I was intrigued by the macaque monkey who has hit the headlines due to the ‘selfie’ it has taken after whisking off with a passer-by’s phone. On the news this morning (radio 4 don’t you know!) discussions abounded about whether the gentleman (whose phone it was) could stop third parties publishing the photo and demand a royalty.
As this is my area of specialism, I thought I’d throw my thoughts into the mix.
I’m not sure where the story originates, but certainly in the UK, a monkey cannot be the owner of any copyright. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that to be the owner of copyright in the UK, you must be a ‘qualifying person’. Section 154 (1) defines that as being:
a) a British citizen, British national overseas or
b) an individual domiciled or resident in the UK or
c) a body incorporated under the law of the UK or another country where the relevant provisions of the Act apply.
As far as I know, monkeys are not deemed an ‘individual’ (feel free to correct me) so, sorry little monkey – he’s not going to make his fortune from his selfie, but at least he has achieved international renown!
No doubt this story will continue to run and run particularly as the photographer in question, David Slater, is threatening to sue the Wikimedia Foundation, a not for profit organisation which oversees Wikipedia for sums up to $30,000. Whether this case ever sees the inside of a court remains to be seen but for all its notoriety it does raise some interesting copyright questions that may be helpful for a court to look at given the explosion in the selfie revolution.