Riverside County Law Library


Nov, 2015 Blog Posts

A New World For Selfies

Nov 18, 2015

monkeyselfie.jpgWhen I first saw this picture, I couldn’t resist reading further.  What a face! How precious! I then got deeper into the story and the copyright issues involved, and the story became fascinating. 

Issue:  In 2011, a monkey on an Indonesian island, allegedly took a selfie. Who owns the copyright? Some background on the three sides involved:

First, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a suit in a California Federal Court.  It is looking for an order to have the proceeds of the picture go to the benefit of this monkey and others living in the reserve.  They are citing the Copyright Act 17 U.S.C. sec. 101, saying it is an original work and the monkey has authorship.

Second up, the wildlife photographer.  He set up the camera, but didn’t actually press the button to snap the picture.  He states he is the copyright owner of the photo.  He has also published a book “Wildlife Personalities” that prominently displays this selfie.

Now enter the third side. The photo has been disseminated elsewhere, including places like Wikipedia. Wikipedia is claiming no one owns the rights because the photo is public domain due to animals can’t own copyrights.

Last year the US Copyright Office issued a Compendium, which included a section that it would only register copyrights for works produced by human beings. PETA is saying this is only an opinion and the US Copyright Act does not contain this language.

Does neither the monkey nor the photographer have the rights if it’s not copyrightable?

Are public sites like Wikipedia the winner?

We will have to see what plays out in court but while you’re pondering the issue, take another look at that face.  Oh, wait…..should we be reprinting that!



Category: Current Events



Theresa is a Library Assistant at our Indio Branch.

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