Monkey does not own selfie, rules US Copyright Office


The US Copyright Office has settled the recent debate over the so-called monkey selfie, declaring in updated rules that material produced by an animal can’t be registered.


“The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals or plants,” the office, which operates under the US Library of Congress, wrote in a recent update to its regulations.

“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.”

The debate sprung up after the Indonesian macaque took the selfie in 2011 after snatching the camera from wildlife photographer David Slater on the island of Sulawesi.

The image of the smiling monkey later went viral.

The British photographer and Wikimedia Commons were recently embroiled in a controversy over the ownership of the selfie.

Slater wrote to Wikimedia and asked them to take down the image since it was costing him royalties. But the nonprofit foundation stated that he does not own the copyright to the image.

Now, according to the Copyright Office, the matter is formally settled. The office clearly says that unless a human took the image, it cannot be registered and, thus, would be considered a public domain image freely available for use.

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  • “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals or plants”

    Doesn’t this have some pretty profound implications for medical research and eg the patenting of genes? Or of drugs produced through agriculture of genetically modified plants? The latter might even cover ZMAPP, the experimental Ebola treatment.

  • That’s so obvious. If you lend your camera to someone to take your picture e.g. a waiter in a restaurant, technically the picture copyright belongs to the waiter.

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