Cell division = copyright infringement?
March 20, 2011 6:43 PM   Subscribe

“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” Craig Venter created synthetic life and inscribed this quote from James Joyce into its genome. Now he has been threatened with a suit for copyright infringement by the very litigious James Joyce estate.
posted by caddis (32 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Relevant: a fascinating 2006 New Yorker article on the estate's, um, fraught relationship with scholars.
posted by lalex at 6:54 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think this was also a story by Kilgore Trout.
posted by usonian at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

Craig Venter should inscribe a curt dismissal into the genome of the newly created Gulo Insatiabilus ssp. facefuckicus and mail it in reply.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Let us discuss the manifold possibilities of life, the terrible inconsistencies. Is it true that there is only the exercise of power, and nothing else?

Simple mechanisms unfolding, tears rolling down the cheeks of the lost.
posted by kuatto at 7:11 PM on March 20, 2011

strange because Ulysses is basically hypertext. it's filled with quotes from popular songs, operas, plays, other books, newspapers....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:18 PM on March 20, 2011

Joyce died in 1941. Doesn't that mean his works enter the public domain in January 2012, as per the current absurdly long law of "life plus seventy years"? Perhaps the estate is just going out in a blaze of hilarious litigious glory? One last big and insane lawsuit, to show that they won't be dragged into the pit of public domain without one last bit of petulant bullshit?

Or is there some kind of weird legal loophole that will keep Joyce forever copyrighted? I can never quite believe it when a major writer becomes public domain. Isn't F. Scott Fitzgerald now P.D.? Surely some lawyers somewhere prevented it...
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Did he spell it “Tttatttcatt" ?
posted by clarknova at 7:22 PM on March 20, 2011

Take that, progress!
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Joyce estate is very litigious. On par (or maybe more so, I love you both, guys) with the Hemingway estate. Still, I think I would've chosen "Come up, Kinch! Come up you jejune Jesuit!" (or something from "Arrayed for the Bridal.")
posted by octobersurprise at 7:36 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does nobody even care that he didn't "create life"? Minor detail?
posted by benjonson at 7:38 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

wait until they find out i've got "yes i said yes i will yes" tattoo'd on ...

well, i don't really think you need to know that much about me
posted by pyramid termite at 7:40 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Joyce died in 1941. Doesn't that mean his works enter the public domain in January 2012, as per the current absurdly long law of "life plus seventy years"?

The pre-1923 editions of Ulysses are already in the public domain in the United States and have been for a very long time. Here's the Project Gutenberg edition, for example.

Basically, there was a law at the time that said that English-language works published abroad had to be printed in the US within four months or lose US copyright protection. The original versions of Ulysses weren't printed in the US because it was deemed obscene. So that's why it's in the public domain already.

However, the typo-corrected and edited post-1934 editions aren't in the public domain yet.
posted by jedicus at 7:43 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Really enjoy that an article about an incorrect Feynman quote manages to communicate the correct quote but then misspells Feynman's name.

Will there be a followup article correcting the incorrect part of the article about a correction?
posted by nickrussell at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Come up, Kinch! Come up you jejune Jesuit!"

Fearful Jesuit, I believe.
posted by kenko at 8:08 PM on March 20, 2011

James Joyce's estate is an asshole. That said, for whatever reason, J. Craig Venter has always struck me as something of an asshole.

I guess it could have been that New Yorker profile that begins with the sentence "Craig Venter is an asshole." Or the fact that he's the Richard Branson of science.

I guess what I'm saying is that "Richard Branson" is British for asshole.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

There are a few reasons that I decided not to become a Joyce scholar (back in the day when that still seemed like a viable career option, ahahahahahahaha) and Stephen Fucking Joyce was near the top of the list. He's a prick and I occasionally hold out hope that there's an afterlife so that his grandfather can berate him, lyrically and scathingly at the same time, for all eternity.
posted by scody at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

I can't wait to see their plans for recall.

Also, does this mean that the makers of TAG body spray can sue the Human Genome Project?
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:09 PM on March 20, 2011

no I said no you can't No.
posted by benzenedream at 11:02 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

All he has to do is find, in all of life, the sequence used to code “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” Then who's the plagiarist?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:30 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Watermark sequences. The smallest one is 1081 basepairs (looks like they used some sort of codon alphabet which includes punctuation), making it unlikely that anything natural will be similar.
posted by benzenedream at 12:56 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Looks like the novel that the quote is from is already in the public domain. Here's the source of the quote.
posted by papercrane at 5:15 AM on March 21, 2011


The point is, Craig Venter is the guy who tried to privately patent the human genome and is now trying the same thing with artifical life.

It's patent pigopolist versus copyright pigopolist.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh.
That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos.
Hello! Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought,
posted by newmoistness at 6:26 AM on March 21, 2011

Great. Now I have to feel bad about not having read some DNA. Multiformat literary inadequacy is not the future I signed up for.
posted by srboisvert at 6:30 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Aha! My understanding of copyright law was, as expected, wrong. Jeebus, this stuff gets complicated. Joyce will be copyrighted in the U.S. for a bazillion more years.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:21 AM on March 21, 2011

When it comes to copyright, if you don't protect it, you lose it. That said, sometimes it is worth giving permission for use (like when your quote is part of a landmark discovery in science)! Not that Venter would let anyone touch his patent for a gazillion bucks.

I think IP is how the middle (aka low class) will never be allowed to do anything but put cogs together... they'll come out with a new way to blow your nose, patent it, and better watch for a lawsuit next time you pick up a Kleenex (*cough* errrr, I meant tissues).
posted by Fascinationist at 8:39 AM on March 21, 2011

You're thinking of trademarks, you have no obligation to defend or enforce copyrights in order to maintain your rights.
posted by papercrane at 8:55 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Actually, I'm pretty sure it would be a violation of the Berne Convention to require copyright holders to defend their rights or risk losing those rights. (Copyright is automatic, without the need to be asserted or declared.)
posted by papercrane at 8:58 AM on March 21, 2011

Information wants to be free deleted replicated mutated.

posted by PapaLobo at 9:00 AM on March 21, 2011

I for one stand along with this fellow in his war against the Joyce estate; I synthesized amino acids in an artificially-created primordial soup and in celebration of their existence I crafted them such that each one of them had inscribed upon them the following:

My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora's fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.

Frankly though the furious letters from the Joyce estate were enough of a worry I am slightly more concerned with what I found when I last checked up on my sprightly little creations; it seems that Masaru Emoto is on to something. Something horrifying.

Something smelly.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:34 PM on March 21, 2011

Fearful Jesuit, I believe.

Upon sober reflection I was shocked, shocked, that I made that mistake. I think I just liked the sound "jejune" and "Jesuit" made together.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:51 AM on March 22, 2011

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