All posts by junction10

Freelance photographer, based near Birmingham, UK

It’s time to stop monkeying around…

You’re bound to have seen the photo..  the cheeky inquisitive grin that has been used as a million Facebook avatars.

Ella – a crested black macaque monkey – © David J. Slater
If you haven’t heard about it – the TL;DR version is basically professional wildlife photographer David Slater ( invested a considerable amount of time and money following a group of crested black macaques on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

After setting up his camera gear (a lot more intricate than I make it sound here), a group of the macaques started playing with it – and one monkey, named “Ella”, took this now iconic photograph.

Slater discovered the website Wikipedia using the photo without permission or license, and rightfully attempted to enforce his copyright but in a travesty of justice, was declared NOT to be the owner of the copyright in the photograph.


Because the macaque triggered the shutter release, and is declared the “creator” of the image.  But can a monkey hold a copyright?  It has been decided that it can’t – so the image is, so far, not copyrighted [correction: in the eyes of Wikipedia and various lawyers, is not copyrighted].  I don’t agree however.

I firmly believe that Slater IS the owner of the copyright in the image [Slater confirms the image is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, and is therefore copyrighted until such time as the certificate is revoked].  He invested the time, money and effort..  he set the camera in place and made the settings, according to the environment and light conditions. He created the correct environment for the photograph to take place.

“But he didn’t trigger the shutter…  so he didn’t take the photo!?”

Technically, correct.  So then, consider this image:

The Storybook Wolf – © Jose luis Rodriguez
This photo won the World Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 competition, although Rodriguez was later stripped of the prize for alleged infraction of the rules (it is claimed the wolf was not actually wild, but tame).

The copyright in Rodriguez’s photograph has never been disputed or challenged.

Yet, Rodriguez didn’t take the photograph.  He didn’t touch the shutter release, nor did he pick the decisive moment when to take the photograph.  Because he used an infrared trigger, to release the shutter when the wolf jumped over the gate.  It was the wolf that triggered the shutter, not Rodriguez.

Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols – Serval Cat on the banks of the Salamat River

In 2006, National Geographic photographer Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols took a photo of a Serval Cat on the banks of the Salamat River in Chad, which won the World Press Photo of the Year award in 2007.

Serval Cat on the banks of the Salamat River © Michael Nichols, National Geographic Society
Michael uses camera traps not just to give an intimate and rare glimpse of beautiful wild animals, but to also raise awareness for conservation and environmental issues.

Copyright is important to photographers like Michael, and publishers such as National Geographic who often fund and comission many of these shoots, or similar projects that serve a great importance for knowledge and understanding of our planet and environment.

If the rights to these works are threatened, then the potential consequences are severe.  A lack of funding will no doubt restrict the ability of photographers to reach the destinations, let alone spare the time or maintain the equipment necessary to get there and document ecological issues that ultimately concern us all.

Yet the above photo, taken by the action of the cat triggering the camera shutter would, theoretically at least, mean that Michael would lose the copyright to the image, as he did not trigger the shutter.

BBC’s Planet Earth II – Snow Leopard Footage

In 2016, the BBC aired a much anticipated sequel to the multi award winning and nominated nature documentary, Planet Earth.

One of the most exciting, and highly publicised highlights of the series was the amazing footage of the elusive Snow Leopard in the Himalayan mountains.

At approximately 1:50.00 in the above video, you will see the camera team setting up a number of cameras traps, and leaving them, for months at a time.

The photographers and videographers were not present during the filming..  they admit that they left the cameras in the remote wilderness for several months “and hoped for the best”…  so who owns the copyright to the resulting footage?  The BBC rightfully claim copyright – yet the animals physical movement triggered the camera shutter release.

If David J. Slater is stripped of his copyright on the basis that he didn’t personally hit the shutter to capture the resulting image, then what rights do the BBC have to the footage created by the snow leopards?  What right do landscape photographers have to stunning images of fork lightning cutting through stormy skies, created with lightning triggers?

There is, in essence, “prior art” in the question of should the photographer owns the copyright to the Monkey Selfie….  for years, photographers and film makers have taken images without manually triggering the shutter themselves.

When the camera is transported thousands of miles, the photographer tracks the subject for days, configures the settings such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture to account for the lighting conditions in that specific scene; when the raw file is downloaded to a computer, captioned, and given post production tidying up before exporting to a file format suitable for publishing – is the photographer not the creator of the image, in the same way the photographers and film-makers are creators and rights owners of images triggered by animals remotely?

I’m sure the BBC would insist they are, and I can’t image them giving up the copyright to “Planet Earth II” footage lightly.

And also don’t pay much attention to the PETA case, an egregious waste of money from a supposedly charitable orgranisation that squandered thousands of donors dollars on a frivilous case, purportedly representing the monkey in a lawsuit against Slater – the validity of which is brought into question, whether the monkey being represented, Naruto, is the same monkey that took the selfie.  Slater claims the monkey was not the male Naruto, but a female called Ella. That case was dismissed in January 2016 yet PETA spent more of it’s donors funds to appeal the decision, which was heard on July 12, 2017 in San Francisco.

So, give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters…  who EXACTLY owns the copyright to the resulting works of Shakespeare?

Here’s hoping common sense prevails and David Slater is rightfully reunited with the copyrights to his work.

Your comments are welcome.


TeenStar audition dates now released!


