Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Who owns this monkey’s selfie?"

Image and text borrowed from MSN News, August 7, 2014.

When a monkey commandeered a nature photographer’s camera on a small Indonesian island a few years ago, the results were extraordinary. Among the images captured by the crested black macaque were a few amazing images of himself.

Those monkey selfies made headlines back in 2011, and two of the photographs made their way to the Wikipedia page for the monkey’s species, which is endangered. Wikipedia only uses images that are in the public domain, but the feeling was that, since the monkey snapped the photo, no one could claim the copyrights to it.

“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,” Wikipedia’s collective band of editors explained.

The nature photographer, David Slater, felt otherwise. He sent a takedown request to the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, claiming that the photographs belong to him because they were taken with his camera.

“We didn’t agree, so we denied the request,” Wikimedia said in a new report about takedown requests it has received. The organization clearly highlighted the monkey selfie dispute in an effort to draw attention to its broader campaign against censorship.

See the whole story and related video:

VAOJ took up similar issues in the Japanese context in 2009 that included information from North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources. In their Image Use Protocol which suggests "Best practices for locating and using Japanese visual images for teaching, research, and publications," the following are rights holders to a particular image: copyright holders, owners of objects (in the image), image owners and subjects in the photos. So for the self portrait (I hate the term "selfie") of the monkey, can we ask permission for image use from the monkey (does the monkey know sign language?)? Does the photographer automatically have copyright because it was his camera and his efforts that brought the photo to the attention to the public? Did the photographer have permission from the Indonesian government or other agencies where the monkey is located? Why didn't Wikipedia ask the photographer in the first place? Does Wikipedia have the right to establish what is public domain on their own?

These are complex questions and issues that illustrate current copyright ideas/practices are no simple monkey business...

North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources:

VAOJ Shooting Culture in Japan project:

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