A Monkey, Tree or Ghost Cannot Copyright Photographs

Well, the Copyright Office has weighed in on the simian selfie.  In an amusing statement from the Copyright Office they detailed that:  “the Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit”  So a work can be inspired by a spirit but the actual spirit cannot take the photograph in order for it to be registered by the Copyright Office. Therefore, the monkey selfie below and any future photographs taken by tomato plants, Casper, or Treebeard are in the public domain.
Originally Posted on August 7, 2014
This is one strange “tail” that sounds like a scenario fit only for a law school final exam essay.  Generally, the person who takes a photograph is the owner of the copyright to that photograph, but what if the photo was taken by an animal? Who owns the copyright?
David Slater is a British wildlife photographer who has started a very big copyright dilemma.  In 2011, Slater was preparing to take photographs of macaques in Indonesia when one fame-loving critter stole a camera and took hundreds of photos including some cute selfies that would make Kim Kardashian jealous. The monkey selfies went viral and wound up as a free image to use on Wikimedia Commons.  Slater, believing that he owns the photograph, sent Wikimedia a takedown request but was met with resistance.  Wikimedia claims that Slater is not the owner of the photographer, the macaque is.  Slater believes that since it is his camera and he set up the photo shoot, he should own the image.
So who owns the photograph? Animals, despite a large lobby group lead by Bambi, Garfield and Bugs Bunny, do not have rights; domesticated animals are even considered personal property under the law. But under copyright law, the photographer is the owner of the photograph.  It is a unique question that may never go answered unless Slater commences legal action.  Until then, I will eat my banana and ponder this quandary.