Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

VICTORY! A Happy Resolution

Looks like our efforts paid off. :D

Dear Dr Batts

I’d like to introduce myself as the Director of Publications at the SCI.

There has been a general misunderstanding with this issue. Our official response is below, which we are happy for you to publish:

“We apologise for any misunderstanding. In this situation the publisher would typically grant permission on request in order to ensure that figures and extracts are properly credited. We do not think there is any need to pursue this matter further.”

As this is a misunderstanding inadvertently caused by a junior member of staff, I would be grateful if you would remove Ms Richards contact details from your blog. She has been most distressed by some abusive emails that she has received on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah

Sarah Cooney
Director of Publications
Society of Chemical Industry
International Headquarters
14/15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PS, UK

I’d like to ask that everyone who posted the original letter from Lisa PLEASE remove any of her contact info. Since its been resolved, theres no more need to email her (and I’m a bit saddened to see that some weren’t respectful.)

Anyway, thanks EVERYONE for the support. This is a victory!

Comments

  1. #1 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 26, 2007

    Victory? I don’t see any mention of a pony.

  2. #2 Shelley
    April 26, 2007

    The pony’s in the mail. :)

  3. #3 Drug
    April 26, 2007

    This is not a “victory”, this is a loss. It is not clear that any “efforts” caused a result that would not have been obtained by using Wiley’s mechanism to request permission to republish the figure. Note that their response is limited to extending their permission. If the issue is indeed “Fair Use” then you can see that Ms. Cooney has adroitly avoided addressing this at all.

    This situation makes the scientific blogosphere look like it is willing to rant and emote before all the factors are considered. In short to behave like the political blogosphere, intoxicated by delusions of power and grandeur. Can we not do better?

  4. #4 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 26, 2007

    I recommend heavy drinking…..Daiquiri anyone? We might live to be 100 plus……Come on now, really, no, no, I insist.

    You hammered the big boys Shell. Always use the force……

  5. #5 RPM
    April 26, 2007

    And they even granted you an honorary PhD in the process.

  6. #6 Kristjan Wager
    April 26, 2007

    This is not a “victory”, this is a loss. It is not clear that any “efforts” caused a result that would not have been obtained by using Wiley’s mechanism to request permission to republish the figure. Note that their response is limited to extending their permission. If the issue is indeed “Fair Use” then you can see that Ms. Cooney has adroitly avoided addressing this at all.

    Fair use is an American concept, so it is not surprising that a British company doesn’t address this at all. While it would have been nice if Wiley had made clear that such use is proper, it is not surprising that a company doesn’t want to give such broad and undefined permissions.

    This situation makes the scientific blogosphere look like it is willing to rant and emote before all the factors are considered. In short to behave like the political blogosphere, intoxicated by delusions of power and grandeur. Can we not do better?

    While several posts on the subject turned into rants against Wiley and/or rants against non-open source journals, many others (mine included) were more moderate, and took a more broad view. Several of us pointed out that it could be that Wiley technically were right, but that it was a bad decission. It seems like they agreed with us.

  7. #7 Blake Stacey
    April 26, 2007

    RPM:

    I’ve got a degree from U. Tokyo through much the same mechanism. (Though, I hasten to add, there was no legalistic squabbling unpleasantness involved.)

  8. #8 Steph
    April 26, 2007

    Brilliant! Congratulations. Poor Ms. Richards, she reaped what she sowed.

  9. #9 BruceG
    April 26, 2007

    As long as we are now trying to be good netizens, why don’t we ask for a written copy of the corporations ‘Fair Use’ policy. If they even have one.

    Also, the top corporate management is responsible for the public behavior of their subordinates. Blaming a junior employee in this case is about the most craven behavior I can imagine.

  10. #10 Julia
    April 26, 2007

    It’s gracious of you to ask people at this point to remove Ms. Richards’ identifying information. You take the high ground here.

    I think you did win a victory in that likely the people involved (and maybe other copyright owners who’ve read about this) will take a more friendly approach in discussing the use of their material by online journalists such as yourself. Courtesy and open communication with fellow journalists is important, and you successfully stood up for that. Congratulations.

