A macaque monkey stole the camera of British nature photographer David Slater back in 2011 and inadvertently took a series of selfies. Now, the photographer is struggling to get the Wikimedia Commons, the organization behind Wikipedia, to remove the photos. The problem? Wikimedia claims that Slater shouldn’t own the photos’ copyrights, because he technically was not the photographer — the monkey was.
The organization argues that the monkey is responsible for the photos because the monkey was the one who actually pressed the shutter button, whereas Slater contends that “A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up.”
Wikimedia’s stance on the copyright issue has been clear. In the licensing conditions they put beneath the monkey selfie, Wikimedia put, “This file is in the public domain because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”
Essentially, Wikimedia is saying that Slater doesn’t actually own the copyrights of the photos. The organization is not arguing that the monkey does, as some sources report.
Wikimedia says that they were justified for making them available online for free, seeing as how the mischievous scamp is technically photographer, but can’t legally own a copyright, which means that no one has legal ownership over the photos.
Slater’s latest crack at Wikimedia alleges that the organization’s Creative Commons license on the photo, which allows any person to repurpose it without having to pay Slater or anyone else, has caused him to lose income.
“For every 10,000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images,” explained Slater. “It was like a year of work, really,” said Slater.