frame the shot or have any real creative input into how the shot would come out. He even claimed it was a lucky accident. As such, his involvement in creating the shot was pretty much limited to a) being in the right place at the right time and b) having the camera set up to take shots at the right exposure levels, etc - but as it was clearly set to autofocus and probably at least on either automatic exposure or automatic aperture setting (but none of us can tell that without the exif data) his argument for creative input on this is pretty week.

      Similarly, if you and your family are on holiday and ask a stranger to take your photo, you still tend to own copyright of the photo because the assumption is that you are setting up the shot yourself, you are in control of where you and your family stand and the stranger is little more than a 'meat tripod'. This is where that differs from hiring a professional photographer to take your family photo.

      The monkey example would be a bit analogous to you being on holiday, leave your camera on the table, someone runs up, takes your camera, takes a photo of themselves, and runs away. You wouldn't own the copyright in that case either. But then you'd probably just delete that picture (or pass it to the police!)

      1. Ole Juul

        . . . his involvement in creating the shot was pretty much limited to a) being in the right place at the right time and b) having the camera set up to take shots . . .

        That's how news photographers work. They take a lot of shots and hope that one will be a winner.

        1. Raumkraut

          > That's how news photographers work. They take a lot of shots and hope that one will be a winner.

          No, news photographers generally take the pictures themselves, while the camera is in their possession and under their control; not farm off the job to a bunch of monkeys.

          Oh wait, "citizen journalism", never mind.

          1. Mike Flugennock
            Mushroom

            re: "Citizen Journalism"

            I have university-level training in graphic design and illustration; my degree program also required a couple of semesters' study of film and photography. My degree is in design and illustration, though, not journalism.

            For the past fifteen years or so, I've been involved in editorial cartoon and video work for Washington, DC and other Indymedia and activist media outlets -- which, I guess, would make me a "citizen journalist".

            Most of the important images and video coming out of Ferguson, Missouri have been supplied not by CNNMSNBCFox, but by concerned citizens "on the ground" in Ferguson, shooting stills and video and transmitting live streams. They took on the job of telling the story of what's going on there when "professional" journalists either couldn't or wouldn't and, in many cases, actively worked to spread disinformation.

            I could list other examples of important news being broken by "citizen journalists", often in direct opposition to the de facto news blackouts imposed by the likes of CNNMSNBCFox, but I don't want to hog the thread.

            Get bent.

      2. hammarbtyp

        Almost, not quite

        I agree with most of your summary.

        However I am not convinced by your stranger analysis. If you give your camera to someone else, they are doing a lot more than being a "meat tripod" (Sorry have to giggle a little when saying that, you must go to a lot of porn conventions, that all I can say). They are framing the shot, deciding how far to stand etc. I think by the present laws, they would own the copyright.

        Similarly if you go on a photo shoot and take an assistant. Despite you setting up the shot, if they take it, they potentially could claim copyright. In these situations it is probably a good idea to have waiver forms for them to sign.

        Of course, getting strangers to sign waivers is a little bit over the top, and lets face it, a photo of your family is unlikely to have commercial value. But it does emphasis the knots copyright law can tie perfectly innocent acts into,

        1. MrXavia

          Re: Almost, not quite

          But if you ask a stranger to take a photo, they are working for YOU, you requested they take the shot... so its your copyright...

          So IF he had handed the camera to the Monkey and gave him a banana afterwards, then surely it would no longer have been an accident, it would be work for hire...

          But then again we are talking about the USA here, there is no sense in their courts.....

          1. hammarbtyp

            Re: Almost, not quite

            Unfortunately, like most things in life, unless there is a formal legal document in place saying that you requested someone to do it means squat. It would come down to their word against yours.

            Exhibit 1.

            http://photographersbusinesscoach.com/2012/05/02/who-owns-your-second-shootersassistants-photos/

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Almost, not quite

            "But if you ask a stranger to take a photo, they are working for YOU, you requested they take the shot... so its your copyright..."

            Nope. Copyright rests with the image-taker unless specifically signed away.

            Ditto copyright on work done under contract, which is why you'll find an assignation clause in almost every software development contract.

          3. Neil Lewis

            Re: Almost, not quite

            No, you don;t own the copyright of an image created by another person just by paying them, but only if they are your 'employee' in the sense that you are responsible for their tax and NI. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

            1. hammarbtyp

              Re: Almost, not quite

              "Why is this so hard for people to understand?"

              Maybe because on this basis, my employee would own any photos I took despite not being involved in anyway taking them.

              I am not aware that paying someone NI or being responsible for paying their tax in any way impinges on the employees personal rights unless they specifically signed away those rights in the employee contract they signed when joining the company.

              It maybe different if the companies primary purpose was taking photo's and the employee used resources owned by the company, but even then I would not be a 100% sure.

