Shelly Batts, a PhD candidate in neuroscience, was taken aback when she wrote about a science article she had read and reproduced an image from it – then got a scary take-down order. The blogosphere reacted, the publisher retracted, and things have calmed down. The fair use issue is not resolved (the publisher said they would grant permission, not that it was okay to post an image to a blog without their permission) but at least Batts won’t be sued.
The storm that erupted is interesting, though. When a science publisher acts like the RIAA, people get angry. A lot of people. They argue the publisher is stifling criticism of ideas, and that this is one more reason to support open access. That last bit is a bit tricky: open access doesn’t mean no copyright, so the same laws apply. I guess the argument is that, without the financial incentive to protect your exclusivity, nobody would sic their lawyers on other people for reproducing the information.
But one thing is clear. Chilling effects are harder to pull off when people share information and generate some heat.