In a lawsuit that could never have happened before the age of social media, a professional photographer who handed his camera to a monkey to take a selfie is suing Wikimedia for posting the pictures on its free exchange site. Wikimedia claims the photographer doesn’t own the picture but the only other option is — the monkey.
British photographer David Slater says he had been following the monkeys for three days before setting up a camera on a tripod and giving the monkeys the snap button. Slater was earning money from picture until Wikimedia posted it. He claims he lost £10,000 (approximately $17,000) because Wikimedia made it free. Wikimedia isn’t budging; it says that Slater doesn’t own the copyright (though it doesn’t say who does). But if a court rules Slater doesn’t own the picture will they say the monkey owns it? Do non-humans have ownership rights?
As Wired points out:
For one thing, in this case copyrights are a culturally and economically specific kind of right; it seems ridiculous to think that other animals would even be interested in such things. What would the macaque [monkey] in question do with its copyright of that picture? But there are many other values protected by human rights that non-human animals share: the right to be free from arbitrary capture and control, the right not to be harmed, the right to live with others of one’s kind, and the right not to be killed.