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Photographer continues fight over monkey selfie

The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled that pieces of content produced by animals cannot be copyrighted.
Source: Wikimedia
The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled that pieces of content produced by animals cannot be copyrighted.

David Slater isn't monkeying around. The wildlife photographer, who made headlines in August after the U.S. Copyright Office denied his claim for copyright of a photograph taken by a macaque monkey, still maintains that he is the copyright owner, according to the Consumerist.

In 2011, a monkey took Slater's camera and snapped a few photos including a self-portrait. The "selfie" was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, a collection of millions of free-to-use images and videos. Slater made several attempts to remove the image, claiming that he held the copyright.

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However, the U.S. Copyright Office denied his claim. The Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices states, "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(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit."

In fact, the first example included under the passage is "a photograph taken by a monkey." Others include: a mural painted by an elephant, a claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin, and a claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.

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Public Knowledge, a non-profit public interest group, wrote an article in August about Slater and used the monkey image in their reporting. Slater emailed the group in December demanding that the group purchase a license to use his image and publish a retraction.

Sherwin Siy, the Vice President of Legal Affairs of Public Knowledge, responded to Slater stating that there would be no retraction and that the group would not be purchasing a license for the photograph.

Siy also wrote, "As you can tell from the post, I do not believe that you hold a valid copyright in that particular image. This allows us to reproduce the image without first seeking your permission, or listing you as a contributing factor to its creation."

Read the full report from Consumerist.