Smile! That Selfie's All Yours; US Legal Stouch over Self-Taking Monkey Not an Issue in Australia

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), July 22, 2017 | Go to article overview

Smile! That Selfie's All Yours; US Legal Stouch over Self-Taking Monkey Not an Issue in Australia


Byline: Nicole Murdoch

SO, you're in Australia on holiday and you set the camera for a souvenir photo and a drop bear grabs the camera and snaps a social media world-class selfie.

Now, who owns the copyright of that image?

While an American court is currently agonising over whether an animal can have copyright to selfie photos, the legal situation in Australia is much clearer.

No matter how cute your dog or cat may be, how dexterous they may be without opposable thumbs or how much they monkey around, animals here do not own copyright in images they snap.

Under Australian copyright law, the author in relation to a photograph means the person who took the photograph, so in Australia, only humans can own copyright in a photographic image.

The question is, though, if no person took the photograph, does anyone own rights in the photograph and, if so, who?

Is it the person who set up the camera/phone for the photo, the person who owns the camera or the person who owns the memory card in the camera?

Ordinarily the person who creates intellectual property is the owner of that intellectual property but the ultimate answer depends on many things and even sometimes whether money has changed hands. So the question is something of a grey area.

So if animals can't be regarded as the owner of a picture, who gets the possible image sales rights?

In the instance of an animal selfie, like the monkey image at the heart of the US court case, the animal may be the taker of the picture; they just aren't the owner of the copyright in the picture.

Who gets ownership is the million dollar question. Does copyright actually exist in a pic taken by a non-human?

The American case centres on selfie images caught on wildlife photographer David Slater's camera. He claimed copyright but the animal rights group PETA has taken it to court, arguing that the monkey should own any rights in the image. The case is unique as PETA argues that a monkey can be an owner of an intellectual property right. …

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