It happened again.
I was reading a post from La Noir Image – specifically this one (paywall) about the photography of Marcello Perino – when I saw a brilliant photo that caught my attention. After a few seconds, my finger moved toward the middle of it and tapped on the trackpad without my brain knowing.
A short conversation between my Brain, my Eyes and my Finger took place shortly thereafter.
— Brain: “Hey, what are you doing?”
— Eyes: “Mate, I’m watching, can you please be quiet?”
— Brain: “It was him, I was paying attention. Finger! What the heck?”
— Finger (ashamed): “Er… I was clicking… the ‘like’ button…”
— Eyes: “There is no like button, you idiot!”
— Brain: “There is no like button, you idiot!”
— Eyes: “Can we go back to the photos now, please?”
— Brain: “Let’s discuss the Quintessence of the World and other Bigger Issues instead”
— Eyes: “Oh, get lost…!”
That made me think (as this intriguing dialogue should prove).
It definitely can, according to what happened to David Slater. The events are well known and date back to 2011 but for some reason their effects keep following each other.
The facts are pretty straightforward: photographer David Slater’s camera was seized by a cheeky macaque that happened to press the right button at the right time, taking one of the funniest and most expressive selfies a monkey could ever shoot. Not unexpectedly, the photo became viral and everyone was at peace with it until Slater claimed the copyright for that very image.
All of a sudden, the Interwebs went bananas (no pun intended).
A number of issues was raised and still remains unsolved:
- Can Slater claim the ownership of a photo for the sole reason that it was taken with his equipment?
- Can a monkey be the rightful owner of a product of creativity – or of any object at all?
- Is the owner of a picture the one who presses the button of the camera?
Let me disclose my opinion on the matter straightaway: David Slater has the full ownership of his picture and his claims are absolutely legitimate. Unfortunately, most arguments used in favour or against this statement are pointless and at times even ridiculous:
- Can monkeys have a lawyer?
- If we agree the monkey owns the picture, how do we assess its licensing preferences?
- Are we giving a monkey rights, only to exploit them by putting the picture into the public domain realm?
The fact is, this is not a matter of copyright at all.