Celebrity cloning

BRITNEY SPEARS and George Bush beware! Your many fans might be eager to clone you. So says a Californian company that is offering celebrities the chance to establish copyright over their DNA to prevent unwanted duplication.

"A lot of people are going to want to clone people they admire," says Andre Crump, president of the DNA Copyright Institute (DCI) of San Francisco. In theory at least, all someone needs to clone their hero or heroine is a few living cells from them left behind on a glass or exchanged in a handshake, for example.

For high-profile individuals worried they might fall victim, DCI is offering to record their DNA fingerprint, check that it is unique and store it. As the pattern's "author", the client will get copyright protection to prevent "actions such as DNA theft and misappropriation, cloning and other unauthorised activities", claims DCI's website.

At $1500, the price isn't likely to deter the glitterati, and Crump says 10 people have already taken advantage of what DCI's press release calls "a ground-breaking development on the issue of cloning and the rights of the individual". For an extra fee, the company will also try to register the pattern with the US Copyright Office, although this isn't necessary to establish copyright.

But lawyers dismiss claims that DNA can be copyrighted. "This is nonsense," says Stephen Barnett of the University of California, Berkeley. "Whoever is saying that is ignorant of the term copyright." The idea that a person "authors" their own DNA doesn't hold water legally, Barnett says. And even if it did, he doesn't think it would give them protection against being cloned.

DCI's legal counsel Matthew Marca disagrees. He insists that since clones will share the fingerprint of the original person, they will be in violation of copyright. When New Scientist pointed out to Marca that clones are not exact copies but often contain a new genetic component-mitochondrial DNA from the egg used to cre

Contact: Claire Bowles
New Scientist

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