Saturday, April 11, 2015

Copyright - An octopus taking photos

     This year, an octopus was trained to take photos of its visitors at the SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand.  Who owns the copyright in the photographs taken by the octopus?
     A similar situation appeared late last year.  The monkey selfie issue.  British photographer David Slater contended that he owns the copyright in a photograph taken by a monkey.  Wikimedia contended otherwise.

    Before that dispute was litigated, the U.S. Copyright Office released its latest Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition. In that document, the Office stated that it "will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants" and provided the following example "A photograph taken by a monkey".  See Compendium, Section 313.2. Thus, the Copyright Office's position is that for a work to be eligible for copyright protection it must be created by a human.

     Given the U.S. Copyright Office's position on this issue, it is likely that a court would defer to the Copyright Office and find that photographs taken by an octopus cannot be copyrighted.

- Henry Park

updated on March 31, 2017 to revise last paragraph

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