My Thomson Reuters Sends Zotero a $10 Million EndNote post yesterday, attracted several comments and ping-backs.
The thoughts seem to drop in to a couple of themes. Firstly there is the legal position – Have Thompson Reuters got a case, was it presented correctly, which bit of EndNote licensing does it depend upon, of what relevance is the GMU license to use EndNote, etc., etc. My colleague Rob Styles, who has a far better understanding of these things, has published an excellent post over on our sister connecting knowledge blog, Xiphos, reviewing some of the legal issues.
At first glance it seems the case would be specious. Reverse engineering file formats in order to allow interoperability has been settled on several occasions.
In this case, however, GMU have a site license for EndNote. In Bower vs Baystate the courts upheld an anti reverse-engineering clause in the case where it had been knowingly and voluntarily entered into.
Rob also references James Grimmelmann’s post – Thomson Reuters: The Gang That Couldn’t Sue Straight – in which he questions the quality of the case that Thomson Reuters has presented.
The other theme that has emerged from the comments and other posts, is the corporate approach to things like this. As Bruce D’Arcus commented:
If there’s a problem here with corporate academia, it’s the fact that they mindlessly support companies like Thomson with expensive site licenses with ridiculous terms who are prone to litigate when things don’t go their way.
The flippant answer to Bruce’s point is that “they’ve always done it that way, so it’s hardly surprising”. The corporate approach to the licensing, distribution, and protection of software intellectual property, has evolved over the last forty years or so. It is only in the last few years that broad open source distribution of functionality, such as is at issue here, has even been possible. It is therefore unsurprising that corporate monoliths, and especially their legal departments, appear to be way behind the curve of the Open Source and Open data movements.
As I said in my previous post – I predict that this will only one skirmish in a series of battles that will ensue as the information and knowledge publishing and distribution industry morphs into something new. I stand by this. We didn’t get from buying CDs in our local store to the current online, pay-as-you-go, take-it-wherever-you-go, iTunes world, without a few battles like this one.