Monkeys, Copyright and Clojure

Painting in Clojure by Tom Booth is a great post that walks you though using Clojure to become a digital Jackson Pollock. I think you will enjoy the post a lot and perhaps the output, assuming you appreciate that style of art. 😉

But I have a copyright question on which I need your advice. Tom included on the webpage a blank canvas and a button that reads: “Fill canvas.”

Here is a portion of the results of my pushing the button:

digital pollock

My question is: Does Tom Booth own the copyright to this image or do I?

You may have heard of the monkey taking a selfie:

monkey selfie

and the ensuing legal disputes, If a monkey takes a selfie in the forest, who owns the copyright? No one, says Wikimedia.

The Washington Post article quotes Wikimedia Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Katherine Maher saying:

Monkeys don’t own copyrights.[…]” “What we found is that U.S. copyright law says that works that originate from a non-human source can’t claim copyright.

OK, but I can own a copyright and I did push the button, but Tom wrote the non-human source that created the image. So, who wins?

Yet another example of why intellectual property law reform, freeing it from its 18th century (and earlier) moorings is desperately needed.

The monkey copyright case is a good deal simpler. One alleged copyright infringer (Techdirt) responded to the claim in part saying:

David Slater, almost certainly did not have a claim, seeing as he did not take the photos, and even admits that the images were an accident from monkeys who found the camera (i.e., he has stated publicly that he did not “set up” the shot and let the monkeys take it).

David Slater, until most content owners (not content producers), is too honest for his own good. He has admitted he made no contribution to the photograph. No contribution = no copyright.

This story is going to end sadly. Slater says he is in debt, yet is seeking legal counsel in the United States. Remember the definition of “conflict of interest” in the United States:

lawyer fees


OK, time to get back to work and go through Tom’s Clojure post. It really is very good.

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