July 12, 2011 5:08PM

Copyright Monkey Business

Given enough time, a monkey sitting at a typewriter will type out the complete works of William Shakespeare. Believe it or not, it's called the infinite monkey theorem. A thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters would cut the time in half ... or something.

But would the monkey hold the copyright?

We may soon find out. Or at least we'll be entertained by the tiff between TechDirt's Mike Masnick and a person claiming to represent the owner of a photograph taken by, yes, a monkey.

The short answers are: 1) A photograph taken by a monkey probably isn't copyrighted, and 2) if it were, displaying the photo in a discussion of its copyright status is probably fair use. The lesson is: many, many people don't understand what the copyright laws are, or why they are.

Mike participated in our "Copyright Controversies" conference some years ago. Should there be a sequel, we'll invite the monkey.