Thomson Suing Zotero: More Info and More Thoughts

Stephen Downes and Scott Leslie have both expressed concern that my original post regarding the Zotero lawsuit was possibly too charitable toward Thomson Reuters. Sadly, as more information comes in, it’s beginning to look like they were right.

It’s still very early in this situation and I’m still gathering information. However, there have been some very informative comments on the original post, including several by several people who appear to have varying degrees of direct involvement with the reference manager space in general and Zotero development in particular. The new information has changed my view of the situation substantially. But before I get into that, let me recap Thomson’s argument and why it struck me as being a fair one when I read it.

Right now, there is no standard for importing references from the many, many different academic journals out there. In absence of a standard, Thomson went and created (a) an import style format that models the various reference styles of journals, including all the ideosyncrasies that they would present (I’m imagining it as an XML dialect, although I don’t know the implementation details and could easily be wrong), and (b) many, many individual files in that format for importing from various journals. Thomson’s legal filing claims they have over 3,500 style files and implies that many or most of them were created by them (as opposed to their users).

If the Zotero team is either redistributing the import styles created individually by Thomson employees or encouraging their users to redistribute those files in violation of copyright, then I stand by my argument that this would be ethically wrong. A competitor like Zotero has other options, such as creating their own style format and crowd-sourcing the creation of import styles. If you think of each one of those style files as something like an adapter or a driver, then Thomson is alleging that the Zotero team is either pirating or encouraging the pirating of those adapters or drivers. Whether or not there should be open and freely available converters is a separate issue in my mind. I still believe that Thomson’s argument (or this portion of it, at least) is logically valid.

Unfortunately, it is also based on claims that appear to be factually false. Apparently, the Zotero team did create their own style format and is crowd-sourcing the creation of import styles. As you can see from this Zotero developer discussion thread, the developers considered and explicitly rejected supporting the redistribution of Thomson-supplied EndNote conversion files. In fact, while Zotero can read EndNote style files, it specifically does not convert them into Zotero’s own format, in large part to discourage the redistribution (deliberately or accidentally) of Thomson-created files. What the import feature does facilitate is (a) users who have already licensed EndNote and want to migrate to Zotero can use the EndNote styles that they have already paid for, and (b) Zotero users can take advantage of the EndNote import styles that individual journal publishers (as opposed to Thomson itself) make available for the convenience of their subscribers. These uses strike me as totally within bounds.

This would leave Thomson with the much weaker argument that George Mason University (where the Zotero team works) violated their licensing agreement with Thomson by trying to reverse engineer EndNote. Even assuming they can make their legal case that GMU did violate their license (since the fact that GMU licenses EndNote doesn’t mean that they made an explicit attempt to reverse-engineer it), I don’t think that many academics are going to be terribly sympathetic toward Thomson for using the clause to block the development of a reasonable and responsible feature. I’m certainly not.

Whether or not Thomson turns out to have a legal case, what they are doing is strategically stupid. Unlike Blackboard, whose unpopular actions with the patent have had limited economic impact so far because the teachers who are unhappy don’t make the purchasing decisions and because LMS migration is so difficult and expensive, Thomson could suffer massive losses fairly quickly. They have huge exposure to purchasing decisions made by individual faculty—purchasing decisions where changes don’t necessarily entail a massive a mount of pain. A campaign on Facebook or through organizations such as CCCC could quickly encourage large numbers of faculty not only to migrate from EndNote but also to boycott Thomson textbooks and other publications. I don’t think it would take terribly many professors giving their Thomson sales reps an earful to generate substantial pressure on Thomson to back down. The trouble for the company is that, once this sort of thing starts, it will be nearly impossible to stop it. Simply choosing to drop the lawsuit would not be enough to undo the brand damage should a real grassroots uprising against Thomson take hold. 

I’m still going to keep an open mind on this and continue to gather data, particularly since I’ve only known about this for a few days and still don’t have very many details, but I’m coming around to the opinion that Thomson’s lawsuit is probably ethically wrong and almost certainly foolish from a business perspective.

