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Who Really Owns the Monkey Selfie?

Who Really Owns the Monkey Selfie?

monkey_selfieIf a monkey takes a selfie in a jungle, does the camera’s owner lay claim to the photo? Photographer David Slater thinks so. Slater’s in a copyright battle with Wikimedia Commons over photos resulting from a 2011 impromptu photo shoot in Indonesia when a black crested macaque grabbed Slater’s camera and took hundreds of selfies.

It seems like everybody’s been going bananas over these photos (and the resulting legal battle) so we sent out a survey to learn where people stand on the monkey selfie debate—and what they think about photo ownership in general.

And we found that, of the people we surveyed, 61% think Slater owns the photos because they were taken with his camera, while only 22% say the monkey selfies are in the public domain (i.e., nobody can own them):

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 12.26.04 PM

(By the way 17% say the monkey owns the photos, but nobody’s been sued by the macaque as of yet.)

So it looks like the people we surveyed are in disagreement with the folks at Wikimedia, who say the pictures can’t be owned by anybody because, well, a monkey isn’t a somebody.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Although the people we surveyed say Slater owns the photos because they were taken with his camera, they think the same doesn’t apply if two humans are involved:

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 12.59.33 PM

57% say they’d own the photo if they took a selfie on a friend’s camera! (While 39% say their friend would own that photo.) Seems like people think that in general, photo ownership has to do with the human who drives the creative effort–or provides the means for creativity in the absence of a human touch.

(Guess that means people think this elephant painting an elephant should be getting peanuts for royalties.)

Do you agree or disagree with these results? Where do you stand on the monkey selfie debate? Let us know in the Comments below!

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  • Robert Helms

    If you come into my kitchen and make a meal with all my food ingredients, that is my meal, because all the ingredients are mine. In the same way, any pictures produced with my camera are my pictures, because the camera is mine.

    • KTsurveymonkey

      Valid point, Robert!

      • Frederis Ettenein

        and what do you think about mine ? The Human photographer is not the creator of his camera device, so not LEGALLY the full owner of it : so he don’t belongs any right more than the monkey on the production of this picture. This is the monkey whch manipulated the camera in order to create; The Monkey is an animal, Animals are recognized as conscious mammifers, so their acts enter immediately in the domain of intelligence, whatever these intelligent acts be the fact of the inconscious nature intelligence (instincts) ore decided by the living creature. But The monkey is not a juridical subject, consequently the property of the picture he made was immediately transferred to Humanity : Monkey ‘Artist” Selfie was since the beginning juridically and fully right-free. And most people think so it’s beautiful.

    • Mustangkassie

      I would agree in regards to landscape, nature etc.. but not in the example of one taking the photo of another (human), the photographer does not own the subject, so unless they have permission or an agreement, I believe the rights belong to the subject.

    • Frederis Ettenein

      Yep, you’re wrong causebut even in this case, you don’t own the copyright of any functionality of your camera, neither technological inventions nor assemblying opérations which made this camera. You bought this camera but you’re not the creator of the camera. You don’t belong any right on the ingredients of the TOOL !!!!! —–> Monkey Artist: 3 – Heavy Human : 0

  • Chris Winter

    Well who uploaded it in the first place? If the photographer shared a low res version via social media, who cares? That’s great publicity. If he uploaded a high res original and THAT is doing the rounds, well more fool him. Lesson learned the hard way. Next time go to National Geographic BEFORE showing off on social media?

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