It Turns Out a Monkey Really Does Kind of Own Its Selfies

Monkey takes photos on camera

U.S. copyright regulators are siding with Wikimedia in a dispute about who owns selfies taken by a monkey. Buried in a 1,222-page report is a mention that likens monkey selfies to things found in nature.

The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit,” the report says.

The controversy is rooted in photos taken during photographer David Slater’s trip to Indonesia in 2011. A macaque picked up his camera and began snapping away, leaving a few usable images that went viral. Since the trip wasn’t cheap — Slater said the equipment and trip together cost upwards of £7,000 — he was hoping to make some money from those images. 

It looks like that won’t happen. Slater’s case first gained prominence several weeks ago, when it came out Wikipedia’s parent organization was refusing to take the image down from its site because it didn’t recognize Slater as the copyright holder. It seems even less likely now that the regulators have come down on nature’s side.

But Slater, a British national, can always try his luck across the pond. Apparently, the courts there may find that the selfie is still his “intellectual creation.”

A Monkey Really Does Kind of Own Its Selfies