The two pictures above were taken by British nature photographer David Slater in 2011, when a black macaque walked over to him and hijacked his camera, proceeding to take numerous amounts of selfies. With the pictures going viral, they found themselves on Wikimedia’s Commons page, where they’ve been available as public domain. The problem? When David Slater requested the pictures be taken down, Wikimedia refused – the reason being that because it was the animal pressing the shutter, the photo didn’t actually belong to him.
It’s safe to say that Wikimedia might be going a bit bananas (I’m sorry.) here, because what they’re basically saying is that since the monkey took the picture, it owns the copyright.
David Slater now faces legal battle with the organization, which is set to push him back by $10,000 in bills alone. Talking to The Telegraph, the photographer stressed that the trip during which the photo was taken cost money to make happen. He emphasized on the fact that his equipment was expensive, his editing tools were expensive, and that Wikimedia publishing his picture to the Commons page was taking away his livelihood by jeopardizing the income he works for.
“For every 100000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images. It was like a year of work, really.”
– David Slater, Telegraph
A completely bizarre case without a doubt, there’s obviously a lot that can be said with regard to the humor and absurdity of the entire situation. But the question still remains on whether Wikimedia has any legal ground at all to make the claim that they did. David Slater, preparing to face them in court, doesn’t think they’re there yet.
If I had to give my opinion on the matter, I think a bit of unfairness is in play here. When you take the entire situation into account, any person out there with common sense would be able to see that it was the photographer who made the situation occur. He took the trip there, he interacted with the animals, and it was because of him that an animal took those pictures. I don’t exactly believe you can put ownership of anything into an animal’s hands, considering they’re not held under the law in the first place. And if that makes the photo unowned by either David or the macaque, which Wikimedia is using as their reasoning for keeping the picture up, then they’re hurting themselves. I’ve always held respect for the organization, but they’re damaging their relationship with the professional photography community right now, and it’s not worth it for one monkey picture.