  11. #11 Kristjan Wager
    April 26, 2007

    Shelley, you should probably update the original posts with a link to this post, to reflect the development. Otherwise some people who get there through a link, might miss the fact that is has been resolved.

  12. #12 John Pieret
    April 26, 2007

    Yes, it is a victory in the sense that another corporate culture has learned that they have to pay attention to their customer base. And at least one “junior member of staff” learned how easy it is to get in trouble.

    How big or lasting a victory that will be is another matter.

    No one at Wiley can address what does and does not constitute “fair use,” since that is decided by the courts. Even if Wiley admitted it was fair use in this case, it wouldn’t carry any weight in the next case or with another publisher.

  13. #13 Jennifer
    April 26, 2007

    In this case, the top corporate management is taking responsibility for a junior employee by writing the letter of apology to Shelley. They can’t correct the wording of every e-mail that is sent from their employees. They can only clean up the mess afterwards.

  14. #14 Ilmarin
    April 26, 2007

    > Fair use is an American concept, so it is not surprising
    > that a British company doesn’t address this at all.
    > While it would have been nice if Wiley had made clear that
    > such use is proper, it is not surprising that a company
    > doesn’t want to give such broad and undefined permissions.

    “Exceptions to copyright”: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/copy/c-manage/c-useenforce/c-useenforce-use/c-useenforce-use-exception.htm
    A number of exceptions allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner. These uses are known as fair dealing and are listed below.

    So, this concept is not completely unknown in UK, plus Wiley is American company, originally.

  15. #15 Jeff Chamberlain
    April 26, 2007

    Yes, but:

    What exactly was the “misunderstanding caused by” the “junior member” of staff, that Ms. Cooney is “apologizing” for? There was surely no ambiguity (nor “inadvertence”) in “If these figures are not removed immediately, lawyers from John Wiley & Sons will contact you with further action.” And when you asked permission, this “junior member” of staff — the one apparently authorized to threaten you will legal action on behalf of the publisher — was “unable to grant” it and reiterated that “we still require the images to be removed.” And has Ms. Cooney now “granted permission,” or is it that you removed the offending materials which prompts her statement that “We do not think there is any need to pursue this matter further” — which is, after all, simply compliance with the initial demands from “junior.” What’s changed?

  16. #16 Agnostic
    April 26, 2007

    Damn, late to the party again!

    But congrats on the resolution. The “junior staff” member will be having nightmares for awhile to come, muahahaha.

  17. #17 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 26, 2007

    What it sounds like to me is that the staff member didn’t know that SCI does not send letters to people who used their papers like Shelley did.

    Or maybe the higher ups, who wouldn’t have sent a letter to Shelley, didn’t know that the peons were sending letters to people like Shelley.

    My take home lesson is: Don’t fuck with the blogsphere.

  18. #18 Michael
    April 26, 2007

    I suspected this was the situation. There are lawyers all over the world that are told “Go find people using our copyrights on the net and threaten them”. They figure it is better to ask forgiveness afterwards, if necessary, than risk being “soft” on copyright enforcement.

    It’s so dumb. Never argue when people do your advertising for you!

  19. #19 romunov
    April 26, 2007

    I wonder if this was official policy or not. Kinda reminds me of the Abu grabass prison scandal…

  20. #20 Ian Findlay
    April 26, 2007

    When I have written a review and included figures from other papers I obtained permission from the respective journals. When other authors have reproduced my published data they have either contacted me and/or the respective journal.
    Fair use I have always understood to include the taking of photocopies or their electronic equivalent for personal reference or distribution to classes.
    I have yet to learn that fair use might include the indiscriminant distribution of data across the internet. But, perhaps I am too attached to the old model. I have heard strident calls for open science where you spend the day in the lab and put your latest result and/or idea directly on the internet in the evening. I presume that we would then replace the evil impact factor with the comment index.

  21. #21 J-Dog
    April 26, 2007

    Congratulations Shelley, I mean Dr. Batts! I can easily visualize the meeting(s) held to discuss the sudden influx of emails -from all over the world – referring to this!

    Then the receptionist interrupts the meeting to let the participants know that while they have been talking about it, another 150 emails came in… Hilarity Ensues!