              1. Fibbles

                Re: Almost, not quite

                I am not aware that paying someone NI or being responsible for paying their tax in any way impinges on the employees personal rights unless they specifically signed away those rights in the employee contract they signed when joining the company.

                If you're not an contractor then the copyright belongs to your employer unless you've signed something that specifically states otherwise.

                http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy/c-ownership/c-employer.htm

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. hammarbtyp

                  Re: Almost, not quite

                  Fair point, although the term "in the course of his or her employment" is probably the operative term here. So just paying an employees NI or Tax is not in itself enough to own copyright.

                  Of course things maybe be different in other countries, so if your business is photography and you people help you take photos, it is still probably best to get a contract explicitly defining where copyright lies

          4. oiseau Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Almost, not quite

            > But then again we are talking about the USA here, there is no sense in their courts ...

            Indeed.

        2. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

          Re: Almost, not quite

          I guess the onus would be on the stranger to prove he took the pic. If push comes to shove I'd simply deny ever asking said stranger to take the shot.

        3. Neil Lewis

          Re: Almost, not quite

          If the assistant is an employee, i.e. their tax and NI is paid by the photographer, then no, the employer owns the copyright. That's clearly stated in current copyright law. If it's a 'freelance' i.e. casual employee or just a friend along for the shoot, then the situation would be more as you describe.

        4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Almost, not quite

          An assistant would also be under a "work for hire" contract.

          Otherwise the camera operator would own the copyright for each Holywood movie

      3. DarkWalker

        Actually, as far as I understand it, you are still fine if you hire a professional to take your photos. In that case the professional is working under a contract specifically to produce the photos, thus whoever hired the professional gets the copyright unless there is some different stipulation in the contract.

      4. Charles Manning

        "you have framed the shot as you want it to be" "did not frame the shot or have any real creative input into how the shot would come out. He even claimed it was a lucky accident."

        In any action photography (of animals and sports) you're typically taking many pictures that don't come out. They are all "lucky accidents". A wildlife photographer once told hme he's lucky if he gets one good action shot out of 50.

        1. Tom 35

          It's still not luck

          " They are all "lucky accidents". A wildlife photographer once told hme he's lucky if he gets one good action shot out of 50."

          If you give the same camera to Joe on the street you would need luck to get one good shot in 1,000. It's not luck, it's just hard.

          Luck can be involved, I have a photo with bird feet at the top, and cat paws at the bottom. It was just a bird when I started to press the shutter, but I still pressed the shutter not the cat.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's still not luck

            > It was just a bird when I started to press the shutter,

            And it mutated in the time it took you to snap a photo?

      5. ATeal

        Serious question

        I read on BBC news that he spent ages setting up the exposure of the image and the monkey just pressed the shutter.

        I thought this was odd because surely the camera would have an aperture priority mode (you just say "Hey I want this aperture size, you do the shutter speed" (and you set the ISO) that way you can do stuff like this (nice soft background).

        What's the true version? That he had to carefully tune the settings? Or the camera was pinched by the creature? I'm leaning towards the latter.

        I mean the most you'd do for a picture like this is white-balance, you get a sheet of paper out, put the camera in manual focus, fill the frame with the paper take a shot, tell the camera "that was white, don't you dare bugger the colours up" and you're set to go.

        (Note about white-balance: Cameras bugger it up. If you have a green background for example the camera will still try and assume "the average colour of the entire image should be neutral" and add a blue tint. If you take a control picture of something white or gray the camera then knows what white looks like and you actually get a picture pretty close to what you see)

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          Re: ATeal

          Shoot Raw. Duh.

    2. Ole Juul

      Another way to use this

      Nuts all right. So if a "so called" photographer is unable to prove that he is personally the one who pushed the trigger at the time, the picture would be public domain. To avoid this, photographers could arrange to have a picture of himself pushing the trigger while taking the other picture. I could carry this further - but I won't.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Another way to use this

        "a "so called" photographer"

        I don't think speech marks do what you think they do.

        1. Ole Juul

          Re: Another way to use this

          "a "so called" photographer"

          I don't think speech marks do what you think they do.

          You might want to look it up. In any case, I was just being lazy when I should have used emphasis as in the above. Which, by the way, also has several applications. I note that you succumb to the same laziness. ;)

      2. larokus

        Re: Another way to use this

        Ask the USPTO if apple can patent 'a method for taking a monkey selfie"

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      This doesn't put Slater's image "in the public domain" at all.

      1. teebie

        'This doesn't put Slater's image "in the public domain" at all.'

        No, but it does seem to put the monkey's image in the public domain.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          "No, but it does seem to put the monkey's image in the public domain."

          I suggest you read what the USCO actually says, not what you wished it said.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >>"No, but it does seem to put the monkey's image in the public domain."