Update: I did a little digging over the weekend to remind myself of just how much exposure to the educational market Thomson Reuters currently has. And with the sale of their Thomson Learning and Prometric units, it looks like their current exposure to an academic boycott is relatively small. They have a few publications in some disciplines that academics could avoid, but other than that, I don’t see much. If anybody has different information, please let me know.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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21 Responses to Thomson Suing Zotero: More Info and More Thoughts

  1. Rick says:

    Thank you for making a second post about this. I appreciate you taking the time to look at this in more depth than Thomson’s allegations.

    Thomson went and created (a) an import style format that models the various reference styles of journals, including all the ideosyncrasies that they would present (I’m imagining it as an XML dialect, although I don’t know the implementation details and could easily be wrong),

    EndNote was previously owned by a different company, so the EndNote style format may have been created before acquisition (I don’t know).

    The undocumented EndNote style format is actually binary blobs. The format almost certainly pre-dates XML.

    The open citation style language does, however, use XML.

    If the Zotero team is either redistributing the import styles created individually by Thomson employees or encouraging their users to redistribute those files in violation of copyright, then I stand by my argument that this would be ethically wrong.

    I agree that it would be “ethically shaky” and I support the Zotero team’s decision not to do this.

    Even if they had, though, it might not be “in violation of copyright” or “legally wrong.” We don’t allow mere formulas to have a copyright. For a cooking recipe to by copyrightable, for example, it must have some sort of expression (detailed & creative instructions, a specific compilation of recipes in the form of a cook book, etc.). I don’t think that it is at all clear that the style files are endowed with sufficient creativity as to warrant a copyright. If a copyright does exist, it should be retained by the creator of the style file.

    This brings us to the most fundamentally good thing that the import feature facilitates: former EndNote users can re-use styles that they had authored, themselves. The styles included by EndNote & by publishers are often in high enough use that crowd sourcing will eventually create them from scratch. When I can’t find a style and am forced to create one, it probably isn’t available in a different format and I want to have the right to re-use or convert a file that I made.

  2. Peter Murray says:

    One minor point in an otherwise very coherent and interesting post. I don’t think Zotero created its own style format. Citation Style Language, according to the description on its homepage, was “developed alongside CiteProc.”

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

  3. Mark says:

    Endnote is sometimes an institutional (like Blackboard) rather than an individual purchase. At my Large Midwestern University, Endnote is an institutional purchase, and even though we’d like to stop buying it, there are many faculty with a large investment in Endnote files. Switching is not just an import issue–one has to learn a new use model, new vocabulary, etc. Zotero has a fairly steep learning curve too.

  4. anon says:

    The real problem is that Zotero created Scaffold for crowd sourcing; when the community didn’t create styles, then they did what you said in your original post:
    “I’m talking about stealing the actual work product in the form of 3,500+ laboriously created import format files.”

    I created a few of these with the help of ISI/Thomson employees; I did not contribute them for GMU/Mellon/MIT/CEO of CSL, Bruce D’Arcus– to rip off for a superior citation capture tool and inferior reference management tool.

    Open source isn’t a halo.

    Last comment about Thomson vs Mellon from Wikipedia, of all places:
    Mellon became unpopular with the onset of the Great Depression. Many economists today (such as Milton Friedman and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, to give two prominent examples partially attribute the collapse of the American banking industry to the popularity among Federal Reserve leadership of Mellon’s infamous “liquidationist” thesis: weeding out “weak” banks was seen as a harsh but necessary prerequisite to the recovery of the banking system. This “weeding out” was accomplished through refusing to lend cash to banks (taking loans and other investments as collateral), and by refusing to put more cash in circulation. He advocated spending cuts to keep the Federal budget balanced, and opposed measures for relief of public suffering. In 1929-31, he spent much of the time overseas, negotiating for repayment of European war debts from World War I. In February 1932, Mellon left the Treasury Department and accepted the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He served for one year and then retired to private life.”

    Funny how the original stain continues. Zotero needs to be forked or sold.

  5. Rick says:

    @anon

    The real problem is that Zotero created Scaffold for crowd sourcing; when the community didn’t create styles

    Scaffold is a tool for creating “translators” (import filters). It has nothing to do with citation styling. Over 1,000 styles were crowd-sourced and are continuing to be made from scratch (EndNote’s styling system is not up to the task). I, myself, have committed to making one style a day since the suit was filed over a month ago.

    then they did what you said in your original post:
    “I’m talking about stealing the actual work product in the form of 3,500+ laboriously created import format files.”

