Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Final Update: Victory Day! In response to Shelley's request I've removed the text of the original email.
A fellow ScienceBlogger has been threatened with legal action for reproduction of figures. Obviously we post figures here on this weblog pretty frequently. It isn't to screw over the companies doing the publishing from making profits, we just want to talk science. We don't repost whole papers. It seems highly likely no one who sees the figures on our weblog is going be disinclined then to buy the article if it piques their interest (more likely they'll go to the local university library). Instead, we're giving free publicity to the journal in question. So is what was done fair use or not? Honestly, I don't care too much, it seems that they just wanted the bad publicity/review to go away. So I say give them more! Here is the text of the email:
Addendum: Thinking about it more, I wonder what percentage of sales massive academic publishers make via the "buy this article" option which pops up when your institution doesn't have access? My own hunch is that very few people go this route, but rather will simply ask the researcher in question for a reprint/PDF if it is of particular academic interest. From a sales perspective I can't believe that reproduction of figures would in any way diminish the interest of an individual in a paper or article. Rather, it is more likely to increase interest (i.e., whetting appetite). So even assuming that the email Lisa Richards sent was defensible on legal grounds it doesn't seem to make much business sense to take up time doing something like this. Unless of course, as I noted above, the main motive was just to squelch some negative publicity.
Finally, I don't want to give the impression that bloggers have a carte blanche to say or do whatever they want to on the web. But, that being said, when someone to whips out the law as a cudgel against discussion of a topic, they should know that if the cause is unjust they'll be blog-mobbed.