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Wikimedia's stand on 'monkey selfie' leads to amusement and some heartburn

Friday, 8 August 2014 - 4:30pm IST | Agency: dna webdesk

Professional photographers often add a caveat that no one can use their photographs without due permission and violating this would amount to copyright violation. But what if the photo was taken by a monkey using a photographer's camera? This apparently humorous incident could now become a matter for a potential lawsuit and has triggered a convoluted argument over copyright issues. 

In 2011, acclaimed British photographer David Slater was taking photographs of crested black macaques in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi when a bunch of monkeys hijacked his camera. One of the female macaques apparently took a goofy 'selfie' which went viral on social media. US based Wikimedia, which owns Wikipedia put up the picture on its site, but the photographer asked them to pull it down as he had the copyright for it. However, the site refused to remove it, saying the photographer didn't own the copyright to the picture as it is was a monkey 'selfie'.

This assertion has started a controversy and created ripples on social media while photographer David Slater has strongly reacted to Wikimedia's ruling. Media sources have quoted him as saying, “A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.” According to the photographer, ownership of the photo should be vested with him given the serious financial investment that led up to the photo: “That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot... Photography is an expensive profession that’s being encroached upon. They’re taking our livelihoods away.” 

However, while many people believed that Wikimedia said that the monkey holds copyright to the 'selfie', in reality, Wikimedia said that the photograph is uncopyrightable according to current US Copyright policy.

But looks like even Wikimedia editors are split about the controversy, with the picture being earlier removed when Slater raised a hue and cry. But they finally seem to have made up their mind and the two parties are on a collision course with a potential lawsuit costing £10,000.

Many on social media are choosing to simply see the funny side to the whole issue. The monkey took the 'selfie' way back in 2011 when the fad had not really caught on. Talk about being a step ahead of humans!

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