Monkey selfie sparks copyright spat between Wikimedia, nature photographer

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(PIX11) – A nature photographer’s bid to have Wikipedia take down a selfie snapped by a photogenic Indonesian monkey may be headed to court.

While British photographer David Slater was in North Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011, he started documenting a group of curious, crested black macaques who accompanied him for days.


He decided to give his camera to one of the monkeys to find out what would happen.  The primates took a number of photos, including one selfie by a female macaque that made international news.

“They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button,” he told The Telegraph.

Editors at the U.S.-based Wikimedia posted the stunning self portrait to its creative commons site, making it free to use and share.

Despite Slater’s repeated requests to have the photo taken down, Wikipedia maintains that, since it was the monkey that pushed the button, the copyright can’t belong to Slater.

“To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they’d only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image,” Wikimedia told PIX11 in a statement.

“I’ve told them it’s not public domain, they’ve got no right to say that its public domain,” Slater told the paper.  “A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.”

Slater says he’ll take thousands of photos, but only a select few end up paying his bills.  Despite the photo ending up on network news and countless Internet sites, Slater says he hasn’t earned much off the photo.

Slater points out that the copyright ruling is Wikipedia’s, and not that of a judge.  To take the case to court, however, would mean an estimated $17,000 in legal fees, according to the paper.




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