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A Question of Copyright


This is an interesting article about copyright and the public domain.

The issue in summary–a crested black macaque came across David Slater’s photography equipment in the field and, while examining his reflection in the lens, snapped some pictures of himself. Wikipedia placed these photographs online in one of their entries.

David Slater requested the pictures be removed from Wikipedia. He claims the pictures belong to him because they were taken with his camera equipment.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, refuses to remove the pictures because it is the work of a non-human animal and therefore has no human author to claim copyright.

I do find this to be a strange argument on the part of Wikipedia. If Slater holds the copyrights to these images, they should not be used without his permission. Whether he actually snapped the picture or not, the copyright laws protect the owner of the images. The owner does not need to be the author.

What do you think about these issues? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. A sticky situation, to be sure! Were I in charge of Wiki, I would remove it simply out of politeness. Why do they want it up so badly? And why does the one who owns the equipment want it down? The link does not seem to be working, so I was not able to find the photographer’s opinion. Perhaps he wants to be given credit. It’s hard to claim equipment ownership is the same as taking a picture; I might own a camera, but if my daughter plays with it and takes pictures, I can’t say I took those pictures. If I ask someone else to hold my camera and take a picture of us, I’m not the photographer. If the man wasn’t holding and aiming his camera, can he claim it was his skill? The monkey held the camera and pushed the button, right? I don’t think Wiki can (or should) claim they get unrestricted access to it, but can the man owning the camera say it’s his? He was out there photographing animals, after all. Maybe nobody can own it?

    1. I should add, however, that even if Wiki takes it down, it’s now all over the internet. The most the photographer can hope for is being acknowledged as owner.

      1. chrispavesic says:

        This is true. Once it is out there online, it is available for all to see!

    2. chrispavesic says:

      It is an interesting dilemma, perhaps because it is art. I think that this is an issue that concerns anyone who publishes photographs online and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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