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Fella the Dachshund Claims Ownership of Copyright…The Law Says “Barking Up Wrong Tree”

In this exciting time of technological advancement, most of us are permanently connected to our smartphones, tablets and cameras.

People record all aspects of their lives, sometimes to an alarming extent. We’ve become truly fascinated by recording our every move and posting it online for the world to see. We have also developed an insatiable appetite for viewing content uploaded by our friends, family, favourite celebrities and even complete strangers.

Many have discussed the negative aspects of this phenomenon such as social media addiction, cyber-bullying and the like. There has even been scientific study into ‘nomophobia’, the fear of having ‘no mobile phone’. But, despite all the bad, it is of course possible for mobile recording devices to be put to good use.

For example, many cyclists now strap GoPro cameras to their helmet or bicycle in a bid to record the behaviour of drivers around them and to encourage road safety.

Though this may be one ‘good’ way to use recording devices, most of us can probably agree that a better use for them is to strap them to our pets so we can view life from their perspective. Certainly enough people must agree. Why else would GoPro promote and sell the ‘Fetch’ mount, which allows you to strap your GoPro device on to your dog’s back and record his or her move?

While this might seem absurd to some, it does bring to light an important question – who owns the video recording that has been made possible through the assistance of your beloved canine?

How does Australian copyright law deal with this?
The concept of ownership is an important part of copyright law. While people cannot own copyright in ideas themselves, they can hold copyright in expressions of ideas. In the example of a video recording made by the dog-straddling GoPro, the idea would be viewing the local environment from the perspective of the dog, while the expression of the idea would be the video recording itself.

Copyright exists to prevent other people from replicating things, which a person has used their individual creativity and endeavour to create. By way of example here might be if your dog were to capture the act of masterfully catching a Frisbee mid-jump. Copyright would intervene to prevent your neighbour from using a copy of the video, without your permission, to promote his or her new range of dog toys.

Specifically, under Australian copyright law, a video recording made on a mobile recording device is classed as a ‘cinematograph film’ and the person who owns a cinematograph film is the ‘maker’ of that film.

Intuitively it would seem that your dog, cleverly holding the camera to make a recording, will be the ‘maker’ of the film. However, the Copyright Act objects here by defining ‘maker’ of a film as the person who makes ‘the arrangements necessary for’ making the film.

So, we can see that the person who straps a GoPro to their dog is the one who makes the arrangements necessary for becoming ‘maker’ of the film. Therefore, it is this person, who will be the owner of copyright in the film.

Unfortunately, it seems as though ‘Fella’ the dachshund may well have been robbed of the benefits of his hard work and mastery of the Frisbee.