yes: Death of a Biohacker


Walt Crompton, an engineer and life extension enthusiast who worked as a contractor for Boston Scientific and other medical device manufacturers, started doing research for the company in the fall of 2016.

“I was allegedly a co-founder,” Mr. Crompton said. “At first there were big promises of equity sharing and so on but those things never materialized.”

Shortly after Mr. Traywick’s death, Mr. Crompton wrote an email to a friend about his ambivalence. He said that while the Ascendance founder’s behavior had convinced him to leave the company, he found himself “kicking the dirt, though, expecting that Aaron would go on to be rich and famous, while so many great contributors will not, precisely because of the way he elbows his way to the front of the line.”

Still, he wrote:

For me, it was enough that at least he was breaking through the frustrating inertia of our rejuvenation biotechnology movement. At age 65, and feeling the degenerative burn more and more, FDA timelines are just not good enough. Celebrating the heroism of “bio-hackers” comes easy. Funny, though, how his death has created a reactionary stir about bio-hacking, when, from all appearances, there was ZERO bio-hacking factors leading to his fall … Kinda like how a fringe anarchist assassinating the Archduke triggered WWI. Such is politics! We cannot expect logic and mercy to be primary forces in that realm.

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‘He Had Delusions’

Ascendance Biomedical was formed in the spring of 2016, not long before Mr. Traywick, then 26, was forced out of his adoptive cousin’s nonprofit, the Global Healthspan Policy Institute.

The cousin, Edwina Rogers, is a lobbyist and former economic adviser to the George W. Bush White House. She was also the founding executive director of the Secular Policy Institute, an organization that promotes the separation of religion and public policy, and is the chief executive of the Center for Prison Reform.

She did not know Mr. Traywick very well before she hired him. He had been adopted by her Aunt Rita and Uncle James so she would see him over the holidays, growing up.

Tokyo in Texas: Distinctive Japanese Food Is Thriving in Austin


“Uchi is the starting point of Austin falling in love with everything Japanese,” said Otto Phan, the chef and owner of Kyoten Sushiko, an ambitious sushi restaurant in central Austin.

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The chefs Tyson Cole, left, and Aaron Franklin inside Loro, the Asian smokehouse they recently opened together in Austin. The local critic Matthew Odam calls the chefs “the two biggest names in Austin food.”

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

The food journalist Patricia Sharpe says Mr. Cole is responsible for rewiring Austin’s collective palate. “Had he been in Fort Worth, it might have happened there instead,” said Ms. Sharpe, who compared Japanese cuisine’s popularity in Austin to that of Mexican cooking in the 1970s, when she first started covering restaurants for Texas Monthly magazine.

It is impossible to tour Austin’s well-regarded sushi restaurants without running into chefs who have worked for or alongside Mr. Cole. Some, like Komé and Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya, offer a familiar menu of nigiri, sashimi and sushi rolls. Newer places like Kyoten Sushiko and Otoko, in the South Congress Hotel, are tiny destinations for intricate, expensive omakase.

And now, some kitchens are taking the next step: integrating Japanese cooking with the traditional foods of Texas.

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Mr. Matsumoto, left, and Mr. Aikawa inside Kemuri Tatsu-ya. Mr. Aikawa said the menu answers the questions, “What if there was a Japanese guy in Texas 100 years ago? What would he be cooking at a roadhouse?”

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Takuya Matsumoto and Tatsu Aikawa, chefs and business partners who opened Kemuri Tatsu-ya last year, are the leading lights of this new hybrid cuisine. Mr. Matsumoto, who is better known as Tako, calls the restaurant’s marriage of Texas smokehouse and Japanese bar food “a pretty good representation of us as Japanese Texans. It’s not that much different than Tex-Mex, really.”

Mr. Cole stepped up to the same task in early April, opening Loro, which he calls an Asian smokehouse. His collaborator is Aaron Franklin, the chef and owner of Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark where the hourslong lines that regularly form outside are nearly as famous as the brisket served inside.

