The monkey selfie matter

I’ve been working hard to avoid mentioning this lawsuit − I think it’s a lawsuit − but Lowering the Bar has weighed in on it, and I go wherever Lowering the Bar takes me so … Fight Continues Over Right to Monkey Selfie – Lowering the Bar.

Fight Continues Over Right to Monkey Selfie

As some of you may recall (although it’s been three years, which doesn’t seem possible), in 2011 we discussed an intellectual-property dispute involving pictures taken by a monkey. See “Legal Questions Raised by Success of Monkey Photographer (July 7, 2011); “In Defense of Monkey Copyright” (July 13, 2011).

I’m enjoying the fact that what doesn’t seem possible is that it’s been three years, not that we were discussing an intellectual-property dispute involving a monkey.


Photo credit: David Slater and/or unidentified primate and/or nobody

Anyway, as a refresher, the issue arose because the monkey did not own the camera, nor was he authorized to use it (so it wasn’t a “work for hire”). The photographer, David Slater, had set his camera on a tripod and then walked away for a minute, and when he did a monkey hijacked it and took “hundreds” of unauthorized pictures. Several of which were particularly great.

Cute actual selfie of that monkey →

Wikimedia has been posting the pictures without crediting David Slater, the camera owner, who is understandably pissed and who is therefore suing Wikimedia (first I knew there was such an entity), which is arguing that this can’t be an intellectual property problem since the monkey (who hasn’t been named as a party, presumably, or even named) is not a person with intellectual property rights.

I think that’s a digest of the situation. Yeah. Why not? I’ll go with this. I am, by the way, the actual person who wrote this abstract.

UPDATE 8/22/2014: From Lowering the Bar which is keeping a sharp eye on this story, needless to say: Copyright Office Weighs in on Monkey Pictures – Lowering the Bar.

Whew. We writers can breath a sigh of relief. Except no, because as Kevin Underhill points out (it always takes a lawyer to take one’s breath away), this so-called decision really doesn’t settle the matter.

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