If a Monkey Steals Your Camera, Who Owns the Photos?

Illustration for article titled If a Monkey Steals Your Camera, Who Owns the Photos?

You can't forget those adorable self-portraits taken by a group of vain monkeys on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The shots are amazing, so amazing that a controversy is brewing over their copyright.

You see, the monkeys took the images using a camera owned by photographer David J Slater. They stole the camera which Slater later retrieved. Hundreds of monkey photos were then processed by Slater and a select few were distributed by Caters News.


So who in this chain owns the rights to these photos? Is it the monkeys who took the pictures? The man who owns the camera but didn't take the photos? Or the news agency that merely sent them out? This issue has not been ironed out, but it could be soon.

Techdirt asked the same copyright question last week and now they have received a take down notice from Caters News. The news agency claims Techdirt is using these monkey images "without David's or our permission" and asks them to "remove these images from your site immediately."

Techdirt is claiming fair use, while Caters News Agency is implying they own the rights to these images. It's a convoluted topic that may take some time to figure out. Meanwhile, we want to know your opinion on this matter. Who do you think owns the images? And do they have a right to pull them down? [Techdirt; Photo: David Slater/Caters]

You can keep up with Kelly Hodgkins, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.


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I'm actually embroiled in a similar legal issue: My two-year-old daughter took my iPhone and must have snapped 20, maybe even 30, pictures. When I took the camera back (my legal possession, she was merely using it), she made statements of ownership that she felt covered both the physical hardware as well as the images taken, quoted as follows: "mine" and "no take". We are currently at an impasse with a third party retaining possession of all materials concerned and involved in the case until an acceptable solution is reached; my wife says I can have the phone when my daughter goes to bed.

I wish the best of luck to all parties involved, as I know these battles can be very trying.