The ‘monkey selfie’ story is not over yet

The US Copyright Office states that it will only register an original work of authorship, ‘provided that the work was created by a human being’.

In a widely reported draft of the third edition of its Compendium of US Copyright Practices – published on 19 August – it adds that the office ‘will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants’.

It cited, as an example, ‘a photograph taken by a monkey’.

However, in an interview with Amateur Photographer (AP) today (22 August), Slater said: ‘I was the human origin of that photograph. Without me, it wouldn’t have happened.

‘The one that takes a photograph is the one that sets it up.’

The word ‘created’ in the US Copyright Office’s phrase ‘created by a human being’ is key, says London-based copyright lawyer Charles Swan.

Under Section 9 (1) of the UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the author of the work is the ‘person who creates it’.

As AP reported at the height of the controversy, Slater’s central claim is that he directed the photographic shoot by handing a remote shutter release to the black macaque, in the hope it would eventually trigger the shutter.

Slater today maintained that he holds copyright, in the same way that a wildlife photographer owns rights to an image when an animal fires the shutter remotely by crossing an infrared beam set up for that purpose.

He says ‘all photographers are in trouble’ if this no longer applies.

Slater today told AP he is still speaking to lawyers in the UK and the US over the matter and, at the time of writing, has not filed a lawsuit.

Lawyer Charles Swan adds there may be an argument that the monkey photo is a ‘computer-generated’ work, if Slater’s camera is deemed to be a computer.

A ‘computer-generated’ work is one that is ‘generated by computer in circumstances such that there is no human author of the work’, under UK law.