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)
- Abbie Smith: EXPELLED: EXPELLED for plagiarism
- Wesley Elsbery: OK, Expelled… But Plagiarism Will Do That For You
- Henry Neufeld: XVIVO Claims Copyright Violation in Expelled!
- John Lynch: More Expelled dishonesty
- Afarensis: Expelled Gets In Trouble Over “The Design of Life” Video
- PZ Myers: Peter Irons drafts a letter
- Jim Lippard: “Expelled” gets a copyright infringement letter
- Pete Dunkelberg: Will the public ever see Expelled?
Additional links (updated as I become aware of new material)
- Christopher Sisk: EXPELLED: Plagiarism Allowed
- Folkface: Expelled is for Douchebags
- Lone Wolf: Expelled Plagiarised?
- Evil Under the Sun: EXPELLED EXPOSED! Klauen auch noch
- Monado: ERV:Expelled is expelled for plagiarism
- William Wallace: Legal threats and copyright shakedowns
- Powerup: It Begins…
- James McGrath: Plagiarize? You’ll Get EXPELLED!
- Larry Fafarman: Expelled producers accused of copyright infringement
- John Lynch: Expelled exposed for copyright infringement
- Scott Hatfield: ‘Expelled’ Examined…for Plagiarism?
- The Bad Idea Blog: Intelligent Design Film Expelled! to Face Legal Action for Stealing Cell CGI Video?
- PvM: Wesley Elsberry: “Expelled” exposed
- The Factician: A creationist, a scientist and a lawyer walk into a bar…
- Mike O’Risal: Expelled Caught Stealing Video: Premise Media Put on Notice
- Greg Laden: Expelled Busted
- John Wheaton: Animations in Expelled may have been plagiarized
- Monado: Expelled: the copyright issue
- Science Avenger: Expelled, Plagiarism and the UD Crazies
- Monado: Jonathan Wells doesn’t help at all
- Monado: Dembski shoots Expelled in the foot
- Abbie Smith: I love the smell of roasted creationists in the morning
- Abbie Smith: Anyone want seconds?
- David Heddle: ID leaders fail–again?
- Mike the Mad Biologist: From the Austringer’s Lips to the Intelligent Designer’s Ears…
- John Timmer: Academic freedom gets legislated and Expelled
- Mike O’Risal: Expelled/Premise Media’s Thievery and Dembski’s Mental Deficiency Made Clear
- David Bolinisky: ‘Expelled’ ripped off Harvard’s ‘Inner Life of the Cell’ animation
- John Lynch: Expelling the log from one’s own eye
- Monado: They’re doing it again
- toomanytribbles: ours is brown!
- Blake Stacey: Expelled: Immoral, Incompetent
- PZ Myers: Thieves and liars
- Wesley Elsberry: Flunked, Not Expelled: Ben Stein Contradicts Mark Mathis
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.