Odds & Ends & Useful Bits

Consider this post to be a little bit like that drawer in the kitchen where you put things because you don’t know where else to put them: buttons, an odd shoelace, a dead battery that may need recycling, that gadget that sculpts cucumbers into fancy shapes that you got for Christmas fifteen years ago, that piece of something that might be important if you only knew what it fell off of.

First of all, in re David v. Goliath, the ludicrous lawsuit by Reuters against Zotero for allegedly “reverse engineering” Endnote in order to make it possible to import and export citations between programs was dismissed by a judge. This is good news for innovation. More from the Jester, and a hat tip to Inside Higher Ed, which points to a good Crooked Timber piece on the suit.

A question raised on the Infocommons list struck me as a good example of how quickly things have changed in libraries. Not too long ago librarians debated banning cell phones in libraries. Now the question is whether to provide recharging stations. Once the question was posed, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance ensued. Joan Lippincott clarified the original poster’s intent by pointing out that a university in the Netherlands provides lockers with outlets where students can recharge their equipment while in class; another poster pointed to high-speed charging kiosks in airports. In any case, I found myself bemused by how quickly libraries adapt to changes that to some librarians seem at first antithetical to libraries and even, perhaps, civilization as we once knew it.

Finally, the useful bit: remember those preprints C&RL makes available online months before publication? You don’t? Well, here’s a refresher. Go to ACRL Insider and choose the tag or category “C&RL Preprints.” You’ll find articles that won’t see print for months. Be the first kid on your block to read about how professional education prepares academic librarians who go on to tenure track positions in a study by Rickey Best and Jason Kneip. Or read Kara Malanfant’s analysis of how the University of Minnesota Libraries are employing liaison librarians in discussions about scholarly communication.

Also at Insider you’ll find the contents of C&RL online, but it’s limited to members only, and further limited to members with the patience to log on and the ability to remember their password. Note to authors: for God’s sake, post your stuff online if you want it read, blogged, discussed, circulated. You can do that; the American Library Association is OA Green. While you take a few minutes to post your articles, hum to yourself “it’s not easy being green” – and then feel good that you did your professional bit for the cause, just like those U of M library liaisons.

The Mark of Zotero

This just in, via beSpacificReuters is suing George Mason University for violating the Endnote TOS. Apparently (though I’m not sure I really understand the issue – this news story is very cryptic) Reuters claims the organization violated the terms of service when they analyzed ways to convert style files from Endnote to Zotero. Reuters (parent company of ISI, parent company of Endnote) accuses Zotero’s programmers of reverse-engineering Endnote files to make the conversion possible and that this threatens to destroy their customer base.

Some chat at Zotero suggests the legality of using the style files (many of which were contributed by users of Endnote) to be a bit murky. Some bloggers say the allegation is false, and that this is a SLAP suit. Others wonder if this means anyone who migrates their citations from Endnote to something else are equally liable. (Of course, anyone who has tried to import Web of Knowledge citations into RefWorks knows the company is not happy with competition and is willing to sacrifice user satisfaction on that altar.)

And hey, couldn’t MLA, Chicago, APA, and CBE sue Reuters for reverse-engineering their style manuals and destroying their customer base? Just asking.

Want to follow the paper trail? The Disruptive Library Technology Jester explains how. And Jystar raises a fascinating issue: “law suits like this really make me wonder if the current scheme of intellectual property law in the US actually fosters innovation. or … fosters bullying and enables large corporations, backed by lots of money and lawyers, to edge out any smaller competition, even if the competition is superior?”

Good question.

UPDATE 10/06: Michael Feldstein at e-literate, who at first thought Reuters might have a point, has learned more about the claims and now thinks … they probably have misrepresented what Zotero did. Via a comment at the Chron.

There’s now much talk of boycotting Thomson/Reuters. Given the number of companies and products involved, it may be hard to do since they own Westlaw, ISI, Findlaw, all kinds of business, financial, medical, and accounting resources, not to mention the Reuters news service.