Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Follow Up: Can a Monkey Copyright His Original Works? We Still Don't Know

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Naruto.

The infamous "monkey selfie" case has come to an end without answering the major question – can a monkey copyright his original works? The parties to the lawsuit have come to a settlement which leaves the burning question unanswered.

 

The case began almost a decade ago in Indonesia when photographer David Slater mingled over several days with some crested macaque monkeys. He then set up a camera and waited for them to investigate. One did, standing in front of the camera and clicking the shutter. Voila! the first monkey selfie.

 

Slater got a copyright on his photograph in his home country of England, but in America, the copyright office said no. It said that no copyright could be granted on pictures taken by animals. With the threat of copyright gone, the picture spread like wildfire across the internet, making it a very famous photograph, though Slater received nothing for his efforts.

 

However, an organization disagreed with the copyright office's ruling. It claimed that a photo taken by a monkey was indeed subject to copyright. Where they parted company with Slater was as to who owned the copyright. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals went to court to establish the right of the monkey, Naruto, to own the copyright to the photograph he took.

 

Slater naturally disagreed, not much liking the idea that he would have to pay royalties to a monkey on photographs he thought were his own. Unfortunately, PETA was determined to make its point and fought him in court. Slater won. At least at the lower court level, the Judge agreed with Slater's contention. While acknowledging PETA's point that copyright law does not specifically say it is inapplicable to monkeys, the court reasoned that if such a bizarre result was intended by Congress, it clearly would have said so in the legislation.

 

PETA is persistent. They appealed. A hearing was held in front of the Appellate Court, but while awaiting a decision, the sides decided to reach a settlement. That agreement provides that Slater will donate 25% of any future revenue derived from the selfies to charities protecting the habitat of the rare crested macaques. PETA agreed to drop its appeal, and the parties went to the unusual step of asking that the lower court decision in favor of Slater be vacated. That would make it as if no court had ever reached an opinion on the issue of copyrights for original work being held by animals. The case would provide no precedent for suits involving creations such as paintings by elephants. Animals get to argue their rights anew.

 

The parties jointly issued a brief statement saying, "PETA and David Slater agree that this case raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for nonhuman animals, a goal that they both support, and they will continue their respective work to achieve this goal."

 

This settlement clearly represents an expected victory by Slater. The 25% contributions Slater is compelled to make are probably less than the costs of continuing his defense in court, especially since he cannot copyright his photographs. For PETA, it was a face-saving exit out of what was likely an inevitable defeat. PETA can now focus on meaningful animal rights issues, such as protection against abuse and destruction of habitats, rather than hopeless and fanciful ones such as this.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b><br><i>Die Ernsthaffte Christenpflicht,</i> earliest known edition of the first complete Mennonite prayer book, 1708. $300 to $500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Georg Agricola, <i>De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib V.,</i> first edition, Basel, 1546. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Frederick Ruysch, <i>Icon durae matris in concava [convexa] superficie visae,</i> with 2 mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral, first edition, Amsterdam, 1737. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, <i>Eine Neue Art von Strahlen,</i> Würzburg, 1895. $3,000 to $5,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> William Lithgow, <i>The Totall Discourse, of the Rare Adventures</i> [etc.], London, 1632. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
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  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
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