A report issued by the US Copyright Office takes Wikimedia's side in a debate between a nature photographer and the organization. According to the report, the 'selfie' captured by a black crested macaque on David Slater's camera cannot by copyrighted since it was created by an animal.

The Copyright Office's 1,222-page document outlines administrative practices, and as reported by Ars Technica, states that 'The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.' To underscore the point, a list of examples in the same section of the document includes 'A photograph taken by a monkey.' 


Rights to a well-circulated photo of a monkey have been called into question as a dispute between a UK-based photographer and Wikimedia has escalated. Nature photographer David Slater's photos of crested black macaques may look familiar. On a trip to Indonesia in 2011, one of the monkeys he was photographing grabbed his camera and proceeded to take hundreds of photos of itself. 

The resulting 'monkey selfie' did the rounds on the internet, bringing Slater a lot of press and the photo wound up in Wikimedia Commons, an online repository of free images. Mr. Slater has asked Wikimedia, the organization behind the Commons and Wikipedia, to take down the image and respect his copyright, but Wikimedia sees things differently. 

Since the photo in question wasn't taken by Mr. Slater but rather the monkey, Wikimedia maintains that the copyright does not belong to the photographer. The photographer's requests to have the photo removed from the website have been denied, and Wikimedia's editors' position on the matter is documented in a series of comments associated with the deletion request and a transparency report

Copyright law states that works not originated by a human author can't support a copyright claim, and that 'a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable.' 

Do you think Mr. Slater's takedown requests are justified? Let us know in the comments.