Monkey selfie: Macaque does not own image but neither does camera owner, US copyright office rules

 
Lynsey Barber
Follow Lynsey
Monkey selfie is in the public domain (Source: Wikimedia)

If a monkey takes a selfie, who owns the image - the monkey or the man with the camera? Now we have an answer to surely the most important legal question of modern times: it's neither.

The US copyright office has ruled that any work created by an animal- monkey or otherwise- as well as plants, nature, divine or supernatural beings does not belong to them or anyone else.

If the work is not created by a human being, it can not be copyrighted.

The copyright office specifically referenced the “monkey selfie” case, in which a British photographer claimed ownership of the image taken by a black macaque when it swiped his camera after it was used in a Wikipedia entry.

In addition to the infamous selfie, the copyright office also named other specific and equally bizarre examples in which copyright could not be attributed because the creator of the work is not human, including:

  • A mural painted by an elephant
  • A song naming the Holy Spirit as the author
  • Driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean
  • Cut marks, defects and other qualities found in natural stone

The good news, of course, is that monkey selfies are officially public domain images freely available for anyone to use as they wish. So enjoy the image above...

Related articles