Friday, April 05, 2002

Another reason to love Maxygen There's a very old and cited legal ruling (Baker v Seldon, 1879) that stipulates how copyright law protects only the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. A while ago I wrote how Maxygen wanted to copyright DNA by converting it into music. Their argument is that the underlying genetic sequence, once expressed as music, falls under copyright and cannot be legally accesed through circumvention, as per the DMCA.

Now, converting a DNA sequence to music, or using *any* encryption technology, is essentially expressing an underlying idea in a particular way. But by making circumvention illegal under the DMCA, copyright extension is de facto extended to the underlying idea, in violation of Baker v Seldon. This case, which has held up for over 120 years, went so far as to say that when expression and the underlying idea were unseperable, copyright was not applicable at all. If Maxygen goes ahead with this (possible), and is challenged in court (likely), it will seriously challenge copyright law, or the DMCA, or both. Nice.

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