You're out at a typical tourist destination when a couple hands you their camera and asks you to take a picture of them up against a background. You say yes, then snap a nice picture of them.
You own the copyright? On their camera?
I borrow my daughter's camera and take a few amazing photos with it. I own the copyright? On her camera? Or does she?
- I do.
What if she borrows my camera and takes pictures with it? She owns the copyright? On my camera?
- Yes, she does.
If you write poetry in a text editor installed on a computer at the library, do you own the copyright? Or does the library, who owns the computer you used to do it?
- You do, of course.
If you walk into a music store, pick up a display guitar and compose a piece of original music, right there, in the store...do you own the copyright? Or does the store, who still owns the guitar?
- You do, of course!
Being the owner of a piece of equipment does not automatically entitle one to all of the copyrights for everything produced with it, by anyone or anything.
That would be like saying that the owner of a paintbrush automatically owns the copyrights to all of the paintings made with it, without ever having to use that paintbrush themselves, without having to have any skill or talent, or any investment of time, work, and creativity.
Merely shopping for art supplies at a A.C. Moore can not net you a ton of copyrights, for works you never created.
Copyrights are granted to the creator
of a work, not the owner of the equipment used to create the work.
But in the case of the monkey, who is the actual photographer/creator, that monkey would have been the copyright holder, except for 2 things.
1. Copyrights can only be held by humans.
2. Copyrights for things created by a trained animal may be held by the animal's owner/trainer, but in this case it is an untrained, wild animal... without an owner.
So, who owns the copyright on the works of art created by this elephant?
This elephant is painting what it was trained to paint. It didn't make the decision to paint, or decide what to paint, nor did it decide how to do it or what colors to use. The trainer did. The trainer is the real creator of the artwork and is merely using the elephant as a tool to do it. It would be pretty much the same as taping a brush to a remote controlled toy helicopter and using it to make a painting. You wouldn't give the credit or copyright to the helicopter.
Now, if the trainer is the owner of the elephant, then they would hold the copyright on that elephant's paintings. But if the trainer works for a zoo or other similar organization and was hired to train the elephant, then most likely the copyright would be held by his employer, and it would be considered works for hire.
Now, on the subject of works for hire...
^Just hand them a dollar for doing it. Then you have offer, tender, and acceptance and it becomes "work for hire."
Merely paying someone to take pics of/for you doesn't automatically make it a work for hire and you as the copyright holder.
Most professional portrait photographers that own their own studio retain the copyright on the photos they create, even though they are being paid to do it. As a commissioned artist, it is usually not treated as a work for hire.
But if they hire a photographer to take the photos on behalf of their business, then they hold the copyright on any photos produced by their employees...those are treated as works for hire.
And if I sign a contract to take photos for someone and the contract states that I agree to assign that person or company all copyrights for any photos I take for them, in exchange for a set amount to be paid by them for those photos, then the person or company gets the copyright, as works for hire.
So, in addition to giving them a dollar to take the photo for you, you would likely have to also get them to sign a contract where they agree to relinquish copyright to you, as a work for hire.