    If you have evidence of this, please present it. This is a baseless accusation & evidence has already been presented that the Zotero developers went to lengths to not enable this over copyright concerns (even though it is rather doubtful that such trivial instructions are copyrightable).

  6. anon says:

    @Rick

    Your point about Scaffold is correct, that it creates filters rather than styles. However, the point about crowdsourcing originating there stands.

    Made from scratch? Bullshit. These styles were directly taken from the Endnote Styles repository and converted into CSL.

    Do you have any evidence of communication between journal publishers and Zotero developers?

    The Zotero community as it stands are profiteers and freetards.

  7. Rick says:

    @anon:

    Made from scratch? Bullshit. These styles were directly taken from the Endnote Styles repository and converted into CSL.

    Then why isn’t every single one of EndNote’s 3000+ styles in that repository? Why aren’t long-term bugs in styles included by EndNote in Zotero’s styles? Why do the svn logs reveal that the styles were contributed by many different people & that those people often made obvious human errors (that would not occur in an automatic machine translation) in early versions of sryles? Why do diffs of either the CSL files or the generated content imply that most styles were derived from one another? Why do the CSL files do stuff that is all-but-impossible in EndNote (including complex reformatting of raw data, rather than just dumping fields as-they-were-entered, a’la EndNote)?

    Please point to just one style that was lifted off of EndNote and, if possible, some evidence to it being listed. Because the development has taken place in the open, your claims will not hold any water–individuals that have gone to the trouble of creating styles from scratch for Zotero would be able to come forward & call bullshit on your groundless finger pointing.

    By reiterating these claims about something that did not happen, you are disrespecting the individual and collective efforts of all people who have made styles for Zotero from scratch. This is the very act that you claim to be upset about.

    You claim to have written a style for EndNote. Would you please point to that style in both EndNote and in Zotero?

    Do you have any evidence of communication between journal publishers and Zotero developers?

    Regarding what topic?

    The Zotero community as it stands are profiteers and freetards.

    These seem to be obviously contradictory to one another. How are members of the Zotero community reaping a profit?

    And what of the EndNote community (of which I was, until recently, a member)? What compensation did you get for building an EndNote style? When I built one, I was rewarded with the knowledge that other people would be able to use it & that they may catch any mistakes in it. There was no financial compensation (so perhaps I was a “freetard” in contributing it to EndNote) & now Thomson Reuters has chosen to de-value that style by attempting to state that it can’t be modified in any way and for any purpose (including for improved use from within EndNote) & that it could only be use from within their software. That seems to be far closer to profiteering than anything that the Zotero community is capable of.

    I look forward to your presentation of actual evidence for the wrongful actions by Zotero. Presenting your stolen style would surely sway others to your side.

  8. anon says:

    @Rick

    Wow, so clever. If I wanted to lose anonymity, I would certainly point you to the styles I created, though I don’t see a link to yours. I’ve also created connection files, and have used multiple citation packages in different roles over the past decade. But I tire of groupthink in the academic community, and thus am not looking for others to sway to my side.

    The styles lawsuit is a pile of stupid, comparatively. If Zotero was serious about building community, wouldn’t it have style generators on its own site? I hear they exist.

    The reason all the styles aren’t in the repository is because Zotero developers realized they crossed a line, viz https://www.zotero.org/trac/ticket/704

    Freetards like you and me want to make the process of research easier. My experience with Thomson was that they didn’t solicit my styles or connection files; rather, they provided a place for use and they tested them with the various versions and platforms. And last I checked, Thomson is a commercial entity interested in making money. They certainly don’t have a halo, either.

    The Zotero team has given me crappy extensions that fail to work (Zoterolicious) and concerns about data integrity. At least Endnote imports and exports years of collected citations, though other features leave things to be desired.

    Zotero wants to get further with your citations by “contributing” them to the Internet Archive. What if your competitor in science gains access before you publish? Thomson has a longer history of keeping data like this secure than a 4 year commuter school (GMU) and a rich person’s hobby that spawns dot-com wealth dreams (IA).

    The Zotero community has repeatedly asked for local and community solutions to sharing data. Instead they set up a site controlled by GMU (dev.zotero.org) with no transparency about its future. I find that to be a wrongful action.