            > I suggest you read what the USCO actually says, not what you wished it said.

            Why not tell us what it is about what the USCO says that contradicts this statement?

            From your own article:

            "Now, according to the Copyright Office, the matter is formally settled. The Office clearly says that unless a human took the image, it cannot be registered and thus Slater cannot claim US copyright on it."

            If Slater cannot claim copyright on the image and USCO says that an animal cannot claim copyright over it, exactly who do you think *can* claim copyright over it? That which is not under copyright is in the public domain, unless you know of some other legal state in which a creative work can exist that is neither one nor the other.

            1. Oninoshiko

              I actually clicked the link, and read it. I didn't just go on Sean's article, which makes it quite clear the photograph is uncopyrighable (pronounced "public domain"). http://copyright.gov/comp3/chap300/ch300-copyrightable-authorship.pdf page 8 explicitly lists "A photograph taken by a monkey" as something that cannot be copyrighted.

              By definition, anything which cannot be subject to copyright, is public domain.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                > By definition, anything which cannot be subject to copyright, is public domain.

                The discussion is about *US* copyright. It does not mean it is not copyrightable in another country, with the copyright enforceable in the US by virtue of all those treaties and stuff, no?

                I have no idea, just asking.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > I suggest you read what the USCO actually says, not what you wished it said.

            Well, to be fair, the article could have made it clearer. Perhaps you could expand on that at some point?

    4. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Bad analogy

      This picture came to fame because he claims he had no input at all in its creation. You cannot admit that you have no input in a work, and claim copyright for it*.

      I the case of triggered shot, the photographer still decides everything... except the precise time at which the animal will present itself. It is thus the photographer, not the animal, that takes the shot. Bad analogy.

      *Well, you can, but you have to be the MPAA or the RIAA for it to work

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Alert

      Hollywood

      So doesn't this ruling mean that basically all movies & TV shows out of Hollywood are now copyright free?

    6. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

      I understand that some strict Jewish people can't use electrical devices on their Sabbath, but if for example the elevator just happens to be running in Sabbath Mode (autonomously moving floor to floor, all day), then perhaps some might be willing to stand inside while it moves on its own.

      Many paradoxes arise because humans insist on drawing a sharp line in the middle of a continuum.

      Hopeless.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

        They can't turn them on or off, but it is OK to use one that was turned on before the sabbath and left running.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

          > They can't turn them on or off, but it is OK to use one that was turned on before the sabbath and left running

          It's actually OK using them anyway as the restriction is supposedly based on the mitzvah against lightning a fire, which electricity most definitely is not, regardless of what some Yankee torah bookworm might have said.

          Or on the other hand, it is not OK if one goes on the basis of the mitzvah against work. After all, the lift is doing work on behalf of its passengers.

          But it's up to each community (and ultimately, individual) to decide, not for it to be dictated by a bunch of arrogant Americans.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

            No lighting of fires on the Sabbath? All those sparks that come out an electric motor... That's thousands of tiny fires a second.

            And do you stop blowing up Gaza one day a week? Or is the lighting of infidels on fire fine on any day? (Though to be fair, without those arrogant Americans you wouldn't be so brave)

        2. Tom 35

          Re: Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

          When ever a rule inconveniences someone with power, a loop hole will appear.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Seems to parallel the Orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules

            Of course, you all have heard the one about the Rabbi who happens upon a bunch of $100 notes on the pavement on Sabbath, right?

            "It was Sabbath everywhere, except at that very place where I stood! Such is the power of G-d!"

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "photo doesn't belong to me"

      A photo or a book or a video is just a stream of bits.. it doesn't belong to a person!

      Just because the Hollywood has brainwashed people into accepting "copyright" as a necessary fact of life, sheeple think they can "own" bits. The reality is that in 5 years, youtube will have more hits than all movies and TV combined. The outdated and draconian copyright law will have no relevance; as all interesting media will be socially generated.

      Or maybe, you sheeple can stay in the past and argue which simian owns the copyright because from where I stand you all look the same!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      US copyright law states

      "In order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable."

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Infinite monkeys

      So if an infinite number of monkeys did manage to type out a brand new Shakespeare play, Shakespeare would lose out on all the royalties? How fair is that?

      That is perfectly fair, particularly if you are the agent representing said infinite number of monkeys. Any royalty fee divided by infinity would result in a payout of zero to each monkey with the remainder being retained by the agent naturally. Not sure how music publishers or royalty collection and distribution agencies equate their number of represented artists to infinity but it seems that some clever accountants have worked out how to do it.

      1. alwarming

        "Any royalty fee divided by infinity would result in a payout of zero "

        Only an agent can divide by infinity...

