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Who Really Owns the Monkey Selfie?

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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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