Monkey Selfies Are Not Protected by U.S. Copyright Law

In the market for a monkey selfie? You’re in luck.

According to the 1222-page Compendium of Copyright Offices Practices U.S. regulators issued in August 2014: “a photograph taken by a monkey” is not protected by United States Copyright laws.

Monkey Selfies Are in the Public Domain in the U.S.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about the monkey selfie dispute, congratulations on living a meaningful life, and . . .here are the basic facts: A monkey (a black macaque monkey, to be precise) in Indonesia grabbed an unattended camera and snapped a series of photos including this one:



David J. Slater, the U.K.-based photographer who owns the camera, described the events to The Daily Mail in 2011. The Daily Mail article included the above photo and others (including one the monkey took of Slater!)

At some point, the photo made its way to Wikimedia Commons (an online site with free images). When Slater discovered it, he demanded that Wikimedia Commons remove the photo because its presence on the site had impacted his ability to license it.

Wikimedia refused, arguing that because Slater did not take the picture —  the monkey did — Slater does not hold a copyright in the photo. In early August 2014, Slater had not filed a lawsuit against Wikimedia, but said he was considering it.

Although we can’t be completely sure, it’s possible that the release of the Compendium of Copyright Practices comments about monkey-created photos impacted Slater’s thinking. Even though in early August 2014 Slater seemed to still be considering a lawsuit against Wikimedia, as of the date of this post, Slater apparently has abandoned any thought of a lawsuit against Wikimedia Commons.

Instead, Slater is distributing the photo for free on a canvas to those who make a small donation to the Sulawesi Crested Black Macaques Conservation Programme.

Get your monkey selfie at:

**The macaque was unavailable for comment.







About The Author

TV Juriste
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Harvard-trained attorney and long-time TV super fan, Terri James (TV Juriste) has worked at E!, NBCUniversal, BBC and for a TV personality, for television shows including, E! News, The Daily Ten, Live From the Red Carpet, Life in the Fab Lane, The Soup, Americans in Bed, Chicago PD, and Royal Pains, among others.Terri's All-Time Favorite TV Shows: The Wire, Seinfeld, Colbert Report, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sex and the City, 30 Rock, SNL, Homeland (first season), Breaking Bad (final season), My So Called Life, Meet the Press (Tim Russert Years), and Lil Bush.

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