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Fair Use In Scientific Blogging

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the add-a-little-alcohol dept.

Censorship 103

GrumpySimon writes "Recently, the well-read science blog Retrospectacle posted an article on a scientific paper that concluded that alcohol augments the antioxidant properties of fruit. The blog post reproduced a chart and a table from the original article and everything was fully attributed. When the publisher John Wiley & Sons found out, they threatened legal action unless the chart and table were removed. Understandably, this whole mess has stirred up quite a storm of protest. Many people see Retrospectacle's action as plainly falling under fair use. There is a call for a boycott of Wiley and Wiley's journals."

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First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18886567)

Shuv it up your ass.

Ridiculous (5, Informative)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886627)

Hey we all know that there's not much money in science, but seriously. This article embodies what fair use is all about.
From Sec. 107 of the Copyright Act.

...the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

It doesn't get more simple than this. They've been hanging out with the RIAA too much...

Re:Ridiculous (5, Informative)

squidfood (149212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887039)

Please note: Wiley has responded and resolved the issue favorably [] , blaming the matter on a juinor staffer... and asking for no abusive email to the junior staffer...

Re:Ridiculous (5, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887383)

Please note: Wiley has responded and resolved the issue favorably [], blaming the matter on a juinor staffer...

Ah, I see that Wiley has followed Washington D.C.'s lead: before doing something objectionable, hire a junior staffer for blame absorption.

Unless, of course, anyone here actually believes that Wiley allows junior staffers to send out such demands without supervision. Uh huh.

On a more general note... these sorts of arguments about Fair Use are normal, healthy, and will occur regularly. Freedom and/or democracy means that there will be a great deal of public bickering. It's a Good Thing, because it means a) we aren't afraid to differ, b) we aren't afraid to talk about it, and c) we believe our countrymen are open to rational argument. A tolerance for this sort of tumult is a prerequisite to being a free society. Compare this to the fearful silence of a dictatorship.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Interesting)

squidfood (149212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887711)

Ah, I see that Wiley has followed Washington D.C.'s lead: before doing something objectionable, hire a junior staffer for blame absorption.

Yes, in addition, it creates a type of legal question-begging: if you routinely grant permission for what would be fair use anyway, no one can take you to court to say they don't need your permission to engage in fair use, so fair use rights can never be firmly tested. Very convenient!

Other questions to ponder are whether this is a routine scare-tactic from Wiley (which they would back down on, but cows 95% would-be users), etc. All worthy of discussion in this thread, but probably, at this point, not worth another ream of e-mail to the so-called "junior staffer."

Re:Ridiculous (2, Interesting)

GrumpySimon (707671) | more than 7 years ago | (#18891181)

One thing I forgot to mention in the overview is that we should keep in mind that Wiley & Sons are part of the "American Association of Publishers" who have deliberately attacked the open access publishing movement, and have hired PR stooge Eric Dezenhall to help them. Slashdot discussion on that here [] .

In short - I wouldn't trust them as far as I could spit them.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887491)

ORLY? Junior staff get that much authority? Such empowerment.

Maybe it's an ex-senior staffer who's now a junior staffer or is that even more unbelievable nowadays ;).

Re:Ridiculous (2, Funny)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889215)

Gah! I just spent 10 minutes trying to remember what my dam password is... (well 2 minutes anyway)

Re:Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18894759)

ask her yourself:

Lisa Richards
Editorial Assistant
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Society of Chemical Industry
14-15 Belgrave Square
London UK

T: +44 (0) 207 598 1548
F: +44 (0) 207 598 1558

Re:Ridiculous (1)

el americano (799629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887725)

Someone beat you to it: #18887037 []

The difference between Redundant and Informative can be so small... and the difference is placement. +5 for you.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

squidfood (149212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887989)

The difference between Redundant and Informative can be so small... and the difference is placement. +5 for you.

I'm not going to feel guilty about it, we've got the same timestamp... this was enough of an important update I figured placement at the top for readers/ would-be slashdot emailers was worth doing, don't need the karma... if an editor posts an update they can credit the other dude... and you know I was pretty much predicting a complaint like yours :).

Re:Ridiculous (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888777)

So one of Wiley's most overzealous employee's just happened upon the graph by chance in their free time? Sure it might sound like some kind of conspiracy theory, but you've got to admit that a newly assembled Wiley "copyfight" team trolling for victi^H^H^H^H^Hinfringers is not an order of magnitude more unlikely than a random webclick.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

henrywood (879946) | more than 7 years ago | (#18897373)

To be strictly accurate, it is the SCI who has responded. Quite rightly as it was one of their staff who sent the offending e-mail. It's great fun to mouth off the "big guys", like Wiley (actually one of the last of the independent, family-owned publishers), but most people seem to be missing the point that Wiley themselves had nothing to do with this affair (other than the fact that they publish the Journal on behalf of the SCI). The original e-mail came from an assistant editor at the SCI and the affair has been quickly, and satisfactorily, settled by a more senior member of staff at the SCI.

Unfortunately that doesn't suit the loudmouths on Slashdot so poor old Wiley get all the flak for something they had little to do with. Now why doesn't that surprise me?

IANAL, but is "Lisa"? (3, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886633)

I only read the article after information regarding the original sender of the email was taken out of the email. Is this a case where a person affiliated with/employed by the parent company saw the copyrighted material and started the ball rolling? It sounds like this was a threatening letter from a company drone that would've (hopefully) been brought to a standstill had real lawyers been called in.

I bet thats what happened (1, Offtopic)

WarlockD (623872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886907)

Maybe it was an assistant that is ordered to read/search for blogs and news articles that don't correctly attribute works. She reads a price sheet that says 'No pictures!' and sends a threat.

I just think its funny. I think if they just asked Shelley, there wouldn't of been such a problem. Instead this nice little threat is posted for the world to see.

Re:I bet thats what happened (2, Funny)

pedalman (958492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887667)

Or maybe Jerry Taylor [] is moonlighting at John Wiley & Sons....

That's odd... (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886647)

She's replaced the figures so it's hard to see what the original presentation looked like. But whatever the legal correctness of her fair use claim (which certainly has nothing to do with "This is taxpayer-supported research, which should be available for all."), it sounds like she did what scientists do routinely, so I can't understand why they're suddenly picking on her.

Come to think of it, industry researchers present slides with figures like that all the time, and it's not like there's a shortage of lawyers vetting them, and a lot deeper pockets for an angry journal to go after than some blogger has...

Agreed, and more so... (5, Funny)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886707)

What's the point in publishing a paper that you want no one to cite!?


Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886783)

The issue isn't citation, it's copying a figures and tables straight from the paper without permission. The latter are akin to artwork, which is what I think the blogger misses here. I don't really agree that she shouldn't be allowed to show a few select figures/tables, but her argument that it's taxpayer-funded (and therefore free to anyone) doesn't hold water.

Re:Agreed, and more so... (2, Insightful)

HarveyTheWonderBug (711765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887893)

The latter are akin to artwork, which is what I think the blogger misses here. I don't really agree that she shouldn't be allowed to show a few select figures/tables,
Artwork ? You must be kidding, right ? All tables in my field are generated with a few latex macros, and figures with various plotting packages. Moreover