    Question: Does this Blogger v Big Biz success go on the cv?

  22. #22 Miles
    April 26, 2007

    I am not losing any sleep over Ms Richards “distress” from the emails she received. She put on a glow in the dark kick me sign on her arse and some of us were too happy to comply.

    Besides, I was not ugly with her. I wrote all her superiors instead.

  23. #23 Dan tdaxp
    April 26, 2007

    Congrats!

  24. #24 Mark
    April 26, 2007

    I love this tidbit “would typically grant permission on request in order to ensure that figures and extracts are properly credited. ”

    Hello! SHE DOESN’T NEED YOUR PERMISSION! It was cited correctly.

    How thick can they be?

    Just say “sorry, our bad” and be done with it. At least with that people would feel that you are all around decent people (you know, the ones that simply apologize and leave it at that).

  25. #25 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 26, 2007

    If I was publishing a paper that included figures from other publications, I definitely would not do it unless I have gotten permission. (Of course, journals tend to require such things.)

    However, if I was highlighting a paper in a blog post, a lab meeting, or presentation, I believe that fair use would allow me to use a figure or two without needing to get permission.

  26. #26 Jennifer
    April 26, 2007

    I think the question really is, where does a blog post fall in the spectrum of media? A lab meeting or presentation might be heard by a hundred people at most, and that’s if you’re really popular. The figure is up on your screen for a minute or two. Posting it on a blog gives it the potential to be viewed by millions, and while a blog might not be as permanent as something that is printed, lots of people now treat it as such, even citing web addresses in scholarly works. It’s not clear to me that blogs shouldn’t fall in the category of print media, where Reed would definitely obtain copyright, rather than a presentation category, where he likely wouldn’t.

  27. #27 Rich
    April 26, 2007

    I must say that I’m dismayed that some people were apparently less than polite in their emails to Ms Richards. So far as any of us know, she’s a junior employee doing her best to implement her employer’s policy on intellectual property, and we don’t even know that she agrees with that policy. I’ve certainly been in the position of implementing policies that I’ve disagreed with but which I had no chance of overturning (as a small part of doing a job that I generally like), and it’s not pleasant even without abusive emails.

  28. #28 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 26, 2007

    You have to remember that my blog has less than 100 regular readers, but that doesn’t really matter.

    I think the difference is that in a journal article, I’m promoting my research more than theirs. In other words, I’m using their figure for my own benefit.

    In a blog post in which I’m discussing the article, I’m actually promoting their research, and using their figures to highlight their results. It benefits their research, and mine not as all.

    Of course, its not a sophisticated legal argument, but it is how I see the two media differently.

  29. #29 Jennifer
    April 26, 2007

    Mine aren’t sophisticated legal arguments either!

    It’s just that I think it is a grey area right now (could be argued from both the viewpoint I proposed, and yours) and people should be patient while all this gets worked out.

    I think everyone has to try and understand that this is a big transition for the publishing industry. They’re not sure how to treat blogs either, and really blogs themselves are so diverse in their intent (some bloggers want to be considered journalists, some just want to post for their own enjoyment) that I’m not sure that all uses of copyrighted content on blogs should be treated in the same way.

    What I’ve been trying to point out with my various comments here and on other posts is that publishers and publishing houses are not just some evil faceless corporate system. People like me, people who used to be scientists work here. We do care about the issues that have been brought up from this episode. I’ve just been trying to interject another viewpoint that seems to definitely be in the minority around here.

  30. #30 LJewett
    April 26, 2007

    The real irony in this case is that Shelley was actually complying with the copyright laws.

    There is undoubtedly a huge number of cases in which people use material (especially images) on blogs in ways that are not covered by fair use — and most of the time, no one comes after them.

    People sometimes forget (or perhaps never knew in the first place) that there is a very good reason for copyright.

    People spend a lot of time, effort and money on photographs, music and other creative works and some others seem to have no regard for that fact.

    They seem to have the attitude that everything on the web (music, images, etc) is free for the taking. It ain’t and if you don’t do it properly, it’s stealing.

