This post is not strictly about photography, but I think it is relevant nevertheless. Among the many good videos about cinematography available online, this is one of my favourites.
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 legitimate1. 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.