Have you heard the one about the monkey that stole a camera and
took a grinning selfie that went around the world? The crested
black macaque's cheeky grin appeared everywhere. The wildlife
photographer who owned the camera found the photo after he
retrieved his camera. He posted the delightful picture on a few
wildlife websites. It was very popular and was copied to thousands
of websites and then appeared in newspapers, magazines around the
The photographer realised he was missing out on a small fortune
for reproduction of the picture. He tried to claim copyright on the
photo. He requested Wikipedia take down the picture as it was his
camera and therefore his copyright. Wikipedia refused, saying the
monkey took the picture so the monkey has copyright.
Australian copyright law, and most international copyright law,
appears to be on the side of the monkey. The Copyright Act 1968
requires the originator of a work to have some creative input
– whether it be writing, music, film, audio, computer
programs art or photography. Under copyright law, handing your
camera to someone who takes your photo would require some artistic
or creative direction from you to have copyright. So if you tell
someone holding your camera how to focus, to hold it vertical or
where to stand, you would have copyright. If a photo is
commissioned for "private or domestic purposes" the
client is the first owner of copyright. An employer who directs a
worker how to take the picture would own copyright as they are the
originator of the work. Armed with this bit of law, the wildlife
photographer is now claiming he was effectively employing the
monkey by offering it food.
The laws covering copyright can be confusing so it is best to
get legal advice if you are in doubt. Getting it wrong can be
costly. In England a man who went into a cinema and secretly taped
the film was recently sentenced to 33 months jail. He uploaded it
to the internet and it was pirated 779,000 times. Universal
Pictures estimated it cost them $4 million in lost revenue.
Downloading the pirated film is a criminal breach of copyright.
As a licensor or a licensee, here are some tips you should consider when negotiating your next licence agreement.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).