By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you and a group of friends take a selfie together, who owns it?
British photographer David Slater went to Indonesia in 2011 to do a nature shoot when a playful monkey – neither Davey Jones nor Peter Tork – but an actual, albeit less adorable, monkey got hold of the camera. Slater developed the pictures and found that the monkey had taken a fabulous, smiling selfie which found its way onto Wikimedia, from which it was downloaded the world over.
Mr. Slater said to Wikimedia: I’m a Believer – that I own this picture and demanded royalties. Wikimedia refused, saying he didn’t own the copyright since he hadn’t taken the picture. Can that be true? Does whomever pushes the button own the selfie?
Under US copyright law, yes, if the picture is copyrightable (more on that in a second), then apparently the one with the longest arms who pushes the button owns the selfie even if the picture is A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me.
In the case of the monkey selfie, the picture itself isn’t copyrightable because it doesn’t have an author. Or at least not a human author, which is all copyright law protects.
Until the monkey can walk into court and demand the law be changed, no work created by nature can be copyrighted. And that probably won’t happen because well you know, those Monkees they’re too busy singing to put anybody down.