Macaca self-portraitYou may be familiar with the viral photo and news story in which a monkey took a “selfie” – which was in itself amusing. However, an interesting debate ensued as to who owned the copyright to this photo.

Please read this NBC news article for brief background on the story.

The following resources will establish foundational knowledge on copyright, and do not cover the scope of copyright laws.  We will also limit the scope of this exercise to the United States.

Copyright Basics

To gain a better understanding of copyright, please read pages 1 – 6 of the following United States Federal government document on copyright.

Now read this material from Brigham Young library, and pay special attention to “Copyright Myths.”

Here is another resource developed by the United States government to help you distinguish the differences between copyright and trademarks – a common point of confusion.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an important, albeit relatively new, part of the overall copyright conversation. Creative Commons (or CC) is a mechanism by which copyright holders can give advanced fairly explicit permission(s) as to how their work may be used.

To learn more about CC, please read the following pages:

Understanding Creative Commons

Understanding Various Licenses

Public Domain

Another option available to copyright holders is to place their work in the public domain.  As you read, this public domain becomes automatic 70 years after the death of the copyright holder.

However, Creative Commons CC0 makes it possible to immediately release material to the public domain.

Image Source: Self-portrait by the depicted Macaca nigra female [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons