The Monkey Didn’t Do It

A monkey went a bit viral yesterday, in their transparency report the Wikimedia Foundation said they denied a take down request because the photographer didn’t actually own the copyright since the picture in question was taken by the monkey. Multiple media and social media users jumped on it with titles like Wikipedia refuses to delete photo as ‘monkey owns it’ and general jokes and hilarity ensued. No big deal except, like most issues, the quick descent into jokes and diluted meaning glance over actual issues and incomplete understanding. The Foundation didn’t argue the monkey had the copyright, they argued there was no author, not the same thing at all. A better look at the actual decision here:

The Foundation’s argument may be apparent to long-time readers: despite the camera owner’s claims, if the macaque in question genuinely had control of the camera and composition, then there is no human author—which, under US law, means there’s no author at all. That may break with people’s instincts, notes Public Knowledge’s Sherwin Siy: surely a new and popular photograph must have some copyright in there somewhere.

A common misconception, which began perhaps with the original Telegraph story about the image, is that the monkey holds the copyright herself. Not so, of course; as our own Sarah Jeong [ed: welcome back!] argues in the Guardian, the truth is we disincentivize animal creativity greatly by denying any sort of IP protection to our brethren in the kingdom Animalia.

5 Useful Articles – Vol. 1 Issue 19