  31. #31 Lindsay Beyerstein
    April 26, 2007

    The letter is as close to an apology as you’re going to get from a mega-corp. Visualize a dog rolling over and showing its stomach. That’s what this letter amounts to.

    It seems like fair use to reproduce figures from a published study if you’re posting a review of that study. That’s publicity for the journal article.

    It’s not as if Shelley was trying to pass those figures off as her own.

  32. #32 Tulle
    April 26, 2007

    Geez, I guess most of you have never worked for acompany that potected (fairly) its intellectial property. It is very easy. This was without a doubt “fair use”. The paper was being “reviewed”. Short exerpts from the paper are allowed, as long as it is noted from where they came. A blog is just like a newpaper, and a review of a science paper is just like a book review.

    This was not a gray area at all, plenty of case law is already in place, and Reed is exactly right.

    Jennifer it does not matter how many people might see it or how long it is available, only the context in which it is used.

  33. #33 Ian
    April 26, 2007

    Don’t want to out myself too obviously here, but you’ll probably guess pretty quickly where I work from the info I have. This will hopefully help you in the future. Please don’t everyone respond with “this should be open access anyway!!!!1!” or “SHE DOESN’T NEED TO ASK PERMISSION IT’S FAIR USE” because I’m really on your side here, regardless of where I work.

    Shelley –

    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. If you or anyone else ever has problems or questions about something like this, and regardless of the rather-puffed-chest attitude around here regarding open access and fair use it never hurts to just at least ask, your institution will definitely have a person who can answer them for you, or at least find out who can.

    Let the flaming of me as an evil publishing shill who is destroying science begin.

    SB: NO ONE flame him, please. I appreciate all sides of this discussion. There’s already been too much mud tossed here, so lets prove we can all play nice.

  34. #34 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 26, 2007

    Jennifer,

    It is my opinion that blogs do not compete with peer-reviewed journals, but serve instead in the way that lab meetings and conferences do in discussing and distributing published research. It is that type of environment that the idea of fair use was made for, and it is where a lot of us are coming from.

    I understand that this is a gray area, and I also understand that not all potential uses of copyrighted material on a blog is fair use. For instance, I’m working on a site redesign for PT and have been in contact with a photographer from the National Zoo about using some of her panda pictures.

  35. #35 Shelley
    April 26, 2007

    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.

    Thanks for posting here Ian. I think this input is valuable to bloggers who are really not trying to step on anyone’s toes. You’ll have to forgive our puffed-chested-ness, but hey, we are bloggers and scientists who are putting out our ideas, comments, and reviews for all to see for nothing, or next to it. So, yeah, you’re certainly going to just get one side of the issue on that. You bring up a good point that it never hurts to just ask for permission, when in doubt. Part of the issue was that I *didn’t* have doubt, I really just thought it was innocent fair use and good free publicity for them. Now I (and many other bloggers) know a bit better, and maybe the other side might realize that that big stick is all well and good, but please don’t bonk students on the head with it for no good reason.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  36. #36 Tyler DiPietro
    April 26, 2007

    Shelley, I’ve been at work all day, so I missed the party. I’d just like to congratulate you on your victory!

  37. #37 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 26, 2007

    I dug up the license:

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/tacou.html

    “Users at institutions which have subscribed to Electronic Product and users who have access under a Society or Personal License will have access to the full text of such Electronic Product (‘Authorized Users’).”

    “In addition, Authorized Users have the right to use, with appropriate credit, figures, tables and brief excerpts from individual articles in the Electronic Product(s) in your own scientific, scholarly and educational works.”

  38. #38 Justin Starren
    April 26, 2007

    Sorry to rain on the party, but you should read the letter again, according to the rules of grammar I learned (American), the only permission granted was to publish the official letter. Ms. Cooney only said that the publisher would typically grant such permission for such images. She did not actually go so far as to grant permission. Furthermore, such permissions typically take weeks or months, and multiple followups. My research is in HCI, which is image dense, and I run into this alot. I find it absurd that one can quote a whole paragraph of text but not duplicate a screen shot.

