Skip to main content

Stop monkeying around (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

A judge in California has put a stop to all the monkey business surrounding the idea that animals can own copyright, in California at least.

Judge William Orrick ruled that the rights of the monkey in the famous ‘selfies’ cannot be infringed on the basis of copyright, because a monkey can’t own copyright in a photo, because plainly it’s a monkey.

In this case, during a trip to Indonesia in 2011, British photographer David Slater set up a camera in the hope of attracting a monkey to use it; lo and behold, an Indonesian macaque seized it and snapped some selfies. After the event, the photos were included in a book called “Wildlife Personalities”, to which the People
for the Ethical Treatment (PETA) objected - claiming that copyright in the photo should belong to the macaque. This transcended into a primate debate in the copyright world as to who owned the copyright but the claim was dismissed with the judge stating that “while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act”. So, US copyright sides with the humans, but would the UK swing the same way?


This copyright issue has yet to hit these shores but an important question for the English courts would be the extent to which Mr Slater could be regarded as the person who “created” the photo despite not pressing the button. Here, the author of a copyright work is the person who creates it and the first owner will usually be the author. Going by most reports, logic would certainly dictate that he at least “set up” the scene. But whether the English courts would avoid this banana skin and chimply award Mr Slater with ownership of copyright is up for grabs.

This article was published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 2.

Related items

Related services

The lesser spotted shape mark (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

A picture says a 1000 words or so the saying goes. So what about a shape? Several recent decisions have underlined the difficulties that can arise in trying to use shapes to protect a brand.

‘Glee’ less than happy after trade mark strife (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

We’re all familiar with the classic trade markdispute. But can you sue for trade markinfringement if the brand using your name is actually more famous than your own? In February, the Court of Appeal said you could.

Trading secrets safely in Europe (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

In December 2015, while most of us were busy wrapping presents and eating mince pies, the representatives of the European Parliament and Council agreed the text of the Trade Secrets Directive.

Play those bars again and end up behind… bars (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

The High Court has handed down a custodial sentence of 28 days for breach of an injunction against copyright infringement, albeit suspended for a period of 18 months. Two points rang out.

To register or not to register… that is the question (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

Just because you can register your intellectual property, it doesn’t mean that you should. Sometimes attempts to register can have unintended consequences, as YouTube stars, the Fine Brothers, recently found out.

Kylie v Kylie (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

It isn’t often that trade mark oppositions receive mainstream media attention. Kylie Minogue has bucked that trend by filing an opposition to reality TV star Kylie Jenner’s trade mark application for ‘Kylie’ in the US.

But we settled that! (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

Parties will understandably often be relieved to sign on the dotted line of that “full and final” settlement agreement. But two decisions of the High Court earlier this year may give pause for thought. What is the practical effect of such a settlement and is it really what the parties want?

Back To Top