Litigation Nation

Now that the DaVinci trial is over, what’s the next Court TV-style case to watch for those heavily invested in the markeplace of ideas?

How about the defamation lawsuit against the author of Freakonomics. John Lott, whose research examines the relationship of gun carry laws to crime rates, has attracted his share of controversy. But suing someone for criticizing his research?

The DaVinci suit was odd enough – you can’t copyright ideas, and the plaintifs made millions off the publicity they got from Dan Brown (and probably more from the lawsuit coverage) – but imagine if lawyers had to go over every literature review before publication to avoid landing in court. Nope, sorry – can’t say this. Or this. You certainly can’t use “hogwash” in this paragraph; let’s say “possibly incorrect, though there are many alternative approaches to consider.” The chilling effect of having to worry about being sued because you find fault with another scholar’s work is a scary prospect.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

One thought on “Litigation Nation”

  1. A follow-up: The Chron has some coverage of this story that adds nuances to the various claims and concludes “The heat does not seem likely to subside soon. Maybe it would help if all parties imagined themselves in court, serving as witnesses or lawyers.” In a way, that could help – that is, if it meant people thought twice before making statements that were not even-handed. But if every time we started to say or write something we thought about the risk of getting sued, there would be little chance anyone would anything at all – rude, crude, or meaningful.

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