David Slater is a UK nature photographer who earns his living in part by selling reproductions of his images. In 2011, Slater traveled to Sulawesi, Indonesia to photograph macaque monkeys. As the Huffington Post explains, one of the monkeys “borrowed” Slater’s camera and took some amazing self-portraits. It’s easy to see how Slater might profit by selling reproductions of these monkey “selfies.”
Quite understandably, Slater is keen to claim his copyright to the images. But Wikipedia has posted a couple of the best images, declaring, “This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.” I don’t know how the law will come down, but as a moral issue Wikipedia’s claim seems clearly wrong to me. Slater put in a lot of time and money to put himself in a position to capture the image; it’s hardly as though some monkey broke into his house to steal the camera.
Wikipedia states, “[I]n 2014 the Wikimedia Foundation rejected his copyright claim, upholding the fact that the macaque is the legal copyright owner which defaults to the public domain, as had the community on the Wikimedia Commons.” Slater continues to fight for his copyright, as the Telegraph reports.
I am not displaying one of Slater’s images, because I regard those images as Slater’s property, morally even if not legally. Instead, I’m displaying an image of Rhesus Macaques from a zoo in Rotterdam, captured and placed into the Creative Commons by “jinterwas.” Because I think that’s the right thing to do.