Monkey Business: Can A Monkey License Its Copyrights To A News Agency?

from the i-don't-think-so... dept

A year and a half ago, we wrote about a movie that was entirely filmed by chimpanzees, and wondered about who held the copyright on it. Technically, in most cases, whoever makes the actual work gets the copyright. That is, if you hand your camera to a stranger to take your photo, technically that stranger holds the copyright on the photo, though no one ever enforces this. There were some different theories made in the comments about who actually holds the copyrights, but no clear agreement. Of course, the whole discussion was purely theoretical, because it wasn't like anyone was concerned about the copyright.

However, now we have a similar, but different, story where I think it's a very valid question. Mr. LemurBoy points us to a story involving an award winning nature photographer, David Slater, who was in Indonesia in a national park. At some point, he left the camera unattended, and apparently a macaque monkey wandered over and took this hilarious self-portrait:
Now that's the best photo of the bunch, and appears to have no copyright notice on it (though that doesn't mean it's not covered by copyright), but two of the other photos, which the article also claims were taken by the monkeys, do have copyright notices, with the claim being that the copyright is held by the Caters News Agency.

So here's the legal question: how did the copyright get assigned to Caters? I can't see how there's been a legal transfer. The monkeys were unlikely to have sold or licensed the work. I'm assuming that it's likely that the photographer, Slater, probably submitted the photos to the agency, and from a common sense view of things, that would make perfect sense. But from a letter-of-the-law view of things, Slater almost certainly does not hold the copyrights on those images, and has no legal right to then sell, license or assign them to Caters.

Filed Under: copyright, monkeys

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  1. identicon
    All Seeing Eye, 10 Jul 2011 @ 3:02pm

    The US don't own the world despite what they think

    e interesting question to be asked here is - has this website been granted legal permission to display photos that hold a copyright notice from Caters News Agency Ltd?

    Go look up fair use.

    Fair use is a set of laws pertaining to the US only. This website does not pertain to the the US but worldwide, as all websites do. If Yanks want to be strung up by the bollocks and taken for a piss take by a random rule making corrupt Corporatocracy then so be it if that's the society you want - you deserve it. If you haven;t realised yet, websites are worldwide, hence the www. bit of it, viewable of course in countries except those dictatorships run by similar property grabbing thieves that exist in the US (didn't the US gain Independence from tossers in the UK like this? But you deluded "fair use" people welcome it's return - I hope you didn't celebrate the 4th July because let me tell you, you were better of under UK rule than what you have now!) The issue of copyright may indeed pertain to the country of origin, which is the UK in this case. Just because America has a fascist one-world planet-raping ideology (that is teetering by the minute anyway - ha ha ha), it doesn't necessarily make US law relevant in this case. If you think fair use is a licence to steal work from "creators" to promote, financially or by reputation, your own websites, blogs, forums, etc (ie you are acting as a parasite on the back of others work to keep yourself in business or in some niche market, including nerdy viewers with nothing else better to do), then i suggest you look up the Millennium Copyright Act also. This is universal and isn't just about what brainwashed citizens in bully boy countries like the US determine. It also applies to other people of the world who want FAIR USE, love, freedom, health, and the right to earn a living from one's own sweat.

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