In case you haven’t heard, everyone is going bananas over this Indonesian crested black macaque’s selfie. First, people thought it was cute when the photo went viral in 2011. More recently, a debate has sparked as to who owns rights to the photo?
According to the newly updated draft of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition, because the photo wasn’t taken by a human – no one owns the rights to the photo.
In the meantime, Wikemedia went ahead and published the photo to an online repository of free-use images with the annotation – “This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”
British wildlife photographer David J. Slater, the one who owns the camera responsible for the shot, is disgruntled that his famous shot has gone viral but he has no rights to it.
“A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.” argues Slater.
Still, it was not a human who took the photo so the photo is not going to be eligible for protection by U.S. Copyright Law.
As a takeaway for the wildlife photographers and pet owners especially. Those videos you created by strapping a GoPro to your dogs head may be cute, but do not plan on receiving a copyright for them for now anyways.