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US Copyright Office: We Can’t Register a Monkey Selfie… Or One Taken by a God

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In its updated 1,222-page “Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition” released yesterday, the US Copyright Office took the side of Wikimedia in their argument with nature photographer David Slater when the office wrote that they cannot register works by monkeys.

The report, which comes just weeks after Slater seemed to be making plans to take Wikimedia to court, simply specifies the office’s policies regarding federal copyright law, but the fact that the first example of works it will not register is now “A photograph taken by a monkey” sends a pretty clear message to Mr. Slater.

In a video we shared at the beginning of this month (embedded above), Slater argued that he set up the selfie on purpose, in essence staging the shot, and therefore the fact that the monkey pressed the shutter is irrelevant. Because of this, we wouldn’t be surprised if Slater still plans to take Wikimedia to court.

After all, he already knew that copyright law wasn’t on his side in this case. In the video he says that Wikimedia is “guessing” because this has “never been tested.” And while it certainly doesn’t bode well that the US Copyright Office seems to have interpreted the law the same way as Wikimedia, UK law would allow Slater to claim ownership if it was part of his “intellectual creation.”

That, however, has never been tried in court, so the legal system is still Slater’s only recourse if he chooses to pursue this.


Oh, and if you’re curious what other types of works the Copyright Office cannot register, they went well beyond monkey selfies in their list. Other entities that you should ask to keep their stinkin’ paws off your shutter button include: plants, robots, ghosts and ‘divine beings’… although a work ‘inspired by a divine spirit’ may still be registered.

To read the whole shebang for yourself, click here to see the full PDF report.

(via Ars Technica)

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