Wednesday, 17 September 2014 23:38

No More Monkeying Around

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An entertaining case emerged at the United States Copyright Office recently in regards to a "selfie" taken by a crested black macaque in Indonesia in 2011. British wildlife photographer David J. Slater was on a mission to Indonesia to raise awareness on endangered species via wildlife photography.  While attempting to take an ideal picture of the endangered crested black macaques in their habitat, a female macaque grabbed Slater’s camera and proceeded to take some selfies of herself. One of the images was a highly animated and grinning selfie, which became an instant viral hit.

Consequently, the image was uploaded by Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons is a ginormous database of photos and videos for anyone to use. Slater was unable to gain any royalties from the image uploaded by Wikimedia.  He petitioned to Wikimedia to take the image down reasoning that the copyright in the image belonged to him as the photographer. However, Wikimedia refused to oblige, counter arguing that it was the female ape that took the picture, not Slater, disclaiming his alleged ownership of the image. Wikimedia further argued that the image was in public domain because only humans can own copyrights under the United States Copyright law.

Nonetheless, Slater adamantly refused this notion by Wikimedia.  He stated that the image could only be captured because of his equipment and his creativity in letting the female ape take selfies.  Soon thereafter, this dispute arose before the United States Copyright Office.

In the United States, a copyright protection subsists in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

The United States Copyright Office sided with Wikimedia. It founded its conclusion based on the updated copyright law, which states that an image taken by an animal cannot be copyrighted in the United States. In fact, the Office went on to state that no one owned the copyright in the image and the selfie taken by the female macaque was in the public domain to be used by anyone.  No more monkeying around in copyrights.

Read 2573 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 September 2014 21:57
Kaustubh Nadkarni

Mr. Nadkarni earned his bachelor’s degree in Engineering Arts from Michigan State University, his Master’s degree in Finance and Six Sigma Management Science from University of Miami, his law degree from Nova Southeastern University and his Master of Laws degree in Intellectual Property from University of New Hampshire, formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center.

Mr. Nadkarni is a member of the Florida Bar, the Southern District of Florida Federal Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He has also successfully passed the United States Patent and Trademark Office Registration Examination. As a Patent Attorney, he concentrates his practice in Patent Prosecution, Patent Litigation, Trademark Prosecution and other Intellectual Property litigation matters. Mr. Nadkarni is fluent in Hindi, Marathi, Urdu and functional in French. He is a member of American Intellectual Property Association, Miami Beach Bar Association and a Board Member of the Fairchild Palms.