| (Left) MIT’s futuristic female soldier and (right) images from the science fiction comic book Radix. (Reuters)
Cambridge (Massachusetts), Aug. 29 (Reuters): When MIT announced in March that it won a $50 million grant to design high-tech gear for the U.S. Army's “soldier of the future,” the project was hailed as the stuff of science fiction and comic book heroes.
It turns out there was a lot more to those plaudits than most people realised.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology grudgingly acknowledged yesterday that it copied images from the sci-fi comic book Radix as part of its winning bid to host a research centre that aims to make soldiers partly invisible and allow them to clear 6-metre walls in a single bound.
But with the Canadian creators of Radix crying foul and weighing their legal options, the tale may not end there.
The illustration in question — a masked female soldier — appeared on page 13 of a grant proposal MIT submitted to the Pentagon to host the high-tech Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
When MIT won the grant, beating out other schools such as Cornell University, national news media used the image to illustrate the kinds of futuristic warrior gear that the institute hoped to develop.
“It was an innocent use,” MIT spokesman Ken Campbell said. “We didn’t know it was from anyone else’s artwork.”
The university issued a statement explaining its stance yesterday after an article appeared in the Boston Globe.
MIT officials have not explained how the illustration made it into their grant proposal, but Campbell said the university pulled the artwork from its website in April as soon as it learned of the problem.
However, MIT’s lawyers have argued in at least one letter to the comic book’s Canadian creators that the university was within its legal right when it copied the Radix image and submitted it to the Pentagon.
Radix creator Ray Lai said fans of the comic book were the first to notice the similarities between gun-toting lead character Val Fiores and MIT’s female warrior. “The fans were calling our publisher saying MIT had plagiarised Val,” Lai told Reuters from his home in Montreal, where he writes Radix with his brother Ben. “When we found out, we were shocked.” Placed side-by-side, the two drawings bear a striking resemblance.
In the Lai brothers’ image, Val Fiores stands with her feet wide apart, a futuristic pistol in her right hand and a monstrous assault rifle slung behind her back.
The MIT image shows a woman standing in a similar pose, wielding similar weapons and even sporting similar leg and chest armour as Fiores.