    2. Psyx

      Re: Infinite monkeys

      "So if an infinite number of monkeys did manage to type out a brand new Shakespeare play, Shakespeare would lose out on all the royalties? How fair is that?"

      He doesn't get any, on the grounds of being dead.

      Nor does his estate earn anything, because the copyright has long since expired.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Re: Infinite monkeys

        "Nor does his estate earn anything, because the copyright has long since expired"

        Not everyone gets to be W. Disney's estate...

      2. Frogmelon

        Re: Infinite monkeys

        ""So if an infinite number of monkeys did manage to type out a brand new Shakespeare play, Shakespeare would lose out on all the royalties? How fair is that?"

        He doesn't get any, on the grounds of being dead."

        Everyone knows Shakespeare is only being dead for tax purposes.

      3. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Re: Infinite monkeys

        "He doesn't get any, on the grounds of being dead."

        Um, long dead. Last I heard Einstein and Elvis were doing fine in the royalty lottery. Apparently being dead helps ... something one can not remind some celebrities of often enough.

    3. Corinne
      FAIL

      Re: Infinite monkeys

      "So if an infinite number of monkeys did manage to type out a brand new Shakespeare play, Shakespeare would lose out on all the royalties? How fair is that?"

      Then by definition it wouldn't BE a Shakespeare play - how could it be by him if he didn't write it himself?

  3. Ralph B

    Too Late Now

    But I'm betting that David Slater now wishes he hadn't told the story about how the macaque took the photo. If he'd kept quiet about it, the copyright would now be his.

    Of course, this decision also means that a load of fine photographs of animals in the wild, triggered via movement detection, will now also suddenly be Public Domain.

    So, I guess we won't be seeing so many of those in the pages of the National Geographic in future.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too Late Now

      If indeed it was the macaque who pressed the shutter. Its face is up and the eyes looking straight into the lens yet there is no indications of outstretched arms or raised shoulders that would be needed to get such a view. It looks as if the monkey's hands would be around the level of its nuts in which case it would have to be looking down.

      I think it was all a story to boost the image and Slater is now wishing he hadn't applied so much garnish, although had he not done so the photo wouldn't have got the exposure it did.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Too Late Now

        Or maybe the picture isn't of the monkey who took it. The monkey that pressed the button could always have been pointing it at another monkey..............

        In which case, the monkey should own copyright as clearly it has composed the photo etc. just as much as any photographer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too Late Now @Mad Mike

          Under those circumstances I would agree, however, under those same circumstances then it wouldn't be a selfie as claimed.

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: Too Late Now

          Don't underestimate monkeys. I'm pretty sure that not only did the monkey point the camera at another monkey and press the button, but appreciated the frozen picture of the other monkey on the back of the camera. If there are a bunch of less successful attempts, that rather goes to prove the point. If they deny the monkey copyright, it's because a monkey can't claim or understand "copyright", not because it can't comprehend a picture.

          A "selfie" is a more advanced thing. Introspection, not mere inspection. A fully closed self-cognitive loop. Few animals are capable of appreciating that something is a representation of themselves (at simplest, the reflection in a mirror). Great Apes, Elephants, Dolphins, a few Parrots and Crows can. Pigs, cats, dogs and (most? all?) other monkeys can't. (If you ask "how do we know" you just have to watch a chimp or an elephant with a mirror, and the appreciation of self is obvious).

    2. Anonymous Blowhard

      Re: Too Late Now

      If he hadn't told the story, then it wouldn't have been a story at all; the only thing about this picture that makes it stand out from a million other monkey pictures is that it was taken by the monkey.

      He should shut up and ride the publicity, not whine about what people owe him. In this case the monkey is the one looking smart.

      And where does the US Copyright Office get the authority to deny a hard-working simian his rights to his artistic creation? Specist bastards! Someone get that monkey a lawyer!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too Late Now

        >Someone get that monkey a lawyer!

        Yeah, call Saul.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Too Late Now

        " And where does the US Copyright Office get the authority to deny a hard-working simian his rights to his artistic creation? Specist bastards! Someone get that monkey a lawyer!"

        Errrrrm, it didn't! Surely their decision was pro-monkey, by not letting the human steal his work!

        From TFA:

        The Office said in its latest copyright law compendium (PDF) that images taken by animals, including the 2011 primate self-shot, could not be registered for copyright by a human.

    3. teebie

      Re: Too Late Now

      Except the decision doesn't relate in any way to pictures taken by movement detection.

      It's perfectly reasonable to say that setting up a camera to fire on movement detection (or even setting a timer) constitutes "taking the photo". The Copyright Office hasn't said anything that would disagree with this.

    4. Tom 35

      Re: Too Late Now

      Even if (a big if) this applied to automatically triggered photos, the National Geographic article would still be copyright and add value over just a bunch of photos.

