Monkey Selfie Can't Be Copyrighted, U.S. Regulators Confirm

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Before you go bananas over a monkey selfie, know that the U.S. Copyright Office is on the side of humans. The federal body responsible for registering copyright claims has confirmed that a monkey — or any other animal — that takes a selfie doesn’t own the copyright to the photo. In an update to copyright regulations and practices published this week, the Copyright Office spells out examples of works that are not eligible for protection. They include: “a photograph taken by a monkey” and “a mural painted by an elephant.” The office has long stipulated that only works “created by a human being” can be registered for copyright, but the animal examples it cites in the updated guidelines is new, according to National Journal.

The monkey example relates to a legal tussle between British wildlife photographer David J. Slater and Wikimedia, the nonprofit foundation behind Wikipedia, over a selfie taken by a monkey in Indonesia in 2011. The female macque snatched Slater’s camera and snapped a few cute pictures of herself, one of which became quite famous and made Slater some money. Slater requested that Wikimedia remove the photo from Wikimedia Commons, a repository of images that are free for the public to use, insisting that he owns the rights to the monkey selfie. Wikimedia refused, saying that the copyright should belong to the person taking the photo, and in this case a person didn’t take the photo.



— James Eng