Craig Venter created an artificial lifeform, and in order to tag it, he encoded some literary quotes in its DNA — a misquotation (as it turns out) of Feynman, and a line from James Joyce. Now he's attracted a legal threat from the famously litigious Joyce estate (an estate that, in my opinion, epitomizes loony, censorious, vindictiveness exercised against living readers and writers on behalf of a dead man).
The irony is ripe — after all, Venter's the man who wants to patent the human genome.
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.
The funniest thing is that Joyce isn't "written" in the genome, he's encoded in it by a code of Venter's design. Venter could "erase" Joyce by declaring a different set of mappings for the code. Indeed, you could declare any genetic sequence to be a one-time pad coding for any literary quote (or other text) of the same length and it would, in some sense, be true.
- Boing Boing: Stanford prof sues James Joyce estate for right to …
- Boing Boing: Fair use 1: James Joyce's grandson 0
- James Joyce's descendants are copyright jerks – Boing Boing
- Craig Venter on "Designing Life," CBS 60 Minutes Sunday – Boing Boing
- Craig Venter creates synthetic life form – Boing Boing
- Synthetic biotech: a monopolist's playground? – Boing Boing