      I remember a story (think it was National Geographic) about a chimp that was taught to use a polaroid camera. The actual low quality photos (that would be public domain) were a very small part of the story.

  4. teknopaul Silver badge

    Better cut the budget for that "cameras on bionic moths" project.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/08/20/scientists_implant_electrodes_into_moths/

  5. NorthernCoder

    Jurisdiction..?

    If the photo was taken in Indonesia, why isn't it a question about what Indonesian law says?

    And from there, international copyright treaties?

    1. Fibbles

      Re: Jurisdiction..?

      Because that's not how copyright law works?

      Every country signed up to the Berne convention has to give automatic copyright to the creator of a work. However, it's up to each individual country to determine who the creator is and how long their copyright can be enforced (though newer signatories must provide a minimum period of 50 years for most types of work).

      If you want an example; 3D objects in the UK are only subject to a 15 year copyright, unlike most other countries. This means that in the US and elsewhere George Lucas still owns the copyright to the Stormtrooper helmet design, whilst in the UK it is now public domain.

  6. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    The USCO say what?

    Just wondering what relevance the US Copyright Office have here as the photographer is not a US citizen and the photograph in question was not taken in the US...

    Are they trying to jump on the Google Book Scan bandwagon?

    If the US want to declare that you have to be able to prove a human took the photo in the US then that is their problem, I would say in response to @Joylon above though that this means your meat tripod DOES own the copyright.

    Meanwhile. in the real world we can still continue using common sense (although it is getting less common by the day).

    1. Raumkraut

      Re: The USCO say what?

      > Just wondering what relevance the US Copyright Office have here as the photographer is not a US citizen and the photograph in question was not taken in the US...

      The story arose to public attention because the photographer came into conflict with the Wikimedia Foundation, which is a US-based organisation.

      > I would say in response to @Joylon above though that this means your meat tripod DOES own the copyright.

      Yes, and I believe there was a link posted last time around about a case in which that question came up (and was resolved that the person taking the photo owned copyright). In that case though, I suspect that any court would likely find that there was at least an implicit license grant made to the requester of the photo. Or maybe it could be classed as work-for-hire, in which case the copyright would be assigned to the requester, rather than the photographer.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: The USCO say what?

        well, as the article says "...Copyright Office, the matter is formally settled" - in the US.

        Which is good for wikpedia/Wikimedia Foundation because they rely upon US copyright law. In their own words "accepts content that is free in the United States even if it may be under copyright in some other countries"

        But if another country found that it was Slater's copyright, then in that country he could claim royalties. I guess it depends whether he thinks it's worth the fight.

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    When I first heard about this story, I was siding with the photographer. Then I read a bit more about the story (e.g. The Torygraph), and realised that the photographer had NO input whatsoever into the set up.

    The monkey stole the camera from him and took random pictures.

    If the photographer had trained/encouraged the monkey to use the camera, then that would be different. But in this case, the photographer did nothing and got a lucky shot or two. (The Torygraph article says the monkey took hundres of pictures)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, newspapers have a fine record for reproducing exactly, in full context, without omissions, or simplifications, the verbatim speech of people. Word perfect.*

      I suspect the full story of what happened is blurred and inconsistent. Humans being unreliable narrators even when trying their best.

      *[In practice of course they don't. Long ago, my brother once had his opinion reproduced in the local paper. I asked him if he had actually said he was impressed upon meeting a former MP (recently elevated to the peerage). He was sure he hadn't.]

      1. Steve the Cynic

        "*[In practice of course they don't. Long ago, my brother once had his opinion reproduced in the local paper. I asked him if he had actually said he was impressed upon meeting a former MP (recently elevated to the peerage). He was sure he hadn't.]"

        I can confirm this, in a different context. It was 2002 and I was out and about (for reasons that aren't relevant here) in the Weald near Crowborough (which is, in turn, near Tunbridge Wells). I was parked in a lay-by, taking some pictures of the scenery when a bunch of people arrive in one car with another car following them. I got some pictures of the other car as they also took pictures of it (and, more to the point, as they abruptly and bluntly said I shouldn't do so)... As I found out later, the car turned out to be the next year's version of, as I recall it, the Honda Accord, so...

        ... Auto Express magazine gave me some money for the pictures and wrote up a blurb. The things they had me saying were quite remarkable, and were almost but not quite totally unlike what I had said to the reporter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I can confirm this, in a different context.

          And so can I.

          But tell people this and they won't believe you. :(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ A Non e-mouse

      The guy seems to have altered his story over time, which has only confused the issue still further.

      See the version below for example.

      "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."

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

    3. davefb

      Who chose that photo though? I thought that was where the 'art' and copyrightable-ness came from?

      Or are we saying the monkey not only pressed the shutter, but also picked which was the best images ?

  8. Anomalous Cowshed

    This is not a clever decision...