    The eyes are on the prize. Meanwhile, GMU users get a yanked site license and a half-finished alternative.

    Three points and an analogy:
    1 If the progress of these human-entered styles was so compelling, why use Endnote at all? My use of the styles and Zotero’s cite as you write revealed significant shortcomings unsuitable for publishable work.

    2 You claim to have written styles for Zotero and Endnote. Do you actually use Zotero for the final written product? Zotero is a great toy for dissertation procrastinators; not seeing it in use in science labs.

    3 Certain members of the Zotero community are reaping large grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. This led to tenure for Dan Cohen, Mellon-funded jobs for others, and additional funding for the Center for New Media. These are the profiteers—they advance their careers without providing a stable product (tried 1.5 beta yet?) or any meaningful support.

    An analogy: Let’s say you go to a restaurant where you eat a somewhat satisfying meal. When the check comes, you go into the kitchen and take whatever you can get your hands on and head for the exits.

  9. Rick says:

    Wow, so clever. If I wanted to lose anonymity, I would certainly point you to the styles

    EndNote styles are not attributed. You would hardly lose anonymity. I also gave you the opportunity to link to any other style that had been “stolen” from EndNote & you have back-pedaled from this by admitting you were wrong.

    though I don’t see a link to yours.

    The thought occurred after I posted that I cannot check to see if Thomson is actually distributing my styles or not (due partly to their click-through license). I continue to distribute a full export EndNote style that was written from scratch with refbase. My styles in the Zotero repository can easily be located by searching on my name in the files–I make myself a “contributor” or an “author,” as appropriate & I use my name when committing to SVN.

    If Zotero was serious about building community, wouldn’t it have style generators on its own site? I hear they exist.

    They exist because CSL is an open standard. The online generator is linked to from the Zotero site. I don’t know why they would need to host a copy. Perhaps they can make a better version, but they are busy adding a lot of other important features & do have basic CSL creation/modification tools built-in to their Firefox extension.

    The reason all the styles aren’t in the repository is because

    Then we agree! I assume that you retract your previous statement:

    Made from scratch? Bullshit. These styles were directly taken from the Endnote Styles repository and converted into CSL.

    because you realize that you were wrong. I honestly respect you more that you have again admitted that you were mistaken about a basic tenant of the position you are pushing, but I fail to see why you are still pushing that position.

    The Zotero team has given me crappy extensions that fail to work (Zoterolicious) and concerns about data integrity.

    Please back this up. There was a data-loss bug in Firefox 2, and that has since been fixed in Firefox 3. If this is a complaint about a ‘beta,’ please review what is meant by ‘beta’ & what Zotero states about their own beta. One should make backups, regardless of their choice of reference manager. EndNote-ized Word documents have broken for me plenty of times. Fortunately, I have had backups.

    At least Endnote imports and exports years of collected citations, though other features leave things to be desired.

    EndNote still doesn’t import BibTeX. Getting data in and out of Zotero is often easier and better than EndNote. (Though Zotero, too, leaves some things to be desired.)

    Zotero wants to get further with your citations by “contributing” them to the Internet Archive.

    This is only a planned feature at this stage. Further, it is planned to be opt-in & to apply to only a subset of your content.

    What if your competitor in science gains access before you publish?

    This is FUD. The same risk exists regardless of how you edit & distribute your documents. Don’t push your documents to the IA if you don’t want to!

    The Zotero community has repeatedly asked for local and community solutions to sharing data. Instead they set up a site controlled by GMU (dev.zotero.org) with no transparency about its future. I find that to be a wrongful action.

    I am a developer of an online reference manager that shares data. This may well be an example of a potential “community solution.” While I do have some gripes about the timeliness of developer documentation or patch acceptance, I think that Zotero often eventually picks the mostly correct path forward. I definitely don’t agree with you re. a lack of transparency in dev.zotero.org or in your implications that Zotero was trying to lock anyone in. They do things more slowly than I’d want (but still A LOT faster than anyone else in this space) & I can’t think of any truly “wrongful actions.” My experience trying to talk to EndNote devs has certainly been MUCH more frustrating, so the bar might not be high.

