George Mason University Issues Statement on Reuters/Zotero Lawsuit

George Mason University issued a statement this morning regarding the lawsuit filed against it by the Thomson Scientific division of Reuters. It looks like GMU intends to fight the lawsuit. It has restored the functionality that allowed Zotero to understand the EndNote® citation style file format and announced that it will not renew its site license for Zotero EndNote. [Bah -- got this wrong initially. Thanks for pointing this out, Ryan.]

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.)

Extracts from the Thomson Reuters Lawsuit Against Zotero

Via a posting by James Grimmelmann, I found a link to the text of the complaint filed by Thomson Reuters against George Mason University in Virginia’s state courts. The critical bits (to an untrained eye) are included below:

Paragraph 12: George Mason University [GMU] entered into a site license agreement, dated December 1, 2003 with ISI (which was subsequently renewed with Thomson) to access to use the EndNote Software (the “License Agreement”)…

George Mason University Sued by Thomson Reuters over Zotero

Thomson Reuters is suing George Mason University to stop distribution of the newest version of Zotero, a Firefox browser plugin for managing citation data. According to a story from Courthouse News Service, Reuters is claiming that George Mason is violating the terms of its license agreement by including a function in Zotero that will convert citation styles from the proprietary EndNote format to a format that can be used by Zotero. Reuters also asking for $10 million in damages for destroying the EndNote customer base. Since George Mason is a state institution, the Commonwealth of Virginia is also named in the suit.

Pointless E-mail Disclaimers

I’ve been collecting disclaimers that appear on the bottom of e-mail messages in a draft post on DLTJ for about a year now — every time I’d get a new one with a different twist, I’d save it anticipating the day would come that there would be enough humor here to share with the rest of you. That day has come. There wasn’t one that disclaimer that finally pushed the publication of this post over the edge; just the accumulation of examples. Identifying information has been removed, but the humor was left intact. If you recognize your institution/company in these examples, please laugh along with me. If you are the lawyer or pseudo-lawyer that drafted these, please do us all a favor and find something else to work on. Like drafting disclaimers for toothpicks and such.

Feeling the Holiday Spirit? Check With Your Lawyers To See if it is Okay

You may have given away your right to feel the holiday spirit via some click-through license dreamed up by an over-exuberant lawyer. Don’t believe me? Anything is possible in the world of contracts; read on…

An in-law sent me a flash animation card from a site called “Elf Yourself” ™ — no link love here, guess the URL or find it in Google — that has some cartoon elves dancing with the images of this in-law’s family’s faces superimposed on the cartoons. It was cute, and I contemplated sending a reply with the faces of my family. As I typically do, I scanned through the Terms of Use that one must accept before starting and the word “universe” caught my eye. “Self,” I said to myself, “why would the word universe be in the Terms of Use?” So went back and read the entire Terms of Use, and the good bit is in “Grant of Rights” (my own emphasis added):

Two Lectures on Copyright and Fair Use Today

Spotted in the Chronicle of Higher Education Online this morning is mention of two lectures by Wendy Seltzer that will happen today on the topic of copyright and fair-use doctrine. Here are the summaries and hCalendar events (the latter being useful if your browser and/or RSS reader understands the hCalendar microformat markup). Long-time readers of DLTJ might remember Professor Seltzer’s battle with the NFL over the overly broad statement about use of telecasts by posting a 33-second clip the SuperBowl on YouTube, which, at the moment, is still online.

What Is BioMed Central?

My posting on Friday about the clashing values of academic institutions and businesses prompted a comment from Bill Hooker about linking to his blog posting about the pricing structure at BioMed Central (BMC). His comment and the e-mail I received this morning from BMC (reproduced below) got me rethinking about the nature of open access publishing.

Educational Patents, Open Access Journals, and Clashing Values

This posting has two goals — first, to introduce DLTJ readers to the notion of “Educational Patents” or “edupatents” and provide an update on events of this week. Second, to frame the sometimes contentious interaction between academic institutions and supporting businesses as one of “clashing values.” The former serves as a cautionary tale within the wider scope of the latter.

Educational Patents


Are you following the world of “edupatents” (broadly defined as patents that affect the educational markets)? This kicked into gear about this time last year with Blackboard‘s lawsuit [PDF] against Desire2Learn over alleged infringements by Desire2Learn of a Blackboard patent. Michael Feldstein posted a layman’s analysis of the lawsuit and concludes that many “Learning Management Systems have most or all of the features listed in the claims and therefore may infringe on the patent.” Those in the list are not only Desire2Learn and other commercial packages, but also the open source Sakai and Moodle projects. Al Essa has a graphical view of Blackboard’s patent claims, and it does seem that the patent covers a broad spectrum of educational technologies that we are starting to take for granted.