The story of the [monkeys that snapped photographs of themselves](http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011051/Black-macaque-takes-self-portrait-Monkey-borrows-photographers-camera.html) made the rounds last week. A photographer's gear was borrowed by a band of monkeys, and they managed to squeeze off a few photos of themselves. Some of the photos are actually very interesting.
**Photograph on left copyright 2011, an unnamed macaque somewhere in Indonesia. Photograph on right copyright 2011, another unnamed macaque somewhere in Indonesia.**
Here's where it gets muddy. The photographs were taken by the monkeys, not by the (human) photographer that lugged the gear to the spot. Copyright is granted to the creator of a work - the photographer, not the owner of the camera. So, in this case, if copyright applied it would belong to the individual monkeys that triggered the shutter.
Techdirt [republished the photos](http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110706/00200314983/monkey-business-can-monkey-license-its-copyrights-to-news-agency.shtml), and the media company that claims to represent the monkeys asked them to take the photos down. That sentence [couldn't get much sillier](http://kottke.org/11/07/takedown-notice-for-monkey-self-portrait).
The World Intellectual Property Organization [describes copyright as a human right](http://www.wipo.int/copyright/en/general/about_copyright.html) intended to protect creativity. If WIPO defines it as a *human* right and not as a generic *creator's* right, then it clearly does not apply to works created by non-humans. So, a photograph taken by an unnamed macaque in the jungles of Indonesia does not fall under protection of the WIPO treaty. It is not a copyrighted work. If anyone could claim to own copyright, it would be a macaque. And that macaque would be unable to defend such a claim in a (human) court, because our treaty defines copyright as a **human** right. Now, I'd actually be interested in seeing the definition of copyright loosened up a little. There are plenty of examples of [non-humans](http://www.calgaryzoo.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=93&Itemid=248) creating [works of art](http://koko.org/world/art.html). But, that's not how things are set up at the moment.
This boils down to a large media company overreaching the limits of copyright law, and relying on the accused to back down out of fear of legal costs. This tactic [sounds oddly familiar](http://www.darcynorman.net/2011/06/24/kind-of-blue/). I fucking hate bullies.