    1 If the progress of these human-entered styles was so compelling, why use Endnote at all?

    The feature has been pulled & people are certainly still using Zotero. If Thomson had played this differently: I would have liked to use the .ens files that I developed from within Zotero. I may also have renewed my EndNote license in order to continue to use the many styles that come with their product. Because Thomson no longer allows this, I agree with you completely completely–and I have stopped using EndNote.

    My use of the styles and Zotero’s cite as you write revealed significant shortcomings unsuitable for publishable work.

    Can you be specific? I’ve written technical reports using Zotero’s cite-as-you-write feature & have submitted drafts to journals that have been prepared with it. I’ll admit I personally don’t have anything published (yet) with it, but I will & I know others who do. It is fine for publishable work.

    2 You claim to have written styles for Zotero and Endnote. Do you actually use Zotero for the final written product?

    Yes, as above.

    without providing a stable product (tried 1.5 beta yet?)

    I have used both the 1.5 beta and the even more unstable beta. Yes, they are not stable or really useful for production. That is why they aren’t released as the officially stable version. 1.0.7 is perfectly stable for me.

    or any meaningful support.

    My experience with support as an end user in their forums has been mostly positive. My experience as a power-user in their dev group, their issue tracker, and their SVN have also been fine. There’s definitely room for improvement, but the notion that they do not provide meaningful support is ludicrous.

  10. Rick says:

    @anon:
    I am the same ‘Rick’ as on the Panlibus (Talis) post about this issue. Based on your nick and your comments re. the tech-transfer & the IA collaboration, and the unstated reasons as to why you wish to be anonymous, am I to assume that you are the same ‘anon’ from that thread?

    If that was you, you haven’t really been able to provide real examples of GMU in general or Dan & the CHNM in particular abusing tech transfer to the detriment of users of their free/open source products in the past.

    If that wasn’t you, I’d offer up the same challenge that Bruce and Peter and Rob made to the other anonymous user: please backup your concerns with hard facts. If you cannot provide a comprehensive set of “insider facts,” it is hard to say that your anonymity hides anything other than the possibility that you are a shill.

    (Again, if you can actually provide facts, I mean no offense. I am just frustrated by your inability to back up your statements & to see you have to back down from some untenable positions you have taken when presented with evidence, but then making attacks on other fronts.)

  11. Michael Feldstein says:

    Anon, if you can’t keep your comments civil, then I will remove them and block you. Debate is good, but I have no interest in hosting a flame war. Sarcasm and terms like “freetard” are not welcome here.

  12. anon says:

    @Michael

    No offense intended by freetard, as it’s a term of amusement coined by the author of Fake Steve Jobs.

    @Rick

    Beyond our agreement that 1.5 is an unstable beta, the only thing we agree upon is that I’m a shill. I’m just a shill for software that works; free, open, or paid. As of now, Zotero isn’t there, and Endnote’s heading over the hill.

    A wide audience is reading the Zotero coverage, and it’s a small club that is educated. Thus, thanks for your offer to have me link to my styles, but it would make me quite obvious to most.

    Fact 1:
    GMU is being sued.

    I hope it causes them to rethink their partnership with the Internet Archive, especially since you provided no evidence that “Further, it is planned to be opt-in & to apply to only a subset of your content.”

    Fact 2:
    IA has no access control; they are predicated on just the opposite.

    Thus, not a fantastic partner for subsets, I don’t think. It’s not fear, uncertainty, or doubt to want privacy for work in progress.

    Fact 3:
    GMU and Zotero are funded by Mellon.

    Mellon abused tech transfer with the ArtStor project, which used community contributions to construct a product for sale. And it’s not really controversial to point out the link between the grants and CHNM. With Zotero, what was George Mason last year is suddenly GMU plus MIT this year. What were open forums are not registration-only. The problem is that the grant funders are doing the driving.

    I challenge you to reveal your name, what styles you’ve contributed, and your online community reference sharing site. Otherwise “Rick” is just as anonymous as I am. It appears you’ve been adding the same comment to multiple sites about the ridiculous new click-through license (Google zotero and rick to see). Seems like spam from where I sit, though if I were feeling charitable, let’s call it advocacy. Also? CSL’s not a standard, its an XML schema–that’s it.

    One last challenge: All scholars care about is active and helpful community. You may have experienced good support as a developer, but you admit to not using the product for published work (yet).

    Does Zotero or Thomson run a better community? More functional software product? My experience leads away from the conventional wisdom.

