A monkey’s selfie and copyright law

Intellectual Property Management

Photographer David Slater traveled to Indonesia in 2011 and photographed macaques. During the trip, the monkeys grabbed the camera and ended up taking pictures of themselves, also known as selfies in popular parlance. Some of these photos have gone viral. Wikimedia Commons uses one, and received a takedown notice from Slater. This is where the news stories diverge. Some report Wikimedia told Slater the monkey owns the copyright on her own selfie, but this is not true. Rather, Wikimedia claimed the photo cannot be copyrighted at all, since the U.S. Copyright Office policy precludes animals from owning intellectual property, according to The Guardian.

Slater does not find this interpretation of the situation viable or fair.

"A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up," he said. "That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot. … Photography is an expensive profession that's being encroached upon. They're taking our livelihoods away."

However, Wikimedia concluded "to claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they'd only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image," The Telegraph reported. "This means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain."

While this debate may seem frivolous, it highlights the extent to which intellectual property is a hot topic in the media and a pervasive force in society – even when the property in question is a monkey's selfie.

Online piracy leads to arrest in UK

Intellectual Property Management

Police arrested a 20-year-old Nottingham man for allegedly running a proxy server that connected to addresses services providers had banned in the U.K. for intellectual property offenses. Many popular proxy sites have gone offline since, according to the BBC, but whether this is connected to the arrest is unclear.

The operation that resulted in the arrest was undertaken by the Intellectual Property Unit (Pipcu) and supported by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact). Pipcu has been increasing its efforts to end online piracy recently, with initiatives that include placing banner ads on websites that provide illegal content and asking users not to go any further.

Internet service providers have also been part of these efforts by blocking and taking down websites that foster copyright theft. The City of London Police have also taken down sites that allow users to connect to services to obtain illegally obtained content, such as torrent sites.

"Internet users have sought ways to continue to access the sites by getting round the blocking put in place by the ISPs," Kieron Sharp, director general of Fact, told the BBC. "This operation is a major step in tackling those providing such services."

Pharmaceutical and chemical industries under threat of cyber IP theft

Intellectual Property Management

According to a midyear security report from Cisco Systems, the pharmaceutical and chemistry industries are at high risk of cybercrime, which can include trade secret and intellectual property theft. Other industries under elevated levels of threat from cybercriminals include publishing, media and agriculture.

The report showed 90 percent of the multinational corporations surveyed had computer systems interacting with corrupted IP hosts online.

"We rarely get to see the motivations behind these attacks, but we do see the immense numbers," Levi Gundert, senior expert on Cisco's threat research, told National Defense Magazine.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates $100 billion is lost annually to the U.S. economy as a result of cybercrime, in addition to 508,000 U.S. jobs. The Ponemon Institute found an organization can expect to lose $3.4 million for each data breach it experiences in 2014, as well, making the issue pressing on an economic level.

China is the source of many hacking and intellectual property theft activities, and the report found no decrease in this space. This is despite the fact that many leaders from around the world have called attention to the intellectual property threat China represents.

"We haven't seen any change or amount of traffic … it continues the way it has," Gundert said of Chinese cybercrime.

Apple and Samsung end patent dispute outside US

Intellectual Property Management

Long locked in legal disputes, smartphone giants Apple and Samsung Electronics agreed to end their patent litigation outside of the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal. The companies have litigation ongoing in eight countries aside from the U.S., including South Korea, Japan, Australia, France and the U.K. The two companies have disputed each other extensively, attempting to block sales of each other's products in many countries.

"Samsung and Apple have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States," Samsung said in an emailed statement on August 6. "This agreement does not involve any licensing agreements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts."

Apple did not immediately comment on the arrangement.

Together, Apple and Samsung account for less than half of smartphone shipments worldwide, but they generate the majority of the industry's profits. In 2011, Apple sued Samsung for copying features of the iPhone. Samsung then filed suits for patent infringement against Apple abroad, and Apple filed countersuits to five of these claims. All of them except disputes in the U.S. will be dismissed, continuing a softening of tensions that began earlier this year when Samsung agreed not to seek injunctions in Europe for five years over the use of particular patents.

CDC seeks patent on Ebola strain

Intellectual Property Management

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is attempting to obtain a patent on a strain of the Ebola virus, Bloomberg reported. According to the application, filed in 2010, the CDC is attempting to claim rights to a strain of the virus from a patient in the Ivory Coast. The patent application can be viewed online, reveals the CDC seeks intellectual property protection for "Compositions and methods including and related to the Ebola Bundibugyo virus (EboBun)." EboBun represents a novel species, according to the application from the CDC. The sample was deposited with the CDC in 2007. The organization seeks to patent the strain in part to continue work using it to screen for an antibody that might be effective against the virus in living patients.

The patent application notes samples of the disease strain will be available to approved facilities for the life of the patent, and for 30 years from the date of deposit. As such, this patent does not represent an effort to work alone on the problem of Ebola. 

The application – filed four years ago – is gaining more attention now, as the present outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has killed more than 800 people since March, according to the World Health Organization.