While Mr. Cole’s restaurants in Austin, Houston and Dallas are based, albeit loosely, on the fundamentals of the Japanese sushi tradition, the menu at Loro is dominated by meat cooked in a hardwood smoker and paired with Asian-inspired sauces and sides. The space is designed in part to resemble a classic Texas dance hall. (Loro is the sixth restaurant operated by Hai Hospitality, Mr. Cole’s company, with a seventh, Uchi Denver, scheduled to open this summer.)

Mr. Cole said the inspiration for Loro flowed from his belief that the signature cuisines of Japan and Texas are naturally compatible. “Slicing the meat to order, serving it directly to the customer,” he said. “It’s so similar to what we do with sushi.”

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The dining room at Loro, which opened in April. The building was designed to resemble a Texas dance hall.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Mr. Franklin said, with a smile, that the restaurant will test Mr. Cole’s theory that Texas barbecue is, as Mr. Franklin put it, “the overcooked, red-meat version of sushi.”

Mr. Franklin, a 40-year-old former rock guitarist, is a partner in Loro as well as its resident barbecue expert. He led a recent tour of the space on South Lamar Boulevard, not far from the original Uchi, along with James Dumapit, 33, an Uchi and Uchiko veteran and Loro’s chef de cuisine.

“We’re definitely not going to stray too far from the central Texas tradition,” Mr. Dumapit said. “We’re not going to rub yellow curry over brisket, for example, because Aaron does brisket obviously very well.”

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Beef brisket is sliced in Loro’s kitchen. Mr. Franklin is revered for the smoked meat at Franklin Barbecue, an Austin landmark.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

The credibility that Mr. Franklin provides Loro is fairly obvious. More complicated is the role that Mr. Cole, a white man born in Florida, has played in making Japanese food fashionable in this trend-conscious city.

Spurred by a passion for sushi that he acquired without leaving the state of Texas, Mr. Cole rose through the kitchens of Japanese-run restaurants in Austin, slowed but undeterred by the fact that he is not Japanese.

“You cannot make sushi because you are white,” Mr. Cole said he was told by the first boss he asked for permission to cut fish. A compromise was ultimately reached: Mr. Cole would roll sushi behind the kitchen’s closed door, where diners couldn’t see him.

After a year and a half, he was allowed to make sushi in front of customers. “But only at lunchtime,” he said. “My tip jar was full every day.”

Mr. Cole is quick to credit the Japanese chefs he has labored alongside in Austin for sharing their expertise. Foremost among them is Mr. Fuse, the chef and owner of Musashino Sushi Dokoro, where Mr. Cole worked for more than seven years, starting in 1993.

Mr. Fuse demanded that Mr. Cole learn to speak, read and write Japanese as part of his culinary training. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for him,” Mr. Cole said of his mentor.

Mr. Fuse is held in high esteem by Austin chefs. Both Takehiro Asazu, of Komé, and Kazu Fukumoto, of Fukumoto Sushi, apprenticed under Mr. Fuse, who is known around town as Smokey.

He is also known to be reclusive. Mr. Fuse did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Mr. Aikawa, a former pupil, relayed the chef’s response: “It’s not my style. I’m a ninja.”

Musashino, which moved to the city’s West Campus neighborhood in 2016 after 22 years at its original location, is where Mr. Cole developed the convention-busting style that lives on at Uchi. Mr. Cole’s signature dishes — like smoked yellowtail and Asian pear, or maguro and goat cheese — are often built on nontraditional pairings.

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Kayo Asazu operates a number of Japanese restaurants in Austin with her husband, Takehiro Asazu, including Komé and Ni-Komé, a recently opened spinoff.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Kayo Asazu, 42, who owns Komé with her husband, Mr. Asazu, 44, says Mr. Cole made experimentation a distinguishing element of Japanese food in Austin.

“We didn’t see things like that in Japan,” she said. (The couple, who were born and raised in Japan, also operate two locations of the Japanese-style coffee shop Sa-Tén.)

