Thursday, August 14, 2014

Whose copyright is it anyway?

Although we all know what copyright means, I still thought of asking someone who’s second only to God in more ways than one – Google, our academic and professional savior! This is how Google responded – 

So, copyright is “the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material”. I think this definition is exclusive and covers everything that needs to be covered from an ownership perspective. That’s what we thought till a few days ago. Until Wikimedia posted this as part of its collection – 

Here's the Wikimedia link - I don't know if I can share it - copyright issues, you see. If they have removed it by the time you click on this link, your loss. Oh no wait, you can still Google the pic. That's how our Internet works.

So, what’s the background? – A British photographer, David Slater, was travelling through one of the Indonesian jungle when he bumped onto some monkeys. The monkeys started playing with his photography equipment including the camera. One of them found the button to click photos. Excited by the reflections / flash, it started playing with it – completely oblivious of the fact that it was clicking its own images – defined by a human term called “selfies”. There were 100’s of photos clicked, most of which were blurred except for some which was shared by Wikimedia. 

Where’s the problem? – Photographer Slater feels he own the images and Wikimedia should not use it without informing him. In other words, the image is copyright protected. But Wikimedia is refuting his charges stating that the image is not a copyright of the photographer simply because he did not click it. And if at all anything, it belongs to the Monkey! Obviously Slater has pressed charges against Wikimedia and Wikimedia is standing firm with their own set of arguments. 

If we agree with what the photographer believes, then we are opening a can of even bigger problems. Following are some of the scenarios where we will have to relook if Slater is legally correct - 
  1. I publish my blog posts from my laptop. So, the content I create is my copyright. Now, what if a fellow blogger creates his content using my laptop? Whose copyright is it?
  2. Assume Virat Kohli got dismissed for a duck in a cricket match. The next batsmen, Rohit Sharma, asked Kohli for his bat. He then goes on to make a century. Whose century is it now? Kohli, Sharma or the bat?
  3. Assume I worked on a PowerPoint presentation for a business contest using a sample template shared by someone - xyz. I am the only one who worked on it, so the content part is totally mine. Then I submitted the presentation to the contest authorities. But since the template was owned by xyz, PowerPoint automatically makes xyz the "owner". Whose PowerPoint is it now? Me, xyz or Microsoft? (Actually, this falls under “Work for Hire” where the owner owns the work and not the workers)
  4. During school exams, I gave my "extra pen" to a person - xyz - who went on to top at the university level. Irrespective of my result, who topped the university? Me, xyz or the pen?
I know the examples don’t exactly match the situation of the photographer. But don’t you feel compelled to think about these too? So, who do you think the image belongs to? Now, don’t say “God only knows”!

PS: This post is written more at the sarcastic level and is intended to be read with a pinch of salt and some selfies too. 


  1. Hahaha I completely loved these points..! This is like a never ending debate !

    1. Yes Anita. And its because there's no clarity, or if there is, very few of us know about it..

  2. Well it does sound interesting and evoke question, which are hard to answer. Well I think Monkeys have the right, it's their selfies.

    1. In this case, it appears to be the Monkey's copyright..

  3. ok. My Take. If it involves your creativity (answers, photos, ideas in the power point, runs scored) irrespective of which or whose medium you use, its yours.

    1. Thats what I feel too. But when I researched more, I realized that there's more to it. In the PowerPoint example, the copyright belongs to the Employer and not the Employee (despite the ideas)..


All yours..

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