Thus Spake Zuska

Fair Use? What’s That?

UPDATE: There was a veritable blogswarm on this issue, and Shelley reports that it seems to have generated results. Although, I will note that “granting permission” is not quite the same thing as acknowledging that her original post fell under fair use.

Shelley Batts at Retrospectacle wrote a post the other day analyzing a journal article that has been reported misleadingly in the popular press under headlines like “Alcohol Makes Fruit Healthier”. In her post she had reproduced a part of one figure and a table from the original journal article in order to analyze what was going on in the popular press in relation to what the journal article actually said.

This would, one would think, generally fall under the rubric “fair use“. However, the good people at the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture felt compelled to write a threatening note to Shelley demanding that she remove the figure and table from her blog or else they’d sic the lawyers from Wiley (the publisher) on her. Shelley has removed the figure and table and created her own figure and table from the raw data for use in her original post. So readers are still able to understand the points she was trying to make. Still, it’s pretty shabby treatment from the journal/Wiley folks, and disheartening for the cause of disseminating scientific information more widely.

You would think the folks at the journal would be happy for something that would increase people’s interest in the article and the journal more generally. But you would be wrong. Well, all this is just even more fodder for Bill’s ongoing campaign for open science.


  1. #1 Bill
    April 25, 2007

    Absolutely. Dinosaurs like Wiley are already extinct, they just don’t know it yet.

    Why would I ever publish with such a company, when I could go to PLoS or BMC or Hindawi? Traditional companies like Wiley demand that I hand over copyright, gouge me for page charges and then sell my work back to me, or to anyone interested (like Shelley) for an exorbitant fee on top of what I’ve already paid. Open Access publishers charge once, up-front (and even that’s commonly negotiable), and then the work is free to all interested readers forever after.

    The only reason anyone would even consider a trad publisher is if they buy into the Impact Factor nonsense and want to publish in a particular “high-cachet” journal. Fortunately, this system is rapidly being overtaken by finer-grained and more accurate metrics (h-index, Eigenfactor, Y factor, CiteRank), all of which are Open and so can be used together without paying a cent to Thomson ISI. Further, as OA spreads, such metrics will only improve.

    Adapt or die, publisher bastards. Researchers are finally waking up to the realization that the power is in their hands.

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