Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

Summary: Zotero, a Firefox plug-in, looks like an amazing tool for academic and legal writing, what with "automatic citation capture" from webpages, formatted citation export and integration with WordPress. Developed by George Mason University, the tool has already been adopted by 100 major institutions.

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TOPICS: Open Source, CXO
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Zotero, a Firefox plug-in, looks like an amazing tool for academic and legal writing, what with "automatic citation capture" from webpages, formatted citation export and integration with WordPress. Developed by George Mason University, the tool has already been adopted by 100 major institutions.

So who doesn't like it? Thomson Reuters, which is suing the university for $10 million and an injunction to stop distribution, according to Courthouse News Service.

Read the complaint (PDF). Thomson says GMU allows users to convert Reuters' EndNote Software, in violation of the license agreement. EndNote, Reuters says:

[A]llows end users to search online bibliographic databases, organize their references, images, and .pdfs in any language, and instantly create bibliographic reference style files and figure lists in Thomson's proprietary .ens style format for over 3,500 journals and publications.

...A significant and highly touted feature of the new beta version of Zotero, however, is its ability to convert - in direct violation of the License Agreement - Thomson's 3,500 plus proprietary .ens style files within the EndNote Software into free, open source, easily distributable Zotero .csl files."

James Grimmelman calls Thomson Reuters "the gang that couldn't sue straight," saying the complaint was written by a "duffer."

A key issue: Does TR's contract with GMU limit GMU professors? Says Michael Froomkin:

Let’s say that the contract at issue does prohibit GMU from distributing software like Zotero (not obvious it does, but bear with me). Does that prohibition bind the GMU faculty? I’m not sure; but to the extent the acts were within the scope of employment, it might.

Topics: Open Source, CXO

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10 comments
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  • $10 million dollars? Really?

    I'm in the wrong freakin business. A Firefox plugin that creates a document is worth $10 million dollars. Sheesh. Give them the injunction, but the money is a bit excessive. Now if you excuse me, I have some plugins to write!!
    Carrion
    • I changed my mind

      Don't even give them the injunction. Document conversion utilities have been around for years. MS Word can convert Wordperfect documents, but I don't see anyone suing them over it. It's an all around stupid lawsuit.
      Carrion
  • More details...

    I've summarized the key details from the Reuters complaint on my blog (<a href="http://dltj.org/article/zotero-lawsuit-extracts/">http://dltj.org/article/zotero-lawsuit-extracts/</a>) along with the discovery that the EndNote Styles page was changed recently to include a sentence saying ?EndNote output styles are provided solely for use by licensed owners of EndNote and with the EndNote product.?
    DataGazetteer
  • RE: Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

    I can only assume they are claiming that it is going to cost them that much in net income.

    If the software is depending on taking somebody else's style files rather than having their own...

    Good luck on putting this back in the box in the short run.
    deowll
  • Idiots

    Didn't see it coming so now to try the courts. GMU might stop development, Mellon et al should then go after Reuters for reimbursement of funds, and the rest of the world will continue to adopt and develop Zotero.

    Aren't referencing styles dictated by the various publications and editors? I.e. not owned by Reuters anyway? So all they can claim is breach of a clause denying the right to convert from one format to another. Had to happen eventually I suppose...
    putt1ck
  • RE: Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

    How is this any different than other software and file formats, for, and just an example, Open Office reading/writing MS-Office file formats?
    J. D. S.
  • It's a BS lawsuit

    Sorry guys, but this old Granite Stater beleives that a format is a requirement, not a product or service, and is neither protectable by copyright, nor by patent.

    If MY data is stored in one format developed by a company, they have no right to dictate whether I can convert it to another format, nor do they have any right to restrict how I go about doing the conversion.
    Dr_Zinj
  • RE: Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

    It's a bogus law suit and not going to fly!
    Dragonner
  • RE: Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

    It's a bogus lawsuit and it's not going to fly!
    Dragonner
  • RE: Reuters sues university over open-source citation extension

    Gee Let's see. I am in a University Library doing research. I want to save some bibliographic data from the catalog to my own bibliographic software. So why would I use EndNote if I can't do that?

    There have been lots of interchange amongst bibliographic programs since the days of DOS. Why change now?

    I just don't get it.I see Zotero as a bibliographic data harvester that saves the basic bibliographic data so that it can be used by other programs like EndNote. Reuters Thompson should be glad that this service is available.
    jkerr0102@...