TeenStar audition dates are now released! TeenStar, the UK’s only competition exclusively for pre-teens and teenagers, have now released their audition dates!

New for TeenStar next year is a dance category! TeenStar are now welcoming pre-teen and teenage dancers around the UK on the lookout to find the best movers and shakers! Their dance categories include 12 years old & under, 13-15 years old, 16-19 years old, and various age dance groups!

TeenStar consists of a UK wide search for the finest young talent the UK has to offer, with TeenStar audition dates being held across the country. The competition culminates in a spectacular National Grand Final, which in previous years has been held at The NEC in Birmingham, and within The O2 in London.

The TeenStar competition attracts over 9,000 entries each year.

Continue reading TeenStar audition dates now released!

Dear Biffy Clyro

To Whom It May Concern,

I read with dismay the post at :,biffy-clyro-tour-photographers_1775.htm where you are offering fans and “budding photographers” the chance to shoot the band from the photo pit and have their photos “featured” (“exploited”?) on the bands website and socials.
It is incredibly disappointing – not that you are offering the chance to ‘budding photographers’ – we all have to start somewhere, and this is a great opportunity for someone who is interested in becoming a professional concert photographer, but because of a number of reasons…
1.  Professional freelance or agency photographers are not allowed to shoot this tour..  This prevents people like me from earning a living, syndicating images to editorial outlets like regional and national newspapers via editorial agencies, or directly.  
It’s fair enough that the band are of course entitled to allow or restrict access to whoever they choose – but it’s a kick in the face when concert photography as a career already has the coffin lid closed, and actions like this are the final nail…
2.  What is the point of encouraging ‘budding photographers’ to shoot the band’s show on one hand when the door to a possible career is being shut in their face with the other hand, unless it is purely to exploit their work free of charge?  Why not hire a professional?  Naturally, budding photographers are more likely to allow free and unrestricted use of their images without even considering the fact they SHOULD be getting paid for their work. This willingness to work for the thrill of getting their photos published (without pay) makes it even harder for professional music photographers to license their work. 
There will come a point when the art of concert photography is lost, and the days of high quality imagery that adds value to YOUR BRAND will be long gone – replaced with cheap but meaningless snapshots of the artists unflattering gurning, microphones where their noses should be, and awkward looking poses with badly composed photographs that are unusable and unsuitable as quality editorial content to help increase page space in features and articles.  Professional photographers don’t just know when to click the shutter to capture iconic moments – they will know when NOT to press it, and what NOT to publish. 
3.  Fans in the pit…  Are they insured?  Do they know how to behave?  The pit is not a ‘photographer’ pit..  it’s a working environment where stewards and security also work, to ensure the safety of the crowd.  Professional photographers (should) know how to react in event of any emergency or any problems.  A fan is more likely to get in the way, cause an obstruction, or even stand there taking photos of someone being taken ill and being pulled over the barrier to be treated.  
 4. You ask for examples of the photographers work..  So, clearly there is an expectation of quality work.  Can you be clear on what rights the photographers will retain?  Will you be forcing them to assign all rights to the band?  Will they be free to syndicate their images? Will they understand or adhere to “editorial use only”? 
Freelance photographers are not parasites.  We are struggling to earn a living as it is, with newspapers making staff photographers redundant and having to rely on freelancers supplying them images – which we can’t supply when we are prevented access to the shows.  
PR companies are paid to help generate maximum exposure and coverage in the press, and to an extent keep things OUT of the press. Professional photographers are part of that machine..  Those clippings that your PR company keeps to show the value of their services to you – they contain our work..  when a picture is used, it massively increases the space on the page that would otherwise just contain a paragraph of text and, and the number of eyes that read the accompanying article/review is therefore greatly increased.
While it may not be the intention of your offer, the consequences of it are far reaching.  Please do give them consideration.
With kind regards,
Jason Sheldon

Coming in March: Madonnaland, and The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul


“title aside, nevertheless has a very dramatic cover).”

Thanks very much!

Losering Books

MadonnalandI’ve had a blast on the “Comin’ Right at Ya” promotional front this month, including a very nice event Wednesday night at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh that drew a kindly attentive full house. I read a bit, took questions and repeated some of Ray Benson’s jokes, which tend to be a lot funnier than my own jokes, so it worked out great. Of course, I also couldn’t let the crowd go without getting in a plug for Kristin Hersh’s “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt.” I even told them that if they could only buy one book, it should be that one instead of mine (sorry, Ray, but know that we sold plenty anyway).

Everyone in the University of Texas Press orbit is still pulling for “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” and the rest of our current titles to break out. Hope springs eternal, but pretty much all of that…

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Taylor Swift changes her photo release contract – let’s have a close look

I was on a short holiday with my family last week when I was alerted to a breaking story about Taylor Swift changing her contract..

Various people claiming “You’ve won, she’s backed down”, “Well done!” “Great to see her knocked down a peg or two”……  Well, let’s slow down a bit..

Firstly, it wouldn’t be great to see her “knocked down a peg or two” at all..  I don’t believe she has been knocked down a peg, nor does she deserve to be.  She had a bad contract in place which was highlighted due to her publicly criticising Apple for trying to enforce an egregious contract on her…
She said the right thing, at the right time.  Just under the wrong circumstances.

Continue reading Taylor Swift changes her photo release contract – let’s have a close look