14 March 2011

Copyright Bullying is in the DNA

Craig Venter is a bit tiresome at times, but indubitably clever. And to prove his cleverness (again) when he was creating artificial life, he thought he'd throw into the DNA a quotation or two:

In order to distinguish their synthetic DNA from that naturally present in the bacterium, Venter’s team coded several famous quotes into their DNA, including one from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”

Rather witty, no? Sadly, the humourless Joyce Estate didn't see it that way:

After announcing their work, Venter explained, his team received a cease and desist letter from Joyce’s estate, saying that he’d used the Irish writer’s work without permission. ”We thought it fell under fair use,” said Venter.

Yeah, we really need Draconian copyright laws to protect (dead) artists from this kind of evil infringement.

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8 comments:

PV said...

If you look at this, the Tolkien estate, and other estates of authors long gone, the estates obviously can't hold a candle to the authors' creative talents; they have a lot of money from these authors' works, yet they are insistent on exploiting those works to their fullest extent by (ironically enough) not letting others do the same. Is that really fair?
--
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

glyn moody said...

@PV: exactly, they're being unreasonable at the very least.

Valdis said...

Hm...
Does it means Venter created life which can't do reproduction (i.e. living) without explicit permission from copyright holder?
Do all existing zillions of cells are illegal copies and should be eliminated as illegal disks?

glyn moody said...

@Valdis: well, it's getting close to that, yes...

Iron Curtain said...

From what I understand, James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" is in the Public Domain in the US. So it's ridiculous in the extreme to claim copyright infringement on something that's public domain. This is like hearing Homer's Estate (as if there were one) sue anyone who quoted from the Odyssey or Iliad.

Don't quote me on anything I said, because I'm not a lawyer. But it's the utmost abuse of copyright entitlement syndrome to send a C&D on behalf of works that you did own at one point but are now expired and available for all.

glyn moody said...

@Iron Curtain: maybe it was on the cusp: Joyce died in 13 January 1941, so his works entered the public domain this year, I think...

The Mad Hatter said...

Just wanted you to know Glynn, that they absolutely love you over in the Balanced Copyright for Canada Facebook Group:

https://www.facebook.com/balancedcopyright

They think that you, Cory Doctorow, and Neil Gaiman, are just great. Last I heard they were discussing having a party for you with a hemp neck tie. If they invite you, don't attend.

Wayne

glyn moody said...

@Wayne: thanks for the info. I can see you're doing great work there: keep it up....