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Copyright: A monkey’s business

16-08-2011

Doesn’t she look cute? Believe it or not, this picture was not made by human hands. It was made by her. On July 5th, the British newspaper The Daily Mail announced that a wild black macaque had photographed itself after stealing a camera from famous wildlife photographer David Slater during a photo shoot in Sulawesi, Indonesia. She succeeded in taking multiple photos, the best one seen below.

Afterwards, when the photos were published online, a discussion arose on the blog TechDirt as to who was the rightful owner of the copyright on these photos. Caters News Agency, where David Slater is employed, automatically claimed the copyright for this photo and others, adding a copyright notice to the photos. The question that was rightfully asked on the TechDirt forum was: Did the curious monkey transfer her copyright on this photo?

In the Netherlands this discussion would never have taken place. According to Dutch Law, the creation that is copyrighted has to derive from human hands. In addition, the photos in question are taken in the wild, which means “the public domain” and thus can be used by anyone. Even monkeys like us.