    As a (former) Endnote user, what do you think the outcome should be?

  13. Rick says:

    Beyond our agreement that 1.5 is an unstable beta, the only thing we agree upon is that I’m a shill.

    Do you still think that Zotero is distributing EndNote styles or CSL styles that were converted from EndNote styles? If so, point to them. They need not be your own styles. If you cannot do this, it is clear that we agree on one more thing (whether or not you’d admit it).

    you provided no evidence that … [uploads to the Internet Archive are] “planned to be opt-in & to apply to only a subset of your content.”

    Even the original announcement states:

    We understand that not everyone will be willing to share everything (some may not be willing to share anything)…Some researchers may of course deposit materials only after finishing, say, a book project.

    Mellon abused tech transfer with the ArtStor project

    Mellon is one of several funding sources behind Zotero & they do not micromanage GMU. Zotero only needs to deliver what was in the grant application.

    I don’t know much about ArtStor, but it was started from the beginning as a NPO. As such, GMU’s tech transfer isn’t in the picture. I think ArtStor adheres to their original charter, but this seems to be wholly off-topic from GMU.

    What were open forums are not registration-only.

    What forums?

    The problem is that the grant funders are doing the driving.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    what styles you’ve contributed

    I have 47 styles in the zotero repository. I’m not going to bore anyone with the full list. A few “big names” on that list are AIP, APS, and Elsevier.

    and your online community reference sharing site.

    I’ve stated the name of my webapp.

    And what are your credentials?

    It appears you’ve been adding the same comment to multiple sites

    Yes–the subject is topical and I do not hide behind anonymity. If the bloggers don’t consider it spam, you shouldn’t.

    Also? CSL’s not a standard, its an XML schema–that’s it.

    My point is that it is described by a public, documented schema, available to all to freely read and implement without royalties or discrimination and that it allows community contribution. It is supported by multiple programs & more have stated a desire to support it in the future.

    Does Zotero or Thomson run a better community?

    Zotero. You can’t have a good community when you are literally suing your users. The Zotero community seems to foster actual end-user solutions: producing and sharing styles and patches to the code and ideas for feature implementations that receive developer feedback.

    More functional software product?

    They both have their strengths and weaknesses from a technical standpoint:Zotero pros:
    Data model is better (but can be improved)
    Easier to download citation information
    Easier to store full-text-searchable copies of articles (as annotatable HTML and PDF)
    Works on every platform that Firefox is supported on (including 64-bit Windows and Linux)
    OpenOffice.org support
    Better styling backend
    Exports follow the specifications better than in EndNote
    PriceEndNote pros:No dependence on Firefox
    Easier frontend for style editing
    Ships with more styles
    Easier sharing of libraries between users
    Word integration is better able to handle multiple-author documents (although, when it has failed, it has led to me and others having to recover older backup versions of our documents).
    More popular
    Switching is not freeNeither product seems to have any important features that the other can never have. Zotero is going to be the clear winner in the future. For me, it already is.

    Should EndNote win this legal battle beyond anyone’s dreams & crush Zotero completely, I’d use another non-EndNote reference manager.

    As a (former) Endnote user, what do you think the outcome should be?

    Thomson’s litigation is poisonous. Many claims are false, they’re treating customers as criminals, and they aren’t competing technically. They are monopolistic bullies and they deserve to lose–in this case & in any future nuisance suits against other competitors.

    GMU thinks they will win, or they wouldn’t fight this (contrastingly, Thomson might have thought that GMU would fold & settle when they filed). Perhaps Thomson can dupe a jury like they’ve duped you. You are one of the few commentators I have come across that supports their actions.

    Many people will ignore this case. Those that are paying attention generally disagree with TR & are the core audience for new and continuing site licenses: librarians and technology advocates. TR needs to save face in front of these people.

    They won’t do this, but TR should work on improving their sales by making a better product, allowing customers to do what isn’t possible with the competition alone. Embrace new technologies. Sell other products (citation styles and database subscriptions) to users of competing software. Exploit open code to retain feature parity with the competition (e.g. support CSL).

    I’ve given up on EndNote. I don’t care what they do–they’ve lost their monopoly & we are all better for it.

