The photographer gave the camera a monkey. She took a picture. The photographer had to defend him in court. The ridiculous story would not have turned into a news series, if it had not served as the basis for an important judicial precedent determining whether the author of a work of someone who in fact is not the author can be considered.
In 2011, photographer David Slater shot baboons in the reserve in Indonesia. He left his cell, and the monkey, nicknamed Naruto, made a few selfies on her, one of which the photographer gave to the agency.
When in three years the picture appeared on the Wikimedia website, Slater asked to remove it, referring to the copyright. However, the US Copyright Office then sided with Wikimedia: although the camera and the idea of filming belonged to Slater, technically the baboon has removed itself, and work created by nature, an animal or a plant can not be registered as someone else’s property.
© David J Slater / Wildlife Personalities Ltd (UK)
When the case was widely publicized, PETA intervened. The Organization for the Protection of Animal Rights tried to defend the right of the monkey to a picture in the District Court of San Francisco. But Judge William Orrik was adamant: “I just do not understand how this law can be applied to monkeys,” the judge said.
During four years of the court hearings, the parties ascertained how close the relationship was to PETA with the animal in order to represent it in court; whether primacy can dispose of funds if it is recognized by the author of the snapshot; and, finally, who is the author of the photo – the one who came up with the idea, or someone who physically pressed the shutter button.
At some point, Slater went to the world and agreed to deduct 25% of the fees for the snapshot to protect the habitat of the monkeys. But the court decided to bring the matter to an end. In his final decision, he ruled that the monkey, as well as other animals, can not even file lawsuits.
At the end of this story, the editors decided to ask the opinion of photographers whether the person who did not press the camera button could be considered the author of the photo. Opinions were divided.
There’s nothing to talk about. Of course, the author of the picture, the owner of all rights and money for him is the photographer David Slater – it’s his intellectual property and no one else’s draw. He is the author of the idea, this is his camera and his memory card. Roughly speaking, he loaded it and gave it to the baboon. Who clicked, in fact, is not so important.
In my practice there were a lot of cases when I was preparing a survey, but physically I could not press the button due to the peculiarities of the project. But from this work did not cease to be mine. Under water, octopuses often press the shutter release button when they are allowed to play with the box – no one considers them to be photographers.
Zoo advocates wanted to create a precedent, on the basis of which animals could be considered copyright holders. The controversial issue is how much PETA can generally represent the interests of the animal in court, but most importantly – while animals have no reason to claim authorship.
Orangutan has the unquestionable right to see its name indicated under the photograph.
After reading this story, I immediately remembered the attitude to the rights to the picture in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, where I worked as a photocor. Her lawyer believed this: if the photo was taken on an editorial camera, the property rights to it belong to the newspaper and only to the newspaper.
Of course, lawyers share property and copyright – authorship always belongs to the one who removes. Orangutan has the unquestionable right to see its name indicated under the photograph. This is certain.
And as for property rights, it seems to me that human reason, generosity, respect for animals and a sense of humor should be a priority. After all, all these rights, like money, are purely human games, in which monkeys can not play. Hence, we ourselves need to decide how we thank the monkeys for participating in these games. But it is hardly possible to legislate for photographers to have a sense of humor or gratitude – the choice is purely human, and the court is almost powerless.
Once Boris Yeltsin at the meeting asked for a camera from Sergei Chirikov …
A funny case. He shows that any legislation is imperfect and that not all processes occurring in the life of society can be described by the dry language of jurisprudence.
Once Boris Yeltsin at the meeting asked for a camera from Sergei Chirikov, photographer of the EPA, covering this event. Sergei did not agree, but who would be the author of the picture, whether he is more accommodating – Yeltsin or Chirikov? Of course, Yeltsin. What then is the baboon not the author?
David Slater can claim to be a monkey editor.
From the point of view of any photographer, the authorship belongs to the monkey Naruto: David Slater had no intentions and instructions on what and how the monkey will shoot. On the contrary, the trick was that the author of this photo should find his own story and composition. The monkey made a copyright self. Well done!
Of course, David Slater can claim to be a monkey editor – but not the author of this picture. He acted as an editor, choosing this photo from many others.
However, in this logic there is one ethical problem: we automatically extrapolate our thoughts to all other photographers, to put it mildly, comparing them with monkeys. At least, this is exactly what concerns the selfie photographers, who are now the absolute majority. If I lived in America and the American court recognized the copyright for a snapshot of a monkey, in place of David Slater I would file a counterclaim for insults to the photographer’s profession. But I live in Russia – in a country where everything belongs to the people.
It does not matter if the frame is made by you or you give the camera to someone else.
The situation itself seems ridiculous to me, and the behavior of the PETA organization is rather stupid. After all, in modern art use any media and a variety of ways to submit ideas. Photography is no exception. It can be used as a language, and it does not matter at all whether the frame is made by you or you will let someone else take a picture.
I often photograph myself, and sometimes I ask my wife about it. But I can not say that she becomes the author of the picture, even if she presses the shutter button. A snapshot is part of a whole project, the author of which is still me, because the idea and idea belong to me.
Here is the same situation, but it looks much more stupid: the monkey can not be considered the author of the picture, if only because it can not continue to work with the picture. The author had an idea, he performed it, it turned out interesting.
In the matter of copyrights, the Ukrainian photographer is below the monkey.
The situation is ridiculous, but it shows how carefully copyright is kept in the West. In Ukraine, it has not even reached the point of upholding the rights of photographers to their own shots. Attempts to defend their rights in court cause a mocking reaction – in view of the deliberate failure of such schemes. In general, in the matter of copyrights, the Ukrainian photographer is now below the monkey.
But seriously, it seems from the outside that the Americans have once again started this business with boredom. Many famous photographers built their projects on the fact that they gave the camera to representatives of different subcultures or classes, the same homeless, and they pressed the button. Pictures still belong to the bearer of the idea.
All this reminds numerous law firms that react to the most stupid news.
… In Iraq, unknown people kidnapped the deputy head of the Olympic Committee. Police in Mexico detained five suspects in shooting for schoolchildren. Russia faced a massive failure YouTube. Viber reported problems due to the Telegram lock. The eight-year-old boy told about the shelters of the orphanage, who dipped his head in the toilet.
The case of the monkey – a network series, lasting for several years. Most of all in this story, interested in the Twitter president of the Fund for the protection of animal rights. He teaches chemistry and law, has been conducting public twitter since 2017; all this is reminiscent of numerous law firms that react to the most stupid news, find news heroes, are judged to win business – that’s what they live for.