The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit in United States District Court on September 22 over the copyright to the monkey selfies, a group of photographs taken in 2011 by an Indonesian Celebes crested macaque using equipment set up by wildlife photographer David Slater. Slater claimed copyright over the photographs and demanded their removal from Wikimedia Commons, but the Wikimedia Foundation refused on the grounds that the photographs could not be copyrighted because they were not taken by a human being, a position later concurred with by others, including the United States Copyright Office. The matter received significant media attention following the release of last year's WMF transparency report (see previous Signpost coverage) and the photos were enthusiastically embraced by many Wikimedians, even becoming a sort of unofficial symbol of Wikimania 2014.
Wikimedia is not mentioned in PETA's lawsuit. Instead, PETA is suing Slater, his company, and his publisher, on behalf of the monkey, who they identify as Naruto. According to PETA "The lawsuit seeks to have Naruto declared the 'author' and owner of his photograph. Our argument is simple: U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit an animal from owning a copyright, and since Naruto took the photo, he owns the copyright, as any human would." PETA would administer the copyright and use the proceeds for the benefit of Naruto and the macaque habitat.
Legal experts are divided on the merits of the case. David Favre of Michigan State University told the Associated Press "They have a fair argument, but I would have to say it is an uphill battle." Laurence Tribe of Harvard University disagreed, telling the AP "It trivializes the terrible problems of needless animal slaughter and avoidable animal exploitation worldwide for lawyers to focus so much energy and ingenuity on whether monkeys own the copyright in selfies taken under these contrived circumstances."
Slater told CNet:
|PETA's actions are disrespectful and ignorant of all the work so far done and what can be achieved in the future. With an organization who seeks to criminalize a wildlife photographer to further their own agenda only makes them appear as bad as Wikimedia, with both lacking integrity and honor and a knowledge of copyright law...PETA are now guilty of distracting from the original intention of the photos, which is to alert people to these animals, their plight of survival, their brilliant personalities and similarities to us, so we can learn to be more genuine and humble. We need to learn from these monkeys in Sulawesi, and not the monkeys at PETA and Wikimedia who care only for their own image.
According to BBC News, Slater argues that it took "much time and more perseverance" to obtain the famous shot:
|He had to spend several days with the monkeys so that they became relaxed in his company. He said he only managed to get the photo by setting up his camera on a tripod with a cable release switch which the monkey in the famous selfie pressed.
In addition, he had to make sure that the light and contrast switches on the camera were properly set – work which he says is more than sufficient for him to claim copyright of the photos.
"I was lying down at the time with at least two macaque juveniles on my back and nursing a few bruises from a male who had whacked me several times all over in the belief that I was a challenge to his females.
"So please don't tell me these photos are not my property."
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Nikhil Sonnad, writing for Quartz, reports (Sept. 21) on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in an article titled "This free online encyclopedia has achieved what Wikipedia can only dream of".
|Its creators have solved one of the internet's fundamental problems: How to provide authoritative, rigorously accurate knowledge, at no cost to readers. It's something the encyclopedia, or SEP, has managed to do for two decades.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy today contains close to 1,500 entries (less than 1/3,000 of Wikipedia) and is updated continuously. Unlike Wikipedia, however, its articles are full treatments of their topics, written by experts. The Encyclopedia enjoys an excellent reputation, and has become an important resource for students, instructors and scholars as well as the general public.
The Encyclopedia was begun in 1995 by Edward Zalta of Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information, who earlier this year gave a presentation at Wikimania 2015: "The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Issues Faced by Academic Reference Works That May Be of Interest to Wikipedians". AK