Will Anyone Standup For The Monkeys?
Image from here
Recently, a rather humorous but enlightening copyright controversy caught my attention. Though the parties to the controversy and the applicable copyright laws are not Indian, I couldn’t resist the urge of writing about it.
A quick round up of the facts involves the famous wild life photographer David Slater and a photograph clicked by a monkey (a macaque to be precise)! David Slater, during his visit to a national park in Indonesia, left his camera unattended (as claimed in the news report here) and a macaque took up the camera and ended up clicking some fantastic photographs that have become a talk of the photography world. A couple of these photographs contain a copyright notice which indicates that the copyright in the photographs clicked by the macaque belongs to ‘Caters News Agency’. The website techdirt.com covered this story and questioned the copyright ownership of Caters News Agency in these photographs. In turn, Caters News Agency sent a letter to techdirt requiring them to remove the photographs claiming that techdirt did not hold any copyrights in the photograph. The exchange of letters and notices continues, with techdirt publishing all letters and their replies on their website.
This controversy has brought to light one of the basic inquiries in copyright law i.e. who owns the copyright? Analyzing this with respect to Indian Copyright provisions, the first section that adds to the notoriety of the entire situation is section 2 (d) of the Copyright Act, 1957 which very clearly states that an author in relation to a photograph is the person taking the photograph (probably our legislators never contemplated a monkey clicking a photograph and hence the term ‘person’ in the definition). Caters News Agency claims to have obtained the copyright from the photographer i.e. David Slater but the pertinent question is- whether David Slater owns a copyright on the photographs in the first place? Techdirt’s argument on the other hand is that the copyright in the content is not really owned by anyone and the photographs are in the public domain, open for anyone’s use. I am yet to make up my mind on the ownership and will definitely write a follow up on this as soon as I am sure of my stand. In the meantime, any suggestions or comments are more than welcome.
Before I conclude this post, in my opinion, it is unfair that everyone has become so engrossed in this controversy that the poor monkey has been forgotten. Lets take a minute to applaud the macaque for the unbelievable photographs!
(the photographs clicked by the macaque can be seen here)
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