Earlier today I noticed this blog post on a Nature Blog, (cross posted here) specifically on FnL – Euan Adie’s blog, who was overly critical of the science blogosphere’s response to the ‘Fair Use’ kerfuffle (WileyGate?). He opined that it was quite unlikely that there was any big conspiracy going on.
I agree. I think it really was a big misunderstanding, but whether or not it would have been viewed that way by Wiley perhaps has quite a lot to do with the response that the scientific blogosphere returned. Euan Adie is perhaps mistaken in that he assumes that the ‘braying mob’ can never accomplish anything for good. Strangely enough, it was right around the time that this kerfuffle got picked up by SlashDot and BoingBoing that I got any response at all from Wiley. At that point it had been two days since I had emailed the ‘formal request’ venue, and never heard back. But, after the mob began to bray, guess what? I got a nice fat email in my Inbox.
Which isn’t to say its the best way of doing things. I’ve tried to use an unpleasant situation to get people involved in reasoned discussions on fair use, open source, correct citations, and the rest of it because obviously these are things we need to know. Obviously people don’t know them.
The only power I wield in this situation is the small power I have in my blog. I don’t have any money, connections, or clout. Students, and friends of mine, have been successfully sued by big corporations like the RIAA who have lots of lawyers, money, and time. My only resource is my voice, here, on Retrospectacle. So, Euan Adie, please don’t reproach me for attempting to use it to protect myself and rally the forces. It wasn’t to pinpoint anyone with scorn.
It is a testament to the community that we’ve built here that the word was spread so fast and so far, and that people DID email and DID think and DID discuss. And if any over-zealousness on the part of the mob resulted in hurt feelings or distress, I am very sad to hear that. However, corporations take these incidents in stride. Bloggers however, are forever impacted by the outcome of such (seemingly) minor encounters. Forever shall I be that much more diligent, that much more cautious, and that much more aware of this issue. I think a lot of us will be. I will still post figures and pictures and data and the rest of it, but I will cite cite cite and try to give as much due diligence credit as possible.
Whether or not I violated ‘fair use,’ is an important question, and was mostly clarified by Wiley’s own policy. Ian also contributed some valuable information in the comments:
As part of the license that allowed you, as a UM Grad Student, to have access to this journal in the first place, it is clearly stated that you were allowed to use these figures in your academic pursuits, among other fair-use uses. This contract and its permissions were negotiated between UM and Wiley directly (well, in this case through the CIC, but that’s neither here nor there), with the SCI nowhere at all involved. Clearly the SCI got jumpy and overstepped their bounds, and I’m sorry that you had to go through all this, but please notice again that all your communications (at least those posted here) were with SCI directly. This fair-use clause is in every single license Wiley issues for journal access. It may be redundant to most of you but legally it’s there and meant to avoid issues like this one.
Long story short – as far as Wiley is concerned, you already had permission and did not need to ask for it.
This is good to know, and I wouldn’t have known it otherwise.
So, as far as I’m concerned, bray mob, bray. Just do it with respect.
UPDATE: Mr. Adie stopped by and commented that he actually did think I was in the right (see the comments of this post for our exchange), and was making a more general criticism at a few over-zealous posts/comments elsewhere. In that case the former title (Nature Blog Doesn’t Get Why We’re Mad) didn’t make any sense so I changed it.