Wikimedia votes to decide who owns monkey selfie
Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, is putting to a vote whether to keep up or take down the now-famous "monkey selfie" which sparked a global copyright debate.
The site is locked in a dispute with British wildlife photographer David Slater after it refused to remove the image of a grinning macaque, claiming he does not own the rights to it.
Wikimedia said members of its community will now decide if the photo should remain in the public domain or not, in a case which could see photographers potentially lose rights to their own selfies in future.
Mr Slater, from Gloucestershire, was taking photos of crested black macaques on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011 when the animals began to investigate his equipment and inadvertently took pictures of themselves.
Much to his dismay, the images made headlines around the world, and were used on a number of websites, newspapers, magazines and television shows.
It was then published on the Wikimedia Commons site, which features a collection of 22,302,592 images and video files that are free to use by anyone online.
In early 2012, Mr Slater officially asked Wikimedia to take down the image. It was removed, but was later added again by another user and has remained on Wikimedia Commons.
Tomasz Kozlowski, who is responsible for uploading the image to Wikimedia, told the Telegraph: “There has been some confusion over who owns the copyright. As Wikimedia is based in the US, we are guided by their law, which says that works that originate from a non-human source can’t claim copyright.
“The work did not originate from Mr Slater as by his own admission he did not take the picture, the monkey did. However monkeys can’t and don’t own copyrights.”
He added: "He has never held copyright to this picture. It wouldn't have been famous if it hadn't been taken by the monkey."
He said the community, made up of several dozen users, now has one week to vote.
If by the end there is a consensus, the picture will be either kept or deleted by an uninvolved volunteer administrator.
If there is no consensus either way, the picture will remain online. So far 14 have voted to let it stay up and four to take it down.
Mr Slater has complained that Wikimedia’s decision to include his image in its database had affected his livelihood and resulted in a loss of earnings from royalties.
He said he is planning to take legal action against the company in the US.
Thousands of social media users have come to his defence, claiming Wikimedia has appropriated the photograph, which they believe to be the private property of Mr Slater.
Others say it should remain in the public domain as no one rightfully holds the copyright.
Poland-based Mr Kozlowski said: “We’ve had people calling us thieves and accusing us of taking this man’s income, but we’ve also had people telling us to stand our ground. This issue brings up many emotions in people and is obviously one that needs to be resolved.”
The case has opened up debate as to the nature of intellectual copyright in the age of Wikipedia.
“This will be an interesting test case, and could set an important precedent in the copyright of photographs posted to the public online,” Mr Kozlowski said.