There’s been a lot of talk over the weekend about whether or not a musical work encoded as DNA would be protected under copyright; Does that mean that if I take a DNA strand and somehow derive music from that, the copyright that protects the musical composition somehow retroactively protects all other works derived from that DNA strand?
Let’s think this through for a moment:
A musical work that was written via “traditional” techniques and then encoded in DNA (as it might be encoded using MIDI or MusicXML) would be protected under copyright because it already was before it was DNA-encoded.
In the same vein, a musical composition derived from a DNA strand (much in the same way space music is “derived” from the constellations) would be protected under copyright because, by definition, it is a “musical composition.”
Either way, the DNA itself isn’t the “work” being copyrighted.
This brings up a lot of interesting questions about who owns DNA and DNA-derived works, that’s for sure! The situation isn’t any less complicated than the DNA patenting issue.
Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times piece:
The idea is that a DNA sequence, if encoded as music, might be copyrightable as a work of art. A researcher wanting to use that sequence could obtain it as a music file and decode it after purchasing a proprietary back-translation program.
Such a system would benefit the biotechnology companies, because their work would be protected