Updates on the EndNote/Zotero Lawsuit

This is a brief update on the EndNote/Zotero lawsuit. The story thus far: The Thomson Scientific division of Reuters, maintainer of the EndNote software, is suing George Mason University over the upcoming release of Zotero, the Firefox plugin for managing citations. More specifically, the complaint filed in Virginia state courts says “GMU reverse engineered or de-compiled the EndNote Software and the proprietary .ens files contained within the EndNote Software in order to determine how to convert the EndNote Software .ens style files into the open source Zotero .csl style files, in direct and material violation of the [sitewide] License Agreement [signed by GMU].” (Note, though, as others have pointed out, Zotero is not converting EndNote Style files to Citation Style Language (CSL) files.1 It is parsing EndNote Style files and using them internally along side style definitions defined using CSL. Or, at least it was until the function was removed from the code.)

EndNode Styles Site now behind a Click-Through License


DLTJ reader Rick reports that the EndNote Output Styles site now redirects to a click-through license that you must accept. Presumably, if you accept it, you get to see the directory of styles; I haven’t clicked through it, however. As of the time of this posting, the text of the click-through license says:

To download EndNote output styles, connection files, import filters, templates and the user manual you must agree to the following terms.

1. USE OF DOWNLOADED FILES

EndNote output styles, connection files, import filters, templates and the user manual are provided solely for use by licensed owners of EndNote and with the EndNote product.

2. RESTRICTIONS
End User may not modify, translate, decompile, reverse engineer, retransmit in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise), resell or redistribute EndNote and its associated files, or any portion thereof, without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.

3. PROPRIETARY RIGHTS OF THOMSON REUTERS
End User agrees that Thomson Reuters is the sole and exclusive owner of all rights in the EndNote product. EndNote is protected by United States copyright and other laws, as well as international treaty provisions, and End User must treat EndNote as any other copyrighted and legally protected material. All rights in the EndNote product not expressly granted herein are reserved by Thomson Reuters.

This seems a little like closing the barn door after the horse has gone.2 And it opens up all sorts of questions like: What about all of the EndNote Style files that are posted on other sites and all over the web? Do these sites now need to put their .ens files behind similar click-through licenses? Does the license apply to EndNote Style files that I create myself using the EndNote software?

“Gripes About the New Contract for Downloads”


This change has already prompted these comments by an EndNote user on the EndNote support forums:
I’m not very amused by the new covenants to download style files. I realize that a recent lawsuit against a competitor may have spooked people, but I don’t understand several issues:

Can these files be used by users of the EndNote trial as part of their evaluation process? The first term of the contract seems like it may prohibit that.

Why is the user manual not made available to everyone? It can be useful prior to the purchase of EndNote for informational evaluation. I do not see what value it has to your competitors, and I see only advantages for EndNote in increasing the distribution of the manual.

Why is the word “modify” in covenant 2? You do not ship every output styles, connection files, import filters, or template for all needs. Fortunately, EndNote has excellent editors to fill in these gaps. Can I no longer modify the components of EndNote for use form within EndNote, even though I have a license? If so, this seems to be a major loss of value!

Another common practice that is prohibited now is sharing a subset of files with other EndNote users. My previous research group had styles of journals we used and connection files for databases we used in a common location. This made it very easy to make a minimal installation of EndNote on new workstatons and also to grab missing files without slogging through the online repository. Many other groups and libraries seem to do something similar. Again, this practice would make EndNote more valuable.

More on What Zotero Does


Michael Feldstein has some thoughts about what Zotero is actually doing in relation to the EndNote Style files:
Unfortunately, [the Reuters lawsuit] is also based on claims that appear to be factually false. Apparently, the Zotero team did create their own style format and is crowd-sourcing the creation of import styles. As you can see from this Zotero developer discussion thread, the developers considered and explicitly rejected supporting the redistribution of Thomson-supplied EndNote conversion files. In fact, while Zotero can read EndNote style files, it specifically does not convert them into Zotero’s own format, in large part to discourage the redistribution (deliberately or accidentally) of Thomson-created files. What the import feature does facilitate is (a) users who have already licensed EndNote and want to migrate to Zotero can use the EndNote styles that they have already paid for, and (b) Zotero users can take advantage of the EndNote import styles that individual journal publishers (as opposed to Thomson itself) make available for the convenience of their subscribers. These uses strike me as totally within bounds.

One minor quibble is that I don’t think Zotero created its own style format. Citation Style Language, according to the description on its homepage, was “developed alongside CiteProc.” Other than that, I highly recommend reading his thoughtful analysis.

Extension Granted


In a minor matter, according the Virginia Courts Case Information website, Richmond City Circuit Civil Division judge C. N. Jenkins Jr. granted an extension of time in the case on September 30th. No further information is available on the site.

The text was modified to update a link from //forums.thomsonscientific.com/ts/board/message?board.id=en-general&thread.id=649 to http://forums.thomsonscientific.com/ts/board/message?board.id=en-general&thread.id=649 on January 13th, 2011.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.library.uq.edu.au/endnote/styles.html#alpha to http://www.library.uq.edu.au/research-support/output-styles on November 13th, 2012.

Footnotes

  1. Citation Style Language is an “XML language to describe bibliographic and citation formatting.” It is used by Zotero and other citation management tools. []
  2. An explanation of the cliché Why close the barn door after the horse is gone? []
(This post was updated on 13-Nov-2012.)