Neither, Says the U.S. Copyright Office
In a hotly contested issue, one photographer whose unattended equipment was used by a monkey to take a selfie, found himself in an expensive legal battle with Wikimedia over who owns the copyright and, consequently, the royalties of the picture—the man or the monkey.
According to NPR, the U.S. Copyright Office addressed this question in its newly updated manual, the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, which will take effect in December. Chapter 300 of the compendium discusses “ the Human Authorship Requirement,” which says that copyright protection is only granted to “’the fruits of intellectual labor’ that ‘are founded in the creative powers of the mind.” The Office explained that it would not register works produced by nature, animals, plants, or works purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings. The Copyright Office included the following examples of things that are not copyrightable:
- 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 marks, defects, and other qualities in natural stone; and
- an application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.
A web poll on the Telegraph’s website highlights the controversy and thorny issues surrounding this split– 43.5% of poll takers thought the photographer owned the copyright; 40.18% thought the monkey did.
Who do you think owns the copyright? The man, the monkey or the public?