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Who owns the copyright to content generated with stolen equipment

  1. Aug 6, 2014 #1


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    In light of the recent monkey photographer controversy, if a humam steals a camera from another person and takes a picture, who owns the copyright?

    Related story:


    That's not to say that such litigation would apply to the monkey incident, since humans assign different rights to monkeys than they do to humans.
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  3. Aug 6, 2014 #2


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    I should think the camera owner since this is the way corporations assert ownership of work done by employees:

    Its the company's if done on company equipment, on company time or with company knowhow...

    but if its illegal then you can keep it, lose your job and go to jail as the company will not want the liability...
  4. Aug 6, 2014 #3


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    I am sure there is a tort law that if someone stole a camera, took a picture and attempted financial gain from the sale of the picture, the owner of the camera could claim recompensation for suffering loss, possibly in the amount of renumeration from sale of said picture. In other words, you should not be able to benefit from unfairly causing another person injury in whatever form.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
  5. Aug 6, 2014 #4
    In the UK the person who took the photograph owns the copyright.
    [ unless they were being employed as a photographer , then their employment contract will transfer the copyright to their employer ].


    That the camera used was stolen / borrowed / hired / on tick , does not change that copyright law.
  6. Aug 7, 2014 #5


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    The wiki article on UK photography copyright doesn't seem to say anything about stolen cameras. What makes you think that the law still applies?
  7. Aug 7, 2014 #6
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  8. Aug 7, 2014 #7


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    But would you? Or would it be given to the public domain?
  9. Aug 7, 2014 #8
    Only the copyright-holder can put their work in to the public-domain whist the copyright is still valid , ( it runs out after about a century , then automatically goes into the public domain ).

    If legal owner of the stationary repossessed the manuscript , they would not have the right to reproduce what I had written on it without my agreement : they don't have the right to copy it.

    There are exemptions where you can reproduce copyrighted material without permission from the copyright owner called "fair use" ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
  10. Aug 8, 2014 #9


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  11. Aug 8, 2014 #10


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    In the UK, this is probably covered by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, though that was created primarily to address activities like money laundering. There were similar fragmented provisions for the general principle of "recovering profits from illegal activities" in earlier UK acts of parliament.

    The UK legislation includes provision for civil recovery of proceeds of crime when there has been no actual prosecution and conviction for the crime itself. (In other words, if a serial robber is convicted of one offense, the Assets Recovery Agency could take action to recover other "unexplained" assets that he/she possessed, without having to prove exactly which assets came from which other unsolved crimes.)
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  12. Aug 8, 2014 #11
    But in my stolen-stationary-scenario I have not made any money from my crime of nicking the paper & pens.

    So "proceeds of crime" won't apply as there are no "proceeds"...


    i.e. the legal owners of the paper & pens, who have repossessed the manuscript, still wouldn't have the right to reproduce what I've written on it , beyond "fair use", without my permission as I own the intangible thing that is copyright to that work.
  13. Aug 11, 2014 #12
    I think whoever took the picture automatically owns the copyright.

    However, I think a judge might look favorably on a lawsuit by the camera's real owner to collect some or all of the proceeds from the photo merely in recompense for depriving the rightful owner of the use of his camera while it was in the thief's possession.

    The monkey selfie is an entirely different issue. Say a photographer had his camera set up on a tripod under a tree. A branch falls off the tree, trips the shutter, and takes a fantastic photo. Does the tree own the copyright? I'd say in cases of accidental photos the copyright defaults to the camera owner. And I'd say the monkey photos were essentially accidents.
  14. Sep 19, 2014 #13
    Monkey selfie aside, I think the thief would have the copyright but would, obviously, be subject to penalties for theft of the camera. It's difficult for me to treat copyright in this case as analogous to the IP rights of employers (which is related to a voluntary association on the part of the employee).

    Here's a question (with an obvious answer, imho): if I steal a firearm from you and then rob a bank, do you, as the firearm owner, have any culpability?

    What, if any, is the logical or moral difference?
  15. Sep 19, 2014 #14


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    It depends on the situation. If uzi's are often stolen by people and used in a society where it's the only way criminals can get guns, then I might place some obligation on the owner of an uzi to secure their weapons. But it wouldn't be a 50/50 split. Maybe 80/20 in favor of the murderer. Or maybe something like felony for the murderer, misdemeanor with fine and/or community service for the owner.

    If you're in a community of hunters and for decades and everybody has rifles laying around and one time, one guy goes crazy and kills somebody with a rifle, it's a lot weaker case for fault going to the owner of the firearm.

    Unfortunately, there's a lot of grey area between those two extremes.
  16. May 18, 2015 #15

    Yes, I agree, isn't that also something to do with the "clean hands" doctrine ? In this case how could you claim copyright on something if you do not yourself have 'clean hands' as for a monkey I doubt they have clean hands !
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