    ... but one which will be very convenient for those who want to nick this man's work.

    This man did not accidentally stumble upon a mobile phone containing the 'selfie' while on an expedition with his mates in the middle of the jungle. He did not find a mobile phone containing the picture in the street, and then attempt to peddle it in order to make money and become famous; he was not part of a group that witnessed the monkey taking a photograph of itself, and then decided to appropriate the outcome for personal gain, beating everybody else to the mark.

    The photograph was taken:

    - Using the man's equipment

    - In the absence of any witnesses

    - Under circumstances known only to and controlled solely by him

    - And the photograph was introduced to the world by him, and could only have been introduced by him.

    In view of the circumstances, and given the wide range of media and installations involving various forms of trickery and techniques, including in the realm of photography, that are accepted and protected nowadays as works of art, this photograph should surely be considered as a protected work belonging to the man, regardless of his claim that a monkey took it - which in any case, I regard as suspect on account of the clarity and quality of the image, when compared with the 'selfies' that I myself have taken (I am not comparing my photography skills to the man, but to the monkey). This is of course merely a personal opinion...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is not a clever decision...

      The gist of the debate over this seem to be twofold:

      1) the extent to which Slater contributed to the creation of the image, and

      2) whether he should have a moral right to the image because it was his equipment and he'd spent lots of money getting to the location.

      As to 1) it seems that what has been claimed consists of some kind of selection process and presentation to the public. I don't know if this is sufficient according to the law. Could an archaeologist claim copyright his his/her artistic discoveries as long as they were created within the time frame proscribed by the law?

      2) is a difficult one for the law to touch on. Slater is making much of this aspect. Appealing to emotion in this respect is great for the publicity but I don't think it will avail him in the end.

  9. Crisp

    Copyright is a fickle mistress

    Though I was looking forward to the monkey launching his own legal proceedings.

    1. hammarbtyp

      Re: Copyright is a fickle mistress

      Unfortunately the monkey's level of evolution has meant that they have not produced lawyers yet.

      Whether that means they are higher or lower on the evolution scale than we are is a question I will leave you to judge...

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Re: Copyright is a fickle mistress

        Can not very well judge without evidence ...

        1) On the Planet of the Apes the monkeys no longer produce lawyers.

        2) Monkeys don't post on El Reg

        Oh.

        Moving on ...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too paraphrase

    You get monkeys, you pay peanuts.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Too paraphrase

      Ah, but did he pay peanuts? In which case a contract could have been said to have been established.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too paraphrase

        I was think more of what wikipedia had to pay to reproduce the image, which was even less than peanuts.

  11. SolidSquid

    Surprised nobody's pointed out the Copyright Office's very silly definition of what they won't allow to be copyrighted. Nothing created by animals? That's humans out then

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
      Coat

      Nothing created by animals? That's humans out then

      This is the US Copyright Office - of course they deny that humans are animals. Excluding religious influences, in their defence it may be that as many of the members of the US Copyright Office (and US Patent Office) tend more towards plant or mineral state this is a reasonable assumption to make.

  12. MJI Silver badge

    This picture.

    Did El Reg pay him for its use?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Interesting Reg's stance on this.

    In a previous article:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/08/07/macaque_monkey_selfie_wikipedia_copyright_carpetbagging/?page=2

    Note the blatant accreditation below the image and a protracted article about the poor little guy.

    "Vulture Central's backroom gremlins haven't included the offending monkey shot. Why? Because we haven't got hold of Slater to ask permission to include his picture in this article. Simple courtesy."

    Yet, now a US court (not a UK one) has said it's in the public domain ,here you are publishing it with seemingly no accreditation or even exif data (unless for some reason my pc is stripping it).

    So c'mon Reg, make up your minds,

  14. Michael C.

    "Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings."

    I'd love to see the court hearing to determine whether a work was or was not created by a divine or supernatural being.

  15. ukgnome

    hypothetical

    So, lets say I let my guide dog into the cinema with me, and he happens to be wearing a camera. As long as he is in a US cinema then I cannot be done for copyright infringement when he films the blockbuster that I am going to see (listen to)

    Did the primate in question pop to the Amazon shop (yeah I know) and purchase the camera?

    Also, if I stole a camera (or my guide dog) and we took photo's and then handed it back and the owner won a competition with the photo's that I took, then would he be infringing any rules? It seems to me that the Americans have sided with the Americans, who would of thunk it?

    **I don't have a guide dog, but I see a scam on the horizon

    1. Dom 3

      Re: hypothetical

      "The Americans have sided with the Americans" - quite. If the claimant had been a US corporation rather than a foreign individual, I think we all know how it would have gone.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: hypothetical

        I have a sneaking suspicion that this scenario might backfire on you.

