Texinus: Does that mean that all footage from nature reporters/scientists etc (N.Geographicdf,BBC) where the shooting is triggered by a sensor, TripWire, IR, whatever, is now in public domain?A lion triggering a picture through a motion sensor is the author of the picture?
No, not at all... in the case of a camera on a remote trigger or even a self timer, the act of composition is the essence of authorship. The photographer composes the shot - its just that initiating the recording is indirect.
NZ Scott: I think that Slater should not have any rights to the images. Copyright is an acknowledgement of intellectual property stemming from the owner's creative endeavours. In this case, the framing and composition of the images was controlled exclusively by the monkey and Slater did not have any creative input. It does raise some interesting questions about ownership of tripwire-triggered images. In my view, those images should belong to the person who set up the camera/tripwires.
oh, and before you bring up works for hire, for which copyright does rest with the financier (the employer), that is a special case in the law. Generally in the absences of an employment relationship, or a specific contract stipulating work for hire, copyright rests with the creator.
Simple, because under copyright law in almost every country, the copyright rests with the creator - not the financier. The act of taking the picture is the creating act - not the act of purchasing the camera, not the act of turn the camera dials to a particular shooting mode, aperture, shutter speed, etc. Pressing the shutter release at just the right instant is the creative act. Now, in this case, since a monkey has no rights, then no one does... thus the image is in the public domain.
Had the photographer gone out there with the intent of giving the camera to the monkeys just to see what would happen, there might be an argument for him to have copyrights. However, in this case the camera was stolen - there was no intent on the part of the photographer, so how can anything he did her be considered creating a work?
No one is claiming the monkey owns the copyright... they are saying that no one does; that the is in the public domain. I won't dispute whether what the monkey did was creative... it could have (and probably was) the result of random animal behavior. There was no intent to create on the part of the monkey. Even if you want to argue there was, that really isn't the issue. You could get into so many animal rights arguments about whether or not a monkey can even own copyrights... but again, that's not really the point....
The point is that Slater does not. He set up the equipment, took the financial risk associated with putting the camera in the monkey's hands, but he didn't compose the image. The question is not whether or not the monkey owns anything, but whether Slater does. Wikimedia apparently thinks he does not... and since they too are not going to go down the rat hole of arguing the intellectual property rights of a monkey, they assume no one has rights - that it is pubic domain.
dinoSnake: Yes, I believe Slater should be allowed to claim the copyright. If Wikimedia's argument is correct, then corporate copyright ownership should *also* be questioned as the construct of "person" is completely artificial and strictly a legal one - there is no individual behind a corporate copyright claim, only a legal entity that exists in paperwork. If multi-million dollar corporations can claim a copyright for works created in their name, by (sometimes thousands) of other individuals, why can't an individual claim copyright for this single work 'created' in his name (without the input of the photographer, Slater, the images would not exist - Slater created the opportunity via the camera, the placement, the editing AND the public posting).
Again, it looks like money allows the system to work one way - protect the monied construct - but hurt the individual.
The parallel is not the same. As an employee of a company I am bound by an employment agreement and implicitly or explicitly agree to assign any work in the course of my employment to my employer... in exchange for which I receive fair compensation. The fact that my employer is a corporate entity is really not important. I am assigning my copyrights to a a group of people who have a shared ownership interest in the work I have produced.
If I were a contractor, things could be a little different as I would need to be bound by contract which specified any work I was doing as a work for hire and agreeing that I would assign exclusive right to use in perpetuity to the group of individuals with shared ownership interest (i.e. the corporation)
They are tools, that's all... it's how they are used that matters...they can be used to add "atmosphere" and impact to an image that might be otherwise dull. They can be used with forethought... many people come upon a scene and do think about how it would look if processed through their favorite filter. That's creative...
But, like anything else they can also be used to say "hey look at me! I can make my crappy pictures look just like the crappy pictures my mom took in 1972!"