In 2011, a selfie taken by a monkey went viral. Now Wikipedia has told the photographer whose camera the monkey snatched to the pictures that the monkey owns the copyrights to the selfie. Consequently, Wikipedia has refused to take down the selfie, saying the black macaque owns the selfie because the animal took it.

Monkey Photographer Wikipedia
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Wikipedia denies a notice-and-takedown request from Slater

That’s quite weird, says professional nature photographer David J. Slater. David, from Coleford in the Forest of Dean, went to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011. There, a black macaque snatched his camera and began taking pictures, some of them surprisingly stunning. These images, especially a selfie taken by a female macaque, went viral and brought smiles to thousands of faces worldwide. Magazines, news channels and websites paid Slater to publish these pictures.

Slater told BBC that he relied on photography to make a living. But about two years ago, Wikipedia put the photo in “public domain” because the animal owned the copyrights, not the photographer. Moreover, the website argued that it was uncopyrightable, because according to the U.S. Copyrights Office, animals can’t own copyrights. Slater sent a notice-and-takedown request, which Wikipedia rejected.

Photographer plans to drag Wikipedia to the court

The photographer said he had lost about £10,000 in income. People no longer show interest in buying the image because now it’s available in the public domain. Slater said he owned the pictures. Just because the money pressed the trigger, Wikipedia claims that the animal owns the copyrights. He is now planning to take legal action against Wikimedia, which owns Wikipedia. He accused the company of using his picture on its site without permission.

The debate over the selfie surfaced Wednesday after Wikipedia released its first transparency report. Reports suggest that Slater could sue the company for damages of up to $30,000.

The crested black macaque is an endangered species of monkey found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.