Maggot Paintings – can they be ©opyrighted?

maggot_artworkFor those interested in painting with maggots, Alison Bockoven, who is a PhD entomology student at Texas A&M University, provides an online resource: How to paint with maggots. Leading Improbable to a question : ‘If a maggot (or group of maggots) create(s) an artwork, who, if anyone, owns the copyright?’

Navigating the thorny and enigmatic complexities of copyright law can be a daunting task, but help is at hand in the form of the COMPENDIUM OF THE U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE PRACTICES, Third Edition. Take for instance part 313.2, which explains the details about Works That Lack Human Authorship.

“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(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.


• A photograph taken by a monkey.
• A mural painted by an elephant.
• A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.
• A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.
• A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in natural stone.
• An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.”

Note that although maggots aren’t human, the compendium doesn’t specifically cover works created by maggots, so Improbable recommends that those requiring a definitive answer should seek professional legal advice.
More on maggot painting :
Progress in academic maggot painting (part 1 of 3)
Progress in academic maggot painting (part 2 of 3)
Progress in academic maggot painting (part 3 of 3)
Coming soon: Copyright in outer space