  14. anon says:

    @Rick

    Both Endnote styles and CSL files are derivative works from the journal publisher or professional society, which puts out the ur-version. It takes some work to adapt each particular version (last name, initial, or whatever variation) to software. Zotero had a ways to go. From your comments, you did some work to move the process along, then Simon wrote a now-pulled convertor that rendered them en masse.

    ArtStor started as institutions sharing images, then into a product. The correlation with GMU is that they could collect the citations, then the commercial database product follows. I don’t like this Mellon model, and find it dishonest. Robber-baron money forever stains. That IA vaporware announcement doesn’t mention the mechanics of sharing. What I see on the forums is a request for local and institutional sharing instead.

    Two quibbles:
    CSL holds promise, but it’s not in wide use. Also, XML editors aren’t friendly authoring environments. The Styles Manager in Endnote is usable by non-programmers. And schemas really aren’t standards.

    Thomson isn’t suing users; they’re suing a university.
    Take a peek at this article:
    Fast Times at George Mason U

    During its rise, George Mason rode the crest of Northern Virginia’s surge in population and wealth. Tailoring itself to the needs of local businesses, it cultivated entrepreneurship and a freewheeling approach that would be heretical on many campuses.”

    I am entirely baffled by your statement here: “sell other products (citation styles and database subscriptions) to users of competing software.” So Thomson’s citation styles are worthy of purchase by Zotero? Doesn’t that put Zotero in the place of asking to license them, which would have avoided the lawsuit? My personal opinion is that the site license agreement must have been out of sync with Endnote somehow, which is unfortunate for users. I switch back and forth from Endnote to Zotero freely (Bibtex and RIS exports are pretty seamless).

    “I don’t hide behind anonymity”
    Where’s a link to your site, then? Even a last name? It takes cojones for me to ask you to provide credentials, Rick, but if I signed my comments as Fred we’d be equal.
    What’s your webapp? Don’t see it.

    “Yes–the subject is topical and I do not hide behind anonymity. If the bloggers don’t consider it spam, you shouldn’t.”
    Since each comment appears to be unique, the individual blogger wouldn’t likely see each comment as spam. In aggregate, it’s odd. Advocacy can be, so can arguing on the Internet, so let’s call this one a draw.

    Also, it’s rude to accuse your debate opponent of being duped when they hold a contrary opinion. Thanks for the debate; enjoyed it, though I wish I’d learned something I didn’t know.

    Zotero needs product management. Until then, I’ve given up on it.

  15. Rick says:

    Both Endnote styles and CSL files are derivative works from the journal publisher or professional society

    “Derivative work has a specific definition under copyright law. Very few would consider styles to be derivative works, as very few would consider the journal publisher or professional society’s method for formatting citations to be novel enough to have a copyright. Certainly TR would not want their styles to be considered “derivative works:” any publisher could then sue TR for copyvio for including a style with EndNote.

    From your comments, you did some work to move the process along, then Simon wrote a now-pulled convertor that rendered them en masse.

    Nope. Simon wrote code to use the styles as-is, without creating an intermediary csl file that others could distribute or upload to the Zotero style repository. TR got this wrong in their complaint, but it is easy enough to verify that you can’t create a CSL from an ENS file without having to do more work & any file obtained in this procedure en masse would have tell-tale fingerprints of an automated conversion. (I released no styles until I heard about the lawsuit within the past month. I am releasing styles as a productive protest against the suit.)

    I’m afraid that I really don’t see what ArtStor has to do with this. I haven’t read many complaints about the particular issue, and your “gripe” sounds like complaining about TR’s other holdings (the information in Web of Knowlege/Science, WestLaw, etc. is mostly available for free elsewhere & all TR has done is to package it & charge money for it (and they aren’t even an NPO)). In any case, you haven’t shown any evidence that Mellon is somehow pulling the strings of Zotero to create a commercial product down the road or that GMU would let them.

    CSL holds promise, but it’s not in wide use.

    Agree that it could be in wider use. It is already use in more products, developed by more people than .ens (of which Thomson claims a proprietary interest in).

    Also, XML editors aren’t friendly authoring environments.

    I agree that CSL editors could still stand to be improved, but XML editors aren’t the only way to make a style now & a textual format certainly makes minor variations of styles easy & enables great version control, etc.

    Thomson isn’t suing users; they’re suing a university.