Mr. Cole is not the only non-Japanese chef in Austin who has hitched his star to the country’s cuisine. Mr. Phan, of Kyoten Sushiko, was born in Houston to Vietnamese immigrants. Stacy Chen, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Austin as a child, modeled her new restaurant, Yoshi Ramen, on a shop her Taiwanese grandmother ran in Osaka.

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The dining room at Komé, which specializes in sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Paul Qui, 37, a native of the Philippines, was executive chef of Uchiko when he won the ninth season of “Top Chef” in 2012, a star-making moment for both Mr. Qui and the Austin restaurant scene. He established his own aesthetic — pan-Asian, with a soft spot for sushi and Southeast Asian spices — with the food trucks and restaurants he opened in Austin and, more recently, Houston. (In 2016, Mr. Qui was arrested on charges of domestic violence, an incident that has cast a shadow over his empire and career; the case against him was recently dismissed, after the woman involved declined to serve as a witness.)

Amanda Turner, 31, grew up in Dallas, “watching anime, wishing to go to Japan.” She said she felt she had “hit the jackpot” when she landed a job at Uchi while she was still in culinary school.

Today, Ms. Turner is chef de cuisine at Juniper, an Italian restaurant, but she is looking forward to this summer, when she’ll begin a three-month apprenticeship at the acclaimed Tokyo restaurant Nihonryori RyuGin.

When she returns to Austin, Ms. Turner said, she hopes to open a Japanese restaurant of her own. “There’s a lot of precedent for white men to take possession of another culture’s food,” she said. “I’m a black woman. I’d like to change that.”

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Amanda Turner in the kitchen at Juniper, an Italian restaurant in Austin where she is chef de cuisine. Ms. Turner plans to open a Japanese restaurant in Austin after completing an apprenticeship in Tokyo.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

Mr. Aikawa and Mr. Matsumoto, of Kemuri Tatsu-ya, don’t face those kinds of questions around cultural appropriation and Japanese food. Both chefs were raised in Austin’s tight-knit Japanese-American community — Mr. Aikawa, 36, was born in Tokyo, and Mr. Matsumoto, 38, is the son of Japanese immigrants — and gravitated to restaurant work to supplement their income as hip-hop D.J.s.

Both are sushi enthusiasts — they spoke over a platter of plum-mackerel and toro-radish rolls at Musashino, where Mr. Aikawa got his start. But a stint working at Urasawa, the Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif., caused Mr. Aikawa to adjust his ambitions.

“I don’t want to run a restaurant where I’m charging, like, $1,000 a person,” he said.

Instead, he moved back to Austin to open Ramen Tatsu-ya with Mr. Matsumoto in 2012. They apply the discipline of the sushi bar to the broth-making in their ramen shop. It spawned a second location in 2015.

In recent years, the two chefs have become more comfortable with their natural instinct to blend the foods of Texas and Japan. On trips to Lockhart, a Texas barbecue mecca, Mr. Aikawa would bring his own rice and return with brisket to feed his staff.

When the ramen entrepreneurs started brainstorming for a restaurant they planned to open inside a former barbecue joint in East Austin, they asked themselves, Mr. Aikawa said, “What if there was a Japanese guy in Texas 100 years ago? What would he be cooking at a roadhouse?”

The answer is Kemuri Tatsu-ya. The restaurant and bar, decorated with Texas flags, taxidermy and vintage signs in Japanese, is as much of a mashup as the food and drink. The menu includes sake, sochu and local craft beer; smoked fish collar, eel and gochujang-rubbed pork ribs; two types of brisket ramen; and beef tongue and chorizo tamales made with sticky rice.

Kemuri’s success — its owners have leases on two new Austin restaurant spaces — suggests that the city’s diners are plenty ready for whatever Loro has in store.

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A mash-up of Texan and Japanese artifacts fill the walls in the bar at Kemuri Tatsu-ya, which is inside a former barbecue restaurant.

