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.