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US officials say monkey selfies can't be copyrighted (because it had to be said)

Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
August 22, 2014
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Here's a friendly tip for all wildlife photographers out there: don't let mischievous monkeys (and other jungle animals) push the shutter button in your stead. The U.S. Copyright Office just released a new public draft of its compendium of practices, and in it, the agency clearly states that it will only recognize original works created by human beings. This new section's first example of works it cannot register? "A photograph taken by a monkey," alluding to the controversial simian selfies that took the internet by storm weeks ago. People have been debating whether photographer David Slater actually owned the right to those images (a couple of which you can see above) since the camera-loving black crested macaque -- or Macaca nigra, a critically endangered species -- used the equipment he set up. Slater even made plans to bring Wikimedia to court for refusing to take those pictures off the website, which he claims has been robbing him of much-needed royalties.

Aside from monkey selfies, the agency also won't grant copyright protection to murals painted by elephants, driftwood sculpted by the ocean and songs allegedly composed by the Holy Spirit. You can also add paintings, sculptures, tapestries, etc. created by machines without human input to the list... which is likely a necessary addition due to all the Picasso-bots popping up these days.

[Image credit: David Slater/Wikimedia 1, 2]

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