We can all breathe a sigh of relief as those macaque monkey pictures may belong in the public domain. Neither the photographer nor the news agency that published the images can claim a copyright because they did not create them.
According to some research by TechDirt, only works created by a human author are copyrightable. Straight from the US Copyright office:
503.03(a) Works-not originated by a human author.
In order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable. Thus, a linoleum floor covering featuring a multicolored pebble design which was produced by a mechanical process in unrepeatable, random patterns, is not registrable. Similarly, a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable; thus, for example, a piece of driftwood even if polished and mounted is not registrable
If the photographer David Slater or Caters News Agency wants to press the issue, they can take this matter to court and let a judge decide. But this little snippet from the Copyright rules suggests they may be fighting an uphill battle. [TechDirt Via BoingBoing]
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