James Joyce Estate Sends Takedown For Joyce Quote In DNA

from the a-portrait-of-an-intellectual-monopolist dept

Craig Venter, who is no stranger to advocating stronger and stronger IP laws -- especially in the area of "synthetic life" -- apparently learned recently how those laws can reach ridiculous levels. In a recent presentation, he noted that his team had encoded a James Joyce quote in the DNA of the "synthetic life" he's been trying to create. However, the James Joyce estate was not amused and sent him a cease-and-desist. Venter notes that he felt that it was fair use to include a quote. The quote was really short:
“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”
To claim that this is infringement seems pretty ridiculous. What's unclear from the article, though, is whether or not Venter fought this or just accepted it and agreed to take the quote out. This isn't the first time that the Joyce estate has done stuff like this, including an attempt to stifle a biography by use of a copyright claim. In that case, the estate finally learned that they had no claim when they actually had to pay up to settle the case.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:07am

    To claim that this is infringement seems pretty ridiculous.

    How do you figure?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      John, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      Quoting is fair use, as long as it's attributed. As long as somewhere they say it's by James Joyce, the quote is fine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:25am

        Re: Re:

        Is the quote copyrighted? If so, it's not nearly that simple. I was asking Mike, so I'll wait and see if he explains what he meant. It's these sort of conclusory statements from him that leave me scratching my head wondering why he couldn't put a little effort into backing them up with a bit of argument or analysis.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:36am

          Re: Re: Re: Fair Use

          > Is the quote copyrighted? If so, it's not
          > nearly that simple.

          Of course it is. That's why it's fair use. Fair use is an exception that allows use of copyrighted material without permission.

          If it wasn't copyrighted, then fair use wouldn't be an issue. It would just be plain use.

          And yes, what those guys did is perfectly legitmate fair use. Even if it wasn't, I'd just ignore the Joyce estate anyway, because it's extremely unlikely they'll ever have access to either the organism in question or the specialized equipment necessary to examine its DNA to determine whether the encoded quote has been removed or not.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Gerard Leahy, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 2:17pm

        Re: Re:

        You are probably corrrect - but clearly the length of citation will also be a relevant factor .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gerard Leahy (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 2:27pm

        Re: John

        Attribution may not always be sufficient - since the charge is not so much that of "passing off" so much as it is for using it in the first place - length of quote may also be relevant.

        Gerard Leahy

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Greg G (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:33am

      Re:

      Quoting people has been going on for centuries, perhaps millenia.

      Og: Ah ah! Ahta! AAAHTA!

      tomorrow, inscribed on a stone tablet by Atouk:

      Og say "Ah ah! ahta! AAAHTA!"

      Og probably never thought about suing Atouk for infringement, let alone the publishers of the stone tablet news.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Howard the Duck, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:34am

      Re:

      You need to take that question down. I copyrighted it years ago.

      "How do you figure"
      copyright 1998 HD

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      Someone they have a genetic connection to wrote those words to make money and now in a horrible irony someone has written those words into genes presumably with money making in mind.

      Genes replicate, if this is not stopped now there will be no controlling the royalty free spread of these biological pirates.

      He should be glad of the cease and desist rather than having to pay a fee for each iteration of the information.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      How do you figure?


      Me stating that it was ridiculous was an opinion, which I believe to be self-evident.

      I'm curious as to how you would think that it's NOT ridiculous to send a cease-and-desist here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        Because if the piratical Craig Venter had gotten away with this then there's a chance that James Joyce would've stopped writing.

        And that would be a sad day for culture.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Me stating that it was ridiculous was an opinion, which I believe to be self-evident.

        I'm curious as to how you would think that it's NOT ridiculous to send a cease-and-desist here?


        You didn't answer the question, as I'm sure you're well aware. How is the claim that this is infringement ridiculous?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2011 @ 11:33am

          Re: Re: Re: how you would think that it's NOT ridiculous to send a cease-and-desist here?