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Valerie Chiang for The New York Times

One might expect Mr. Franklin, the barbecue maven, to be wary of taking liberties with smoked meat, considering the stringently traditional fare on which he built his reputation. The only sides on Franklin Barbecue’s menu (coleslaw, potato salad, pinto beans) are absent from Loro’s, supplanted by dishes like coconut-scented rice and papaya salad.

At Franklin Barbecue, he said, “there would be anarchy in the streets if we changed anything or tried to get fancy.”

But Mr. Franklin is also a product of Austin’s cross-cultural forces. He appears energized by the opportunity to recast his smoked meats with shishito salsa verde and house-made hoisin.

Though the meat at Loro is “super traditional, just salt and pepper,” Mr. Franklin added, there is freedom for his partners “to do what they do, making really rad sides and sauces. We just meet in the middle.”

Fukumoto Sushi & Yakitori Izakaya 514 Medina Street, 512-770-6880, fukumotoaustin.com

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya 2713 East 2nd Street, 512-893-5561, kemuri-tatsuya.com

Kome 5301 Airport Boulevard, 512-712-5700, kome-austin.com

Kyoten Sushiko 4600 Mueller Boulevard, Suite 1035, 512-888-7559, kyotensushiko.com

Loro 2115 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4858, loroaustin.com

Musashino Sushi Dokoro 2905 San Gabriel Street, Suite 200, 512-795-8593, musashinosushi.com

Otoko 1603 South Congress Avenue, 512-920-6405, otokoaustin.com

Ramen Tatsu-Ya 8557 Research Boulevard, No. 126, and 1234 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-893-5561, ramen-tatsuya.com

Uchi 801 South Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4808, uchiaustin.com

Uchiko 4200 North Lamar Boulevard, 512-916-4808, uchikoaustin.com

Yoshi Ramen 3320 Harmon Avenue, 512-243-6161, yoshiramenaustin.com

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Review: ‘Gemini’ Finds Murder in a Movie-Soaked Los Angeles


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Lola Kirke as Jill, a personal assistant, in “Gemini.”

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NEON

There are millions of stories in the naked city, and a lot of them have been filmed in Los Angeles. A city partly made by the movies and defined by them, too, Los Angeles rarely comes off like a lived reality onscreen. It’s a hazy dream, a gaudy fantasy, a noirish nightmare, an Instagramble cliché. It’s no wonder moviegoers and other virtual tourists can map it in their heads without visiting it, even if the Los Angeles they probably know is little more than an aerial view of the Hollywood sign, a cutaway to a clogged freeway and a slavering look at a bountiful blonde.

Every so often, a filmmaker plays with these banalities, which I imagine is why Aaron Katz opens “Gemini,” a pleasurably drifty, low-wattage mystery set in Los Angeles, with an upside-down shot of a palm tree. Perfectly framed and photographed, its feathery fronds spreading in silhouette against a dark-indigo night sky, the tree hangs in the shot like a chandelier. Mr. Katz gives “Gemini” the expected smoggy freeways and a blonde on a billboard, as well as the kind of mystery that certain Hollywood dreams are made of, complete with a femme fatale, a detective and a lonely horn on the soundtrack. But as that upside-down palm tree suggests, he is coming at Los Angeles from his own angle.

Like a lot of intrigues, this one opens at night. Jill (an appealing Lola Kirke), a personal assistant, is sitting behind the wheel of a parked car, her face lighted by a cellphone. It’s a decidedly ordinary scene, even if cinephiles might flash on a different woman staring into a glowing box in the explosive 1955 noir “Kiss Me Deadly.” As she often is, Jill is waiting for Heather (Zoë Kravitz), a young star going through some kind of undefined rough patch. Heather has a meeting with a filmmaker, Greg (an amusingly acid Nelson Franklin), one of those jaundiced, permanently disappointed industry types who doubtless read Nathanael West’s “The Day of the Locust” at too tender an age.

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Trailer: ‘Gemini’

A preview of the film.


By NEON on Publish Date March 20, 2018.


