First Synthetic Life Form Violated Copyright Law, Thanks to Famous Literary Quote

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Geneticist J. Craig Venter announced the creation of the first synthetic life form last May, though interestingly, the DNA of the Mycoplasma capricolum bacterium was replaced with DNA the team created themselves, except the created DNA was formed using famous quotes, one of which is from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” After Venter’s announcement, he and his team received a cease and desist letter from James Joyce’s estate saying the quote was not under fair use; by then, the bacterium already successfully reproduced.

Basically, J. Craig Venter hit a milestone by creating the first form of synthetic life, but violated copyright law by using a famous quote in order to do so, posing the question of what exactly happens when a piece of the very thing that brings something to life is in violation of copyright law.

(Forbes via

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