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News Agency With Dubious Copyright Claim Threatens Removal

In mid-July 2011, technology news blog Techdirt featured an article that explored the copyright ambiguities that arose after a monkey took some amusing self-portraits. The monkey used a camera left out by photographer David Slater, who was working for Caters News Agency. Though the question of who—if anybody—owns the copyright is still up in the air, Caters News noticed the Techdirt post and asked editor Mike Masnick to remove the pictures.

Masnick responded by raising the issue of the ambiguous (at best) copyright claim, and explained that posting the pictures in his article was an example of fair use. Caters responded:

Michael, regardless of the issue of who does and doesn't own the copyright - it is 100% clear that the copyright owner is not yourself.

You have blatantly 'lifted' these photographs from somewhere - I presume the Daily Mail online. On the presumption that you do not like to encourage copyright theft (regardless of who owns it) then please remove the photographs.

However, "who does or doesn't own the copyright" matters quite a lot, because only copyright owners or their agents should be sending takedown notices. Caters just doesn't get it. Techdirt used the photographs in a transformative manner, clearly protected by the fair use doctrine. Because this copyright threat was so absurd on so many levels, it deserves a space in our Takedown Hall of Shame.

Original Title of Threatened Content: 
Monkey Business: Can A Monkey License Its Copyrights To A News Agency?
Date of threat or takedown: 
July 11, 2011
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