          I'd be more interested to see your answer to Mike's question, because really...this I gotta hear.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gerard Leahy (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 2:30pm

        Re: Mike

        Clearly you are correct in that you have (properly I would say)ridiculed it. Technically I suppose whether it is ridiculous or not has no bearing on the merits of the case .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      Hi Stephen!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:22am

    Maybe they just don't want to be involved with DNA manipulation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Overcast (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:27am

    Sounds like you found a group of people that all need to "get a life".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    When are Homer's family going to finally sue the Joyce estate for nicking The Odyssey?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gerard Leahy (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 2:41pm

      Re:

      Presume you are speaking in jest here ? - since of course Joyce nicked little if anything from Homer. Usually Joyce the magpie purloined and plundered from everywhere and anywhere including from the great plunderer Shakespeare but always sufficient to weave a garment richly allusional to provide a blanket of hommage to touch and unpick with pleasure and wonder.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jeffery, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't copyright length for "Life plus 70 years", both in the US and Ireland? And did not James Joyce die in January of 1941? So would not the copyright have EXPIRED two months ago?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:42am

      Re:

      Oh, thanks for that. I saw the title of the article and my immediate thought was "Wha? Hasn't that guy been dead for a really long time already?!"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      coldbrew, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:50am

      Re:

      Nice call.

      P.S. Voting is not possible w/o js if you wonder why I make it a comment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 9:58am

      Re:

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't copyright length for "Life plus 70 years", both in the US and Ireland? And did not James Joyce die in January of 1941? So would not the copyright have EXPIRED two months ago?

      Not so simple:

      http://english.osu.edu/research/organizations/ijjf/copyrightfaqs.cfm

      However, it does appear that this particular quote comes from "A Portrait..." which does appear to be in the public domain in the US... making this C&D even more ridiculous. I wonder if they claimed something other than copyright? Publicity rights?

      Or maybe they were going under EU rules, where "Portrait.." goes into the PD next year. But since Venter is here in the US... again that seems like a problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:07am

    Venter also inserted what he believed was a quote from the Caltech physicist Richard Feynman: "What I cannot buid, I cannot understand."
    Caltech reacted to news of Venter's work by sending him a picture of Feynman's blackboard where the quote was written.
    Venter says he going back to correct the error so that the DNA will now read: "What I cannot create, I do not understand".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 9:12am

    Well obviously the estate was afraid that this DNA would replicate and become self aware and then proceed to claim it was Joyce. It would then proceed to write slash fiction based on Twilight and ruin the literary world!

    Won't someone think of the words!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Donny (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Saddened

    http://english.osu.edu/research/organizations/ijjf/copyrightfaqs.cfm

    Good GOD. Seeing that really hit me with how absurd this idea is. Who'll really care about the works by then, except those who've been told to or made to, who'll approach them as dead scholarly institutions, instead of the playful exciting invigorating living creative works they deserve to be read as.

    It is a damn shame Finnegan's wake hasn't become a compendium of a thousand genius' wit, instead of just one. And by the time it becomes possible to do that, well who'll really want to try? There'll be a hundred year gap between authors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jeffery, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Ok, so I looked over the link provided: http://english.osu.edu/research/organizations/ijjf/copyrightfaqs.cfm


    And, given that its from the same group who clearly have no idea how to assert copyright law (the aforementioned James Joyce Foundation), I doubt any of it is accurate. In fact, I re-read the relevant laws, and unless it was published for a corporation (and is, thus, owned by said corporation), life + 70 years is the copyright term of his works. Pretty much all of them are public domain now.

    I shall begin publishing James Joyce writings on my blog shortly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 3:23pm

      Re:

      I think you'll find that the James Joyce Foundation and the Joyce Estate are quite different (and often opposed) bodies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ccomp5950 (profile), Mar 16th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

    derivative work?

    So, if he created a new life form would it be considered a derivative work of the quote?

    Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LASIS_BLOG, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 10:00am

    How will this claim turn out?

    New York Law School's legal reporting blog, LASIS, takes on how this copyright infringement issue would fare in the courts: http://www.lasisblog.com/2011/04/02/copyright-clash-at-the-cellular-level/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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