The Answers: Question 6

6. Recently, while working in a national park in Indonesia, British nature photographer David Slater had his camera swiped by a (critically endangered) crested black macaque. Before Slater recovered it, the macaque took some photos that were widely published. An American website, techdirt, published some of them in an online article about the intellectual property (IP) issues involved. Now Caters News Agency, the UK agency which represents the work of Mr. Slater, has asked techdirt to take down the photographs. What type(s) of intellectual property protection might apply in this case? Who “owns” the photographs, and why? Should techdirt take down the photographs, and why? In your argument, discuss the costs and benefits to the parties involved and to society. [10]

For full marks, a discussion of the macaque selfies would have to mention that the relevant mode of IP protection is copyright (not patents, trademarks, etc.), that no registration of copyright is required in most jurisdictions, that copyright automatically goes to the creator of the image, and that two of the main issues should be “Can an animal hold copyright?” and “Whose copyright legislation applies, Indonesia, USA or UK?” I would expect some (correct) use of keywords “Berne Convention,” “public domain,” “fair use” and/or “fair dealing.”

Slater’s ownership of the camera is irrelevant; if I were to loan him my camera, I don’t hold the copyright on the pictures he takes with it. The case is still controversial; Wikipedia sides with the macaque.

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