Techdirt asks: Can A Monkey License Its Copyrights To A News Agency? and David Post explains why the answer must be yes. Apparently, David Slater, a well-known nature photographer, left his camera on the ground in an Indonesian national park, and a macaque monkey walked over and snapped a bunch of photos, including this (remarkable!) self-portrait:
Nice bokeh. Two of the photos in the set of monkey self-portraits bear a copyright notice: “Copyright Caters News Service.” Raising the odd but critical question: who assigned the copyright to the News Service? Slater? Maybe, but that can’t be a valid assignment, for the simple reason that he doesn’t own the copyright just because his camera was used to snap the photo.
That leaves the monkey.
The question is not an entirely ridiculous one — well, OK, it is a ridiculous one, but it is at least closely related to some very difficult and interesting copyright questions about the requirement (if there is one) that human creativity is a requirement for copyright to exist in a work of authorship — questions that come up in contexts ranging from the ridiculous (creations by psychics ostensibly “channeling” voices from beyond the grave, animal creations — monkey photos, elephant drawings, chimpanzee-created music) to the sublime (the copyright status of works “authored” by computer programs or Artifical Intelligence engines). Post’s friend and colleague Annemarie Bridy recently completed a very interesting draft of an article exploring these issues, soon to be published, entitled “Coding Creativity: Copyright and the Artificially Intelligent Author”).