Wikimedia sides with monkey in photo copyright battle over macaque's selfie

One of the "selfies" taken by a macaque monkey.

One of the "selfies" taken by a macaque monkey.

A wildlife photographer is taking legal action to reclaim the copyright on a selfie that a cheeky monkey took using his camera.

British photographer David Slater was on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011 to snap the crested black macaque when one of the animals made off with his camera.

Mr Slater recovered the camera to discover hundreds of "selfies", including one of a grinning female macaque.

The remarkable image quickly spread around the world, appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and television shows.

But Mr Slater now faces a legal battle with Wikimedia Commons, a copyright-free online collection of more than 22 million images and videos that can be used by anyone without paying royalties, London's Telegraph reports.

Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, added the famous picture to its database and has refused Mr Slater’s requests to take it down.

A recent transparency report by the company detailing removal requests shows editors decided Mr Slater did not own the copyright because it was the monkey, not the man, who pushed the shutter.

“If the monkey took it, it owns copyright, not me, that’s their basic argument. What they don’t realise is that it needs a court to decide that,” Mr Slater said.

“Photography is an expensive profession that’s being encroached upon. They’re taking our livelihoods away.”

The transparency report says: "To claim copyright, the photographer would have had to make substantial contributions to the final image, and even then, they'd only have copyright for those alterations, not the underlying image. This means that there was no one on whom to bestow copyright, so the image falls into the public domain.”

Mr Slater said he had not made much money from the photo despite its enormous popularity and that he now faces a £10,000 ($18,000) legal bill to take the matter to court.

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