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“You’re going to kill me,” Heather tells Jill, using a variation on a murderous sentiment that’s tossed around a lot at the start of “Gemini.” Heather has decided that she doesn’t want to do Greg’s movie, a long-gestating project, and she wants Jill to break the bad news to him. Jill does. He does not take it well. Neither does Heather’s agent, who, perhaps jokingly, though also with a hint of genuine malice, says that she wants to kill Heather, without whom there’s no movie. If Heather feels guilty about letting everyone down, she doesn’t show it, and before long she and Jill are driving into the jeweled night.

The very next day, the cops are putting a toe tag on Heather, and Jill is a person of interest and soon on the run, having fled a detective (John Cho) who’s more suavely cinematic than professionally adept. She gives herself a quick, amusing makeover, slipping on a trench coat and dyeing her hair blond, a tint that evokes Barbara Stanwyck’s viperous vamp in “Double Indemnity.” The trench at least fits Jill, a rather ordinary, opaque Nancy Drew. She enters a thickening mystery and meets a few suspects — the fine cast includes Greta Lee, James Ransone and Michelle Forbes — but Jill doesn’t so much chase down clues as stumble on those Mr. Katz has scattered.

Mr. Katz, who also wrote and edited “Gemini,” is having a good time playing around with genre, as when the camera lingers on a black bird right out of “The Maltese Falcon.” But he isn’t much concerned with the techniques of the whodunit and “the simple art of murder,” to quote a memorable phrase from Raymond Chandler. The murder here isn’t interesting or especially mysterious (intentionally, it seems), and Jill’s sleuthing is often plain silly. What really interests Mr. Katz here are movies — the fingerprints of directors like Robert Altman, David Lynch, Michael Mann and Sean Baker are all on “Gemini” — and how they have shaped Los Angeles, or at least our ideas about it.

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We Asked 7 Lawyers to Untangle the Broadway Fight Over ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’


So what happens now? The two sides could settle the dispute. Or the case could go to trial. In the meantime, we asked seven lawyers with relevant expertise to help us untangle the thicket — how much change is permissible, and who gets to decide whether the script crosses that line?

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This is the section of the contract between Harper Lee and the producers that outlines their rights as to the selection of the playwright, the nature of the script and the treatment of the characters.

“This case involves two titans of creative expression — Harper Lee wrote an American masterpiece, and Aaron Sorkin is using his unique skills to bring it to the stage,” said Joshua Simmons, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. “The thrust of the case is whether the integrity of Lee’s novel has been compromised, or the play is a faithful adaptation within the scope of the producers’ rights.”

Here is how our panel of lawyers looked at key issues in the case:

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A different theatrical adaptation of the novel, this one written by Christopher Sergel, is performed each year in Harper Lee’s hometown, Monroeville, Ala. This is a scene from the 2015 production.

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Jeff Haller for The New York Times

The play is not supposed to depart from “the spirit of the novel” nor “alter its characters.” What does that mean for the playwright’s ability to interpret and change source material?

The language of the contract that is at issue — “the play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the novel nor alter its characters” (emphasis added) — could be interpreted in a limiting manner in the Lee estate’s favor, but the underlying concepts “spirit of the novel” and what it means to “alter” a character are themselves ambiguous. Interpreting this provision strictly arguably could bar the addition of a new major character, which the letter seems to allege has taken place, but it also could be interpreted more broadly to allow for changes that are consistent with the spirit of the novel and meaning that existing characters’ natures cannot be changed. It is quite possible that the parties had different understandings and it is no wonder that a dispute has turned to litigation.

— Cheryl Davis, general counsel of the Authors Guild

Does “spirit” have a definite and precise meaning, or could there be a difference of opinion as to what is “the spirit” of the novel? I do not think that a dictionary definition of “spirit” will resolve that question. Similarly, the contract states that the characters should not be altered. In its pre-action letter, Harper Lee’s estate repeatedly states that the characters “would never have” and “would not have” done numerous things; unless as a matter of historical fact the characters would not have done something (because it had not yet occurred at the time when the novel takes place or when it was written), who is to say what a creature of fiction “would never have” or “would not have” done? The person who created those characters, Harper Lee, is dead.

