Copyright in the News

It’s the end of summer and I have successfully avoided any serious article or book, choosing instead to surreptitiously read People magazine and vampire novels; the only photography I saw (and purchased) was at neighborhood art shows in the Chicago area.

As homage to these wasted warm (and wet) days I thought I would offer this small tidbit of copyright news: It seems that copyright applies only to humans. According to the newly updated Compendium U.S. Copyright Office Practices, there is a human authorship requirement that states that copyright law only protects “the fruits of intellectual labor…founded in the creative powers of the mind.”

This means that the photograph taken by a macaque monkey, along with the artwork painted by Brent (a chimpanzee from the Chimp Haven), and JoJo the elephant living at The Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Thailand, are all considered to be non-copyrightable material. In addition, the US Copyright Office will not register a work that has been created by divine or supernatural beings.

The new language does have implications software programs some of which can “write” poetry. One of my favorite novelists, Tom Robbins, said “Humanity has advanced… not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” [Still Life With Woodpecker, 1980, Bantam.]

Clearly we humans need to remember that the creative copyrightable fruits of our labor should be conceived with some of the same playfulness that the animals exhibit.

–Laurie Shoulterkarall, ASPP Midwest Chapter