By now, we're all pretty familiar with the grinning face of the crested black macaque whose selfie sparked the internet's favourite copyright battle ever. But let's post it again just for fun ... and also because, according to the US Copyright Office, we're perfectly within our rights to do so.

monky _selfie_2014_08_21
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

First, a quick recap. The monkey selfie controversy began when the snap-happy primate above got its hands on wildlife photographer David J. Slater's camera at an Indonesian park back in 2011. The result? Hundreds of macaque selfies – but the grinning snapshot above was the one that launched a thousand memes and a sparring match with Wikimedia (the nonprofit behind Wikipedia).

In a nutshell, Slater, concerned about lost royalties, demanded that Wikimedia remove the photo from its database of royalty-free media. Wikimedia refused: in its eyes, the macaque had pressed the shutter button and so the macaque was the rightful photographer ... but since macaques can't legitimately hold a copyright, macaque selfies belong to one and to all.

And it seems copyright regulators in the US agree with Wikimedia's interpretation of this selfie situation. In a voluminous new edition of the Compendium of US Copyright Office Practices, the US Copyright Office spells things out quite clearly. It states that it will "not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants" and it specifically lists "a photograph taken by a monkey" and a "mural painted by an elephant" as works that don't qualify (and just in case you were wondering, the Office also "cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings"). 

H/t: National Journal

Top header image: Martijn van Exel, Flickr