Want to use a monkey selfie? Wikimedia says credit the damn monkey

Monkey selfie

Monkey selfie

Say you’re in a place where there a load of monkeys. Now suppose that one of those monkeys pilfers your camera (or smartphone) and manages to take a selfie. Once you’ve got your camera back and retrieved the photo who does it belong to? According to Wikimedia, the answer is most affirmatively not you. Nope, it belongs to the monkey.

This isn’t just a thought experiment either. It’s an actual incident reported on in the non-profit’s first transparency report. According to Wikimedia, “a photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A female crested black macaque monkey got ahold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits”.

The photos were featured in an online article, before being uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. From there, the photographer asked that it be removed and Wikipedia senied his request, stating that he didn’t own the copyright to the images.


In fact, Wikimedia reckons that no one really owns the rights to the images, putting them in the public domain. It’s rationale for this is that “as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

Speaking to The Verge, Intellectual Property lawyer “Brad Newberg, a partner at the firm Reed Smith, agreed. “Just because he owns the camera, he can’t own the photograph, because he didn’t take the photograph. He didn’t choose the lighting, he didn’t choose the angle,” the lawyer said.

Because the photos were most likely taken by accident (unless Planet of the Apes was wrong and super sentient monkeys turn out to be just as narcissistic as us), the monkey’s owner wouldn’t be able to lay claim to the photos either.



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