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Photographer loses battle with Wikipedia over this amazing monkey selfie

It was “the work of a non-human animal”, apparently…

WHEN A MACAQUE monkey presses the shutter button on a camera, and the result is the most phenomenal selfie you’re ever likely to see – who owns the rights to it?

This is the question at the heart of an ongoing dispute between British photographer David Slater and Wikipedia, which took a turn today when the Wikimedia Foundation issued its latest Transparency Report.

A photographer left his camera unattended in a national park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
A female crested black macaque monkey got a hold of the camera and took a series of pictures, including some self-portraits.
The pictures were featured in an online newspaper article and eventually posted to Commons. We received a takedown request from the photographer, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs.
We didn’t agree, so we denied the request.

One-of-the-photos-taken-b-013 Source: David Slater/Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is where users and content-producers upload photos and other media which is not governed by copyright, or whose copyright has expired.

Slater had argued that, while it was the monkey that physically took the snapshots, he set it up, the camera was his, and therefore he owned the copyright on them.

The photographer summed up Wikipedia’s argument as being, “If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me,” and the story has been widely reported as an assertion by Wikipedia that the macaque monkey is the sole copyright holder.

However, Wikipedia’s stated rationale for refusing to delete the images is that no one has copyright over them, because no human being took them.


Whatever your own view is, we could be set for an intriguing legal fight, with Slater telling the Daily Telegraph that it’s not up to Wikipedia alone to decide who owns copyright on what. “It needs a court to decide that,” he said.

One of the images has already been nominated for deletion from Wikipedia since their ruling today, on the following grounds:

Monkeys with machines? It starts like this…


…it goes on to this…


And it ends like this…


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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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