    They are suing a university that had a site license to their product–a customer, by any definition. They have also changed the license on their filters, styles, manual, etc. such that they are of less utility to end users who obey the new contract.

    So Thomson’s citation styles are worthy of purchase by Zotero? Doesn’t that put Zotero in the place of asking to license them, which would have avoided the lawsuit?

    It means that some Zotero users would probably purchase the styles. It doesn’t mean that Zotero should use grant money to license them for all other users. I doubt licensing would have avoided this suit–Zotero has never distributed ENS files or styles that have been converted from ENS styles. If TR is willing to complain about things that didn’t happen, their whimsy could have led them to make any number of false allegations.

    My personal opinion is that the site license agreement must have been out of sync with Endnote somehow

    What do you mean by this?

    Where’s a link to your site, then? Even a last name?

    I’m not doing this for self promotion. I’ve told you styles I’ve written & the webapp I’ve helped write & my full contact info is there. My full identity is available to anyone who does even a small amount of research. Yours is not. I’ve linked to a page on financial donations to F/OSS projects that I have made.

    if I signed my comments as Fred we’d be equal.

    Assuming your name is actually Fred, we’d almost be equal. You have not linked yourself to any product, or claimed any authority on this subject. I have.

    Also, it’s rude to accuse your debate opponent of being duped when they hold a contrary opinion.

    If you honestly believe that styles from EndNote are being distributed by Zotero & are unable to back up that claim & despite evidence to the contrary, then you have been duped.

  16. anon says:

    @Rick
    I call strawman; can’t argue with someone who mischaracterizes my points. Zotero’s looking for a shortcut; Endnote’s trying to ride out their creation as long as they can. This suit isn’t about copyright, it’s about GMU violating their license. And good luck with Refbase, which looks interesting as a front end for citations.

    Last word from MIT’s description:
    “Ups and downs of using Zotero: There are still some kinks to be worked out of the software, so you may not want to use Zotero for writing your thesis or for creating complex bibliographies.”

    @Michael
    Thanks for your his initial skepticism and moderation.

  17. Rick says:

    @anon
    I’m sorry that you feel I mischaracterized anything you wrote. I mostly responded to exact quotes, so don’t know where I did this. But I wouldn’t put it past myself, and would certainly prefer to respond to your actual position.

    Zotero’s looking for a shortcut

    What shortcut?! You have stated many times that Zotero converted ENS files and are distributing them, and have failed to provide evidence that this occurred, other than TR’s filing. This is also a fallacy (and some might find this applicable, but I’d not be more innocent).

    This suit isn’t about copyright, it’s about GMU violating their license.

    Yes, it is about whether or not a license violation occurred. I haven’t seen evidence of a violation. I’ve seen and presented evidence that at least some of TR’s claims are false. It is possible that there is some sort of non-public information that TR has (that you also apparently lack, or at least won’t share) that proves part of their complaint is accurate. I doubt it–they were too wrong about too much & the filing has been universally lambasted by both legal experts and those familiar with Zotero’s development.

    And good luck with Refbase, which looks interesting as a front end for citations.

    Thanks!

    Keep in mind that MIT’s description is several months old & has the “con” that Zotero is “not great for formatting bibliographies for papers, since there aren’t many style formats.” The 1000+ styles that have been rolled out since these comments may change their opinion. I’ve seen peers fight with EndNote in theses and in complex bibliographies too.

    I wrote my thesis in LaTeX & would do so again. Zotero isn’t the best BibTeX reference manager (though it is better than EndNote). It is probably good enough that I might have used it if it were available at the time.

  18. Allison says:

    A statement issued by Thomson Reuters can be read here:
    http://www.thomsonreuters.com/content/press_room/sci/297063

  19. Bruce D'Arcus says:

    I never saw this whole discussion, but now that I do, I am struck by anon’s comment that I did not contribute them [the Endnote styles they crerated] for GMU/Mellon/MIT/CEO of CSL, Bruce D’Arcus– to rip off for a superior citation capture tool and inferior reference management tool. I have no connection to any of the institutions anon mentions, and the claim that I have personally stolen someone’s intellectual property or work is a lie. Calling me a thief without any proof, and without having the courage or integrity to put your own name behind the claim, is not terribly classy. It might even constitute liable.

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