There is an interesting ethical question brewing in the bizarre world of internet copyright law over whether monkeys have rights.
Tech Dirt ran some snaps which were taken by monkeys who took photographs of themselves using a photographer’s camera that he had left alone.
It ran the yarn, posing the question of who had a legitimate copyright claim on the photos. The photographer, David Slater, could not make a claim as he did not take the photos, and had admitted the images were an accident from monkeys who found the camera.
However, Caters News Agency has a copyright notice on two of the images, claiming to hold the rights to them.
Tech Dirt pointed out that the monkeys had the best claim to copyright on these photos and they were unlikely to have licensed the images. When monkeys see a copyright contract they tend to eat it or wipe their bottoms with it.
However, Caters News was not impressed with the Tech Dirt logic. It wrote to the editor, saying they represented David Slater with respect to the syndication of those photos, and asking the website to take them down. Caters did not use a formal DMCA takedown notice and it did not mention copyright, suggesting that it might be a little concerned about the legality of its claim.
Tech Dirt said that it got on the blower to four lawyers, who told it that even if Slater had taken the pictures, in this case, the use of the snaps probably fell under fair use. Caters might have some difficulty claiming copyright.
When it wrote about this to Caters it seems that the gloves claim off. At the time of writing, Caters has still not sued or issued a DMCA claim but we are looking forward to it.
Firstly, the court would have to call the monkeys as witnesses to testify that they took the pictures. Secondly, they would have had to have signed the snaps over to Caters to use them.
Given that most copyright cases have monkeys on the prosecution this will be a novelty.
What is strange is that two legal teams are going to sling poo at each other in court, while the apes who took the snaps are probably going to end up with the peanuts.