Fair Use

In case you haven't heard about it already, fellow ScienceBlogger and neuroblogger Shelley has been threatened by lawyers for using images from a journal article in her blog posts. Now, I do this all the time (check two posts back), because the whole point of posting about research is so that people who probably aren't reading the cog sci literature can learn about and evaluate theories and studies. My main reason for blogging is promoting this stuff, not stealing journals', authors', or publishers' thunder. Letting people see figures that are a pain to reproduce in Excel or R (like large tables) is sometimes necessary for people to see what's going on without me writing three long paragraphs full of numbers, making everyone yawn and move on to something else. Not being a legal expert, I've always assumed that my own use of figures and quotes fell under the protection of "fair use," and that most authors and journals would be glad to see their work getting some publicity, even if it's only on my lowly blog. In fact, I've gotten emails from authors of studies I've written about thanking me. I suspect that Shelley has as well.

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My Scibling Shelley has gotten into and out of a bit of fuss while I've been incommunicado. She posted about a paper discussing the role of alcohol in protecting antioxidants in fruit. As so many of us have done, she posted a graph and table from the original paper to illustrate her description…
This is the sort of thing that really irritates me. Shelley, over at Retrospectacle posted a rather nice analysis of a paper that appeared in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture entitled Natural volatile treatments increase free-radical scavenging capacity of strawberries and…
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(This issue came to a happy conclusion. After the uproar generated by this being publicized by so many blogs and websites, the publisher got in touch with Shelley, gave her permission to use the figures, apologized, and promised to do some internal legal education so that this won't happen again…

How is "quoting" a graphic from a cited source on a blog different than the info quoted from cited sources in the original articles? Or did the lawyers represent publications with articles that didn't have bibliographies?

I'm not surprised. I published a paper a few years back where I was modeling data from other papers. I reproduced their data in new graphs and was still forced to get the original publisher's permission by the APA!

Journals are running scared. They charge outrageous fees for their magazines which make no sense in this day of electronic publishing. We really ought get all science and philosophy to follow the lead of physics in having an open public repository.

Anyway, this is journals trying to stop the openness of information to maintain their monopoly. A monopoly quite at odds with the purported aims and methods of science.