Make Canoe my Homepage

Monkey selfies in the public domain – in the U.S. at least

- August 22nd, 2014

So if you know of any monkeys, elephants or house cats out there looking to break into the art scene, they hopefully have day jobs, because they won’t be able to make money doing it.

The U.S. Copyright Office has reiterated its stance that animals cannot hold copyright, nor can work created by them be registered for copyright. This puts to rest a dispute between the U.S.-based Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, and photographer David Slater over copyright of so-called “monkey selfies,” The U.K. Register reports.

Screenshot of a Wikipedia page for one of the monkey selfie photos. (SCREENSHOT)

Screenshot of a Wikipedia page for one of the monkey selfie photos. (SCREENSHOT)

The office made reference to the so-called “monkey selfies” that were taken in 2011 in Sulawesi, Indonesia by a macaque that was playing around with Slater’s camera.

As the photos were taken by the monkey and not a human, Wikimedia added the pictures to its database of royalty-free images.

But Slater claimed he owned the copyright to the photos and was fighting the organization over it.

But in its Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices Third Edition, the office states:

“The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.”

Examples:

• A photograph taken by a monkey.
• A mural painted by an elephant.
• A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.
• A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.
• A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in natural stone.
• An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.

So hopefully no Christian rock group calls itself Holy Spirit. Because the band might be out of luck when it comes to royalties…

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