In a blow to monkey photographers everywhere, the US Copyright Office has declared that photos taken by monkeys cannot in fact be copyrighted.
All joking aside, however, the more I've thought about this issue, the less obvious the conclusion has seemed. The problem with the actual case under discussion is that the photographer admitted it was an accident; the monkey just picked up his equipment and started snapping the shutter. But imagine a photographer whose work is to leave a camera in a room with various animals and waits for them to press the shutter, or perhaps sets up tripwires in the room that causes the camera to shoot. It's not so obvious to me that the photographer shouldn't own the copyright in the resulting photos in that situation.