        You will get the soundtrack alright, accompanied by slurping noises and pictures of a dog's anus and balls/vulva being licked (by the DOG! you perve ! )

    2. teebie

      Re: hypothetical

      The copyright for the film belongs to the company that owns the film.

      The copyright won't be transfered to the dog because:-

      It's a dog, and dogs can't copyright things

      Copyright doesn't transfer to you when you make a copy of a work.

      1. ukgnome

        Re: hypothetical

        I never mentioned the dog had copyright, but rather couldn't be seen to break any copyright laws for the same reasons as he couldn't hold copyright.

        If an animal cannot claim copyright, then it cannot infringe copyright.

        *as of now my fish are downloading snide copies guardians of the galaxy, and bugger me they are actually burning them to disc. I have decided not to stop them, because if I interfere with what they are doing then I am an accomplice. I just hope they don't sell them at a car boot fare.

        **sarcasm, obvs

  16. Cipher
    Joke

    Enough Monkey Business...

    ...waiting for a law firm to announce they specialise in Simian Law.

  17. Changethings

    My advice to the photographers out there is simply stop uploading pictures, password protect your sites and withdraw from the general public. If this is how things are going soon they will find reasons to take our pictures free of charge in others ways.

    Look what has happened in the UK...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or watermark them if you are aiming to sell them.

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick

        EWWWWW ....

        Haven't you been to the Primate House at the zoo ? That's not water.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is what probably happened

    the guy took the photo of the cute monkey but what is a bilionth photo of a monkey these days, when all us, monkey, take the snaps to produce the works, if not the famous English playright, at least a lot of photo-noise. To make his photo stand out, he claimed it was a "selfie", a brilliant marketing move. This got him the attention he sought, but, due to unforseen copyright complications - no cash he sought. Now he can't get out of this - either he admits he took the photo himself, admitting, in public that he lied, or he sticks to the original story of a "selfie" = no cash.

    Given the choice and disregarding 8th commandment, he should probably stick to the original story. Better fame, than no cash.

  19. Mystic Megabyte
    Mushroom

    Snap judgement

    If I set up a camera and a dove flew down, pressing the shutter at the exact moment that Tony Blair was struck by lightning, I would gladly forsake the copyright.

  20. Marcus Aurelius
    Happy

    Oooh ooh oooh!

    I'd like a banana and a job as Official Legal Counsel to The Register please!

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2265376

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2266466

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2266470

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2266569

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/2267528

    I'm now off the The Torygraph and The Daily Hate to express my smugness there too.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are we really arguing about who owns the copyright on a picture of a monkey, taken by the monkey?

    As if that's an important area of law that we need to nail down?

    For anybody except the photographer who reckons he should be paid for not taking a photograph of a monkey?

    1. Nigel 11

      For starters we need to nail down whether it was taken by a monkey of himself, or of a different monkey.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > For starters we need to nail down whether it was taken by a monkey of himself, or of a different monkey.

        And of course, we need to determine what was the monkey's age at the time, least we're falling foul of decency laws by publishing snaps of underage primates.

    2. NumptyScrub

      quote: "Are we really arguing about who owns the copyright on a picture of a monkey, taken by the monkey?

      As if that's an important area of law that we need to nail down?"

      If that photo of a monkey has earned you personally $10k in advertising revenue on a commercial site, and the photographer is claiming that you have stolen his work for gain, then yes, this is definitely an area of law that needs nailing down.

      Interesting to see how this article reports he claims the photo was a selfie by the macaque. The other article, where I quite vocally supported him, was one which claimed he had framed and set up the shot, prior to giving the macaque the remote shutter release.

      It can't be both, so which one is it?

  22. Graham Marsden

    So, from another viewpoint...

    ... if Country X says that software licences are invalid and copyright doesn't apply to them, the USCO would be quite happy to tell US Businesses that people in Country X can quite legitimately copy their software and not pay for it...?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: So, from another viewpoint...

      Didn't a Caribbean island threaten to negate copyright one time in retaliation for some US-based insult? I'm trying to recall how the matter was settled.

  23. Gunnar Wolf
    WTF?

    Jurisdiction?

    The owner of the camera is British.

    Wikimedia is a global project.

    The monkey is Indonesian.

    How and why is this ruled by a US copyright office? What does their opinion matter in any of the involved jurisdictions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jurisdiction?

      Wikimedia's HQ is in the US. The claim was raised AGAINST a firm based in the US. THAT'S where the jurisdiction comes from.

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: Jurisdiction?

        The claim was raised by a UK citizen. This is a UK citizen claiming copyright of a work which was created in Indonesia, and is being published in the UK (via the internet) by the Wikimedia Foundation.

        I'm not sure jurisdiction is as clear cut as you think it is in this case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jurisdiction?

