|a camera hogging koala|
So can we expect another epic battle along the lines of the legal claim photographer David Slater instigated? It was Slater whose camera was seemingly stolen by a black macaque monkey. You will remember the monkey then took some selfies - but further use of the snaps prompted Slater to take on Wikipedia who published one photo without Slater's permission.
|Top snapper Mr Binturong|
Another copyright conundrum? It seems the cameras were provided by HTC, and Ben Walsh from HTC told the Scotsman: “We know the most popular thing on the internet is funny pictures that owners take of their pets so at HTC were glad we’ve made a camera so brilliant and simple that animals can finally join us humans and start taking selfies too. With koalas taking the most pictures of themselves, expect to see their Instagram feeds full of koala selfies”. This statement, and the actions taken by the Zoo in releasing the photos, seem to indicate that the photos were freely distributed - and that they are currently free to use. Jon-Paul Orsi, digital manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, is quoted in one article saying “We do a lot of our own photography on-site and these shots offer something completely different.
So, the zoo selfies (or 'zoofies') are currently being treated differently to the copyright in the case of the black macaque where Slater threatened legal action. The koala snaps seems to be being treated more like the Ellen DeDegeris / Bradley Cooper 'Oscars' selfie which prompted much academic debate - much sharing, tweeting and publication - but as far as I know, resulted in no legal actions against those who subsequently used the shot. In fact I found the webpages of London PR Firm Hope & Glory who had this to say: "It’s been a day of formidable coverage for the HTC team here at Hope&Glory.Having come up with the idea a month or so ago of handing some HTC RE Cameras to the animals (and their handlers) at Edinburgh Zoo, we got our shots back last week and it’s been all systems go making sure that the shots were to be seen just about everywhere during today" adding "The fact that we decided to hold the story until Australia Day, knowing that we had a couple of Koala shots in our armoury, was also no coincidence." So whoever owns the shots - they WANT everyone to use them! But with all those conflicting copyright notices, I still wondered what (if any) 'copyright' restrictions had been put on the koala and penguin selfies.
|Does Mrs Penguin get the credit?|
But MIGHT there be more of a copyright claim on the facts here - well more than Mr Slater has or had? My own personal feeling is that the author has to be a person and that person still has to be a human (although there have been conflicting opinions on this blog). Maybe just maybe there might be a human involved in the issue of ownership of copyright here - but which human? The HTC cameras in the zoo were set up to be triggered by animal movement or touching - rather than the Macaque case where it seems the monkey actually took the photo by pressing a button and it appeared holding the camera (just like Bradley). Does HTC have a claim to ownership of copyright in the selfies? It also seems that some of the cameras were positioned to take certain shots at certain angles or with certain backgrounds in frame, and this might tend towards suggesting the person or persons who did the setting up might own a copyright. So perhaps the handlers have a claim? Or perhaps the Zoo can claim ownership as this was 'work for hire'? We also don't know about editing of any of the koala selfies (eg by cropping, colouring, re-positioning): if there has been editorial input, this might again pass a copyright to a human. Mr Slater belatedly let it be known that he had set up the camera the monkey used - and had also amended the shots as he sought to establish ownership of the macaque snapped selfie. But so far, to no avail; but maybe things are different here? So maybe here IF copyright became as issue it IS possible one or more persons might be the author.
These conclusions may (or may not) not be agreeable to the 5% of our readers who felt that with the black macaque snap, "Whichever human gets to it first can keep it, just like any other bona vacantia" or those who commented on earlier blogs - or the 4% who felt that "The United Nations should set up a special agency to own and control uses of all non-human works like this" or the aforementioned. And I have to disagree with the 6% of readers who felt "The monkey owns the copyright: she's the author, after all". It seems unlikely is that Mr Penguin or Mrs Koala will be an author in the United Kingdom anytime in the near future - and I am still of the opinion that there is no copyright in works authored by animals and that "they are a gift to humanity which we can all use" although the efforts of the campaign group Nonhuman Rights Group, whilst unsuccessful in New York and Austria, were more successful in persuading a court in Argentina to allow a claim for habeas corpus for Sumatran orang-utan Sandra - who had been born in captivity and was being held at Buenos Aires Zoo - finding she deserved the basic rights of a non human person. So maybe a monkey (and koala) copyright soon!
Binturongs are a species of, errrm, bearcat from South East Asia by the way - but what you may ask is a 'Lert' ? Well, there I cannot help - I can't even discover what species it is. I need a nicely illustrated Wikipedia page to tell me. I live in hope.