— Jordan Greenberger, intellectual property lawyer

My own sense, having read the complaint, is that it includes a mix of valid concerns about anachronism and character arcs with highly contestable interpretations, ones we have no real way to know whether Lee would have shared. One might disagree, for example, about exactly how black men and women who “knew their place” (as the letter describes both Calpurnia and Tom) would behave and speak in light of that knowledge, especially where the audience is not having its experience filtered through the perceptions of a young white girl. [“To Kill a Mockingbird” is narrated by Atticus’s daughter, Scout.]

— Rebecca Tushnet, professor of First Amendment law, Harvard Law School

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Ms. Lee’s estate complained in its lawsuit about changes in the portrayal of Atticus’s children and Calpurnia, the family’s maid, seen here in a shot from the 1962 film.

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Universal International Pictures

Ms. Lee retained the “absolute and unconditional right” to approve the choice of playwright, but her control over the script is more ambiguous — the agreement says only that if she has concerns (or, since she has since died, if her estate does) the producer is to be notified, and there should be “an opportunity to discuss.” Under the terms of the contract, can the estate demand changes to the script?

The provision gives the author (in effect, now the estate) absolute approval rights only over the selection of the playwright. Thereafter the author’s role seems primarily advisory.

—Jane Ginsburg, professor of literary and artistic property law, Columbia Law School

The relevant clause is very clear that Lee had the absolute, unfettered discretion to approve or disapprove a playwright, whether or not her choices were reasonable. The very next sentence is about the interpretation of the characters once the playwright was selected, and its language, in contrast, is not particularly prescriptive; it basically says that if there’s a problem, the parties agree to hear each other out. The contrast in language suggests to me that Lee’s control over interpretation was loaded onto the choice of a playwright. Of course that leaves the estate feeling betrayed, but because this question is about fidelity of interpretation, the contract was always going to leave at least one party vulnerable to the creative decisions of the other.

— Rebecca Tushnet, professor of First Amendment law, Harvard Law School

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Aaron Sorkin, in February. Ms. Lee, before she died, agreed to allow Mr. Sorkin to write the adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

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Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Does it matter that Mr. Sorkin is a known quantity?

If the parties included an express right of approval for the playwright, why did they not similarly include an express right of approval for the script? Further, by approving Aaron Sorkin as the playwright, did Harper Lee expect that the script would include Sorkin’s unique voice?

— Jordan Greenberger, intellectual property lawyer

The estate’s reading of the contract to give it extensive control over the script is perplexing because one would wonder why a playwright of the stature the estate seeks would agree to the constraints the estate says the agreement imposes. Exercising its absolute right to approve the selection of the playwright, the estate approved Aaron Sorkin; the estate has now identified numerous alleged departures from the novel in the way the characters in the play express themselves, but is it really surprising that Sorkin would filter the 1930s Alabama story through what the estate seems to perceive as an anachronistic contemporary New York sensibility?

— Jane Ginsburg, professor of literary and artistic property law, Columbia Law School

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A courtroom scene from the 1962 film in which the lawyer Atticus Finch, left, represents Tom Robinson, who has been unjustly accused of rape.

Credit
Universal International Pictures

This is not a frivolous lawsuit, and barring settlement, Mr. Rudin and Mr. Sorkin should lose. According to facts set out by the Lee estate, the stage play in its current draft undeniably alters several of the central characters. (Beyond recognition? No. But that’s not the standard in the contract.) Though Mr. Rudin’s lawyer has argued to the contrary, the precise language of the contract is reasonably clear that if the stage play ultimately alters the characters, the deal is off.

— Barton Beebe, professor of intellectual property law, N.Y.U. School of Law

Between the contract language and the customs in the theater industry, I believe that the producers will be allowed to modernize and adapt “Mockingbird” to today’s generation and the play will not need to mimic the novel.

— Dave Rein, lawyer at Erickson Kernell IP and chairman of the Literary Works Committee, American Bar Association

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