Wikipedia steals photographer's copyrighted monkey photo, refuses to remove it

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(NaturalNews) The "global encyclopedia" website Wikipedia, so renowned for its inaccuracies that institutions of higher education across the U.S. and around the world refuse to allow students to cite it, is at it again, this time refusing to honor a photographer's copyright.

According to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, Wikimedia, the U.S.-based group behind the Wikipedia sites, is refusing to grant a photographer's repeated requests to take down an image of his which is being used online without his permission. Wikimedia is claiming that, since the monkey pressed the shutter button itself, it really owns the copyright.

David Slater, a British nature photographer, was shooting in Indonesia in 2011, in an attempt to get the perfect image of a crested black macaque when, suddenly, one of the animals came up to examine his equipment, took the camera and took hundreds of "selfies."

'He must have taken hundreds of pictures'

A great deal of the self-taken photos were blurry, and others were pointed in many directions, including at the jungle floor. But among those were several wonderful images, including a selfie taken by a grinning female macaque which eventually made headlines around the world and gave Slater his customary 15 minutes of fame.

"They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button," Slater said at the time. "The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.

"He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn't worked that out yet," Slater deadpanned.

However, after appearing on numerous websites and in newspapers, magazines and on television programs around the world, Slater now faces a legal battle with Wikimedia after the organization added the image to its collection of royalty-free pics available online. The Wikimedia Commons, as it is called, is a collection of more than 22.3 million images and videos that are ostensibly free to use by anyone.

But the nature photog is claiming that the decision by Wikimedia is jeopardizing his income, because anyone who wants it can take his image for free and use it in any manner, without having to pay Slater a royalty.

He has complained to Wikimedia, informing the group that he owns the copyright, but a recent transparency report from the organization, which provided details of all removal requests that it has received, shows that editors made the decision that Slater has no claim on the pic because the monkey took the picture.

Slater now faces an estimated 10,000-pound [$16,800] legal bill to take the matter to court, The Telegraph reported.

"If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me, that's their basic argument. What they don't realise is that it needs a court to decide that," he said, adding that, in the past, the image had been removed, but different editors eventually uploaded it again.

"Some of their editors think it should be put back up. I've told them it's not public domain, they've got no right to say that its public domain. A monkey pressed the button, but I did all the setting up," Slater said.

Expensive trip

The photog said his trip to Indonesia was very expensive and that he has not made a lot of money from the image, even though it has become very popular.

"That trip cost me about [$3,300] for that monkey shot. Not to mention the [$8,400] of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images. Photography is an expensive profession that's being encroached upon. They're taking our livelihoods away," he said.

"For every 10,000 images I take, one makes money that keeps me going. And that was one of those images. It was like a year of work, really."

In its released transparency report, Wikimedia says it "does not agree" that Slater owns the copyright, but in addition, U.S. law means that "non-human authors" do not have automatic copyrights to photos either.

Though Wikimedia likes to tout itself as the world's "No. 1 free encyclopedia," it is episodes like this -- coupled with the site's serial errors, mistakes and politically motivated entries -- that prevent it from being taken seriously in academia.


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