  39. #39 truth machine
    April 27, 2007

    I must say that I’m dismayed that some people were apparently less than polite in their emails to Ms Richards. So far as any of us know, she’s a junior employee doing her best to implement her employer’s policy on intellectual property, and we don’t even know that she agrees with that policy. I’ve certainly been in the position of implementing policies that I’ve disagreed with but which I had no chance of overturning (as a small part of doing a job that I generally like), and it’s not pleasant even without abusive emails.

    Poor baby. Perhaps, if you don’t want any “abuse”, you shouldn’t dish it out the way Ms. Richards did.

  40. #40 outeast
    April 27, 2007

    Well, it soulds like it was all an unnecessary palava given the facts of the license – regardless of ‘Fair Use’ legislation. Thanks, I think, are owed to Ian and Reed for highlighting these.

    Without this clause in the licence, though, the Fair Use issue WRT figures is not necessarily as intuitive as it seems: I recommend people read the comment posted by law student Josh here. Basically, most people writing about this have been assuming that ‘the work’ covered by copyright is the journal article itself; however, it may be that legally each actual figure constitutes a ‘work’, meaning that reproducing a figure is reproducing the whole work and not a tiny extract. This sounds bizarre, but imagine if you were the illustrator who created the figure in the first place – that is your work and you are entitled to protection. I guess it would take a court to decide the merits of that case!

  41. #41 femalesci
    April 27, 2007

    everyone who is THOROUGHLY SICK of the scientific publishing industry, raise your hands.

    they don’t just ask for a ‘forever’ licence, no, they insist on owning the copyright. then they use it to take money out of the hides of us, our institutions, our libraries, not to mention shutting out the developing world.

    this abuse by Wiley is particularly illustrative and shows me a publisher i will particularly want to avoid.

    shame on the industry, your handling of copyright in general is atrocious, and shame on all us scientists for bending over for decades to this crap. in the US they even have page charges!! if you publish a book, you still get a percentage. welcome to scientific publishing where you get nothing, you lose your copyright, and someone makes money off your back multiple times: page charges, owning your copyright, and royalties. bah.

  42. #42 Alexandre
    April 27, 2007

    All the reason more to mandate OA. Not that it would solve these issues with Wiley or other academic publishers. But it would wake them up.
    Academic publishers are supposed to be there for academics and for the public. They need to adapt, and be respectful of the community on which they get their living.

    Congratulations on standing up!
    And have fun with the pony.

  43. #43 Don Thieme
    May 2, 2007

    Congratulations! I came late to the party here, but I have been wondering how this issue would be decided for some time. As your own university librarian and the Wiley representative state, it is really in the interest of scientific publishers as well as of authors to get as much publicity from blogs as they can. I hope that you enjoyed your daiquiri celebration!

  44. #44 julia
    May 8, 2007

    I went and read Wiley’s copyright notice, cited above by Reed, and noted that clause B (which he didn’t cite) reads the following:
    “Except as provided above, you may not copy, distribute, transmit or otherwise reproduce material from Electronic Products (s); store such material in any form or medium in a retrieval system; download and/or store an entire issue of a Electronic Product or its equivalent; or transmit such material, directly or indirectly, for use in any paid service such as document delivery or list serve, or for use by any information brokerage or for systematic distribution, whether or not for commercial or non-profit use or for a fee or free of charge.”

    As many have already pointed out, the publishing community has no idea if blogs are included in “personal use or scholarly, educational, or scientific research or professional use but not for re-sale”, which is the exemption noted above, or if blogs are akin to a “list serve” and count as “systematic distribution”.

    Although I tend to agree with the Open Access advocates, I thought that the other side of the Wiley terms needed to be pointed out.

  45. #45 Paul Curran
    May 17, 2007

    I thought it was odd that they were upset she used a figure of theirs, but when she replicated the information on her own with Excel, it was OK. Apparently it’s the end product (i.e. the figure) and not the information the figure contained that was their concern.

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  48. #48 Film izle
    December 27, 2008

    The letter is as close to an apology as you’re going to get from a mega-corp. Visualize a dog rolling over and showing its stomach. That’s what this letter amounts to.

    It seems like fair use to reproduce figures from a published study if you’re posting a review of that study. That’s publicity for the journal article.

    It’s not as if Shelley was trying to pass those figures off as her own.
    to.

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