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Genomicron’s first blogversary

Genomicron, T. Ryan Gregory’s blog, turned one today.  Here’s hoping for many more years of great science blogging.


Expelled for plagiarism

A few weeks ago, the producers of the creationist propaganda movie Expelled, stopped PZ Myers from entering a screening of the movie. They didn’t recognise PZ’s guest, Richard Dawkins, and Dawkins was allowed into the cinema. Afterwards, when PZ and Dawkins discussed the film, Dawkins referred to an animation that sounded a lot like the Harvard/XVIVO animation The Inner Life of a Cell, but clips available online showed that it wasn’t the same animation. And yet, it was remarkably similar.

Dembski had used the animation (stripped of its original narration and replaced with one with a creationist spin) in his talk at OU. Abbie recognised the animation, and set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a cease-and-desist letter being sent to Dembski. An examination of The Design of Life, Dembski’s update of the intelligent design “textbook” Of Pandas and People showed that images from the video appear to have been hurriedly removed from the book (as evinced by the fact that related footnotes and captions were not). Presumably this was done in response to the cease-and-desist letter.

Around this time, the release date for Expelled was pushed back from February to April. While it may have been unrelated, it’s possible that the producers of Expelled realised that the animation posed a problem, and they decided to replace it with another animation. Unfortunately, their copy is basically just that – a copy. And since it’s substantially the same, it’s likely that it is still a copyright infringement. As a result of that, Harvard/XVIVO have sent the producers of Expelled another cease-and-desist letter. They now have two options – re-edit the film, with just over a week to go until its release date, or proceed and run the risk of being sued.

Updates: Abbie has the latest developments; see I love the smell of roasted creationists in the morning and Anyone want seconds?

Update II: David Bolinsky, “the medical illustrator chiefly responsible for The Inner Life of the Cell outlines the process involved in the construction of the animation in an email that Richard Dawkins reposted. (Via Mike O’Risal)

Additional links (updated as I become aware of new material)

Note: A question that’s likely to arise is, since the producers of Expelled made their own version of The Inner Life of a Cell, how can you call it a copyright violation? The answer, in essence, is that the creative process that is protected by copyright includes things like composition and action sequences. As Jeh comments over at PT,

The story-boarding, modeling, rendering and endless tweaking of specific compositions is work-intensive and it requires considerable thought and discussion about how things should be depicted.

Copyright doesn’t cease to exist just because you tweak things a little.