      > How and why is this ruled by a US copyright office? What does their opinion matter in any of the involved jurisdictions?

      More to the point, it is their opinion, not a court verdict.

    3. razorfishsl Silver badge

      Re: Jurisdiction?

      Because if you knew anything about the US, you would know they are gradually forcing in US law all over the world via the backdoor.

  24. Gel

    The photographer needed to edit the photos in some way, for example change some of the background, rotate and crop the image. Then he would have had artistic input and own the copyright. He would never release the originals.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally, I think this guy Slater is doing a great disservice to other photographers by this situation.

    By asserting that he has sufficient creative input to this picture to be able to claim copyright (which in many jurisdictions is a requirement) he is insulting the work and art of real photography. The facts of the story have been pretty much clarified now and it would seem that the monkey stole the camera and took the pictures with no contribution from Slater.

    I don't judge him as a photographer in other instances of his work which may well be of high quality and merit the acclaim of his peers, but in this instance he's not done any favours for himself.

    If his only claim to creative input was the selection of the image from many, then anyone picking a picture from an image library would be able to claim, morally, at least a partial copyright over that image.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monkey speak

    oo oo oo ah ah ah ah .

    oo aa oo aa oo aa aa

    oo oo AA AA

    OOO OOO AA AA AA

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: Monkey speak

      Oook!

  27. pierce

    if he did any photoshoppery (even sharpening, color balance, contrast), thats a piece of work, which shoudl be copyrightable, even if the original image may not be. so all he has to do is not release the original, just the 'derivative work' he produced, voila, fully copyrightable.

    no 'serious' photographer ever releases his negatives.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > no 'serious' photographer ever releases his negatives.

      Whatever is in Wankypedia (and also accompanying this article) is clearly not the originals anyway, as no EXIF data is present.

    2. Marcus Aurelius

      Nice try

      ...but the copyright office also states that basic polishing (i.e photoshoppery) of an image does not make it a completely new work eligible for copyright.

  28. Technological Viking
    Facepalm

    It's the Economy, Stupid!

    This ruling simply guarantees that another image like it won't ever see the light of day again. If somebody can't capitalize on it, they won't spend the time/effort/money to set it up and won't bother to broadcast (faux publish?) it if it happens by chance. There's just so little incentive to. Say a website gets set up (www.animalselfies.com, even though I'm sure that's taken already) that makes money by aggregating these public domain images. The only way they could get anything for their trouble would be to inject more ads into it than it costs to run. We know that site would be bollocks and a half and wouldn't last. The USCO, by making this declaration (regardless of your opinion of it) that this and future images are in the public domain and belong to everybody has driven a nail in the coffin and made damn sure that instead of everybody having these images... nobody will, because they won't get made.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      Re: It's the Economy, Stupid!

      There are plenty of ways around this minor inconvenience. For example, give a monkey a camera and have the photographer take the photo remotely and your work here is done.

      Also people will do this for fun and not profit.

  29. markw:

    Mad, mad, mad ...

    The copyright laws regulate the behaviour of humans.

    Any image made on my camera belongs to me if no other human was involved in its making.

    Also David Slater as a professional photographer would have worked in RAW format. He would then have processed this "negative" in (say) Adobe Lightroom to produce the final result.

    He owns the copyright of this final work irrespective of the mad meanderings of the US Copyright Office.

  30. Jeffrey Nonken

    "Photographer can't cash in on primate pics"

    Balderdash. Stuff and nonsense. The copyright office is not saying that the photographer cannot sell the photos nor gain from them in some fashion. They are only saying that he can't copyright the picture, and therefore has no monopoly. He cannot prevent anybody from using the photos and cannot require those who do to compensate him.

  31. razorfishsl Silver badge

    More interestingly, does this mean that all satellite imagery cannot be copyright, after all a human did not press the shutter.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      And what about CCTV pictures? A static camera that simply streams a scene seems like it is less copyrightable than a monkey borrowing your nice camera.

      1. Marcus Aurelius

        CCTV pics are simple

        The person who set the camera up has framed the area that is taken and in addition starts and stops the taking of pictures. There is however legislation about what CCTV can and can't be used for though. e.g. if it is for security in a private venue, you can't see the pictures of a supermodel having a passionate snog with a random bloke in there.

    2. Marcus Aurelius
      Alien

      Being the author is critical

      ...a human did press the shutter in the sense that he guided the satellite camera to the exact location and circumstances where the shot was taken.

      Author is a strange word but the intent is to convey how much control you had over the circumstances of the production of the work. The photographer had little to none in this case.

      The monkey selfie one could probably have been solved by leaving the camera taking frames at 30 or 60fps and then passing it to the monkey instead of having the monkey control the exact circumstances of when the shutter button was pressed.

  32. JustNiz

    That is the cutest selfie I have ever seen.

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