Monkey Selfie

Here at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! we make sure to ask the important questions: If a monkey takes a selfie, who owns the copyright?

It all started when nature photographer David Slater traveled to Indonesia to photograph Celebes crested macaques.

While the camera was set up, one macaque started pressing the shutter button and ended up taking some selfies.

monkey selfie


Selling the Photos

Slater later sold the “monkey selfies” to a photo agency—and they were a hit!

Slater reports he made over $1,400 on the images through the news agency, but then they were removed.  The blog Techdirt argued that Slater had no right to the photos because the monkey had taken it.

Copyright law states that the “author” of the photograph owns the copyright to a photo. The “author” is generally the person who took the photo.

Since then, Wikimedia Commons picked up the image and has distributed it under public domain. They argued that according to US law, animals cannot own a copyright, and thus it was free to use.

Slater protested; he said he had intentionally set up his camera so that the macaques would take photos of itself.


Legal Opinion

Law experts couldn’t agree, some sided with Wikimedia, saying no one owned the copyright, but others felt that since Slater had set up the camera, lighting, and other parts of the photo—and owned the camera—that he owned the photos.

PETA jumped in with its lawyers and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the macaques, demanding that the monkey is assigned the copyright.

During a hearing in January 2016, US District Judge William Orrick ruled that copyright laws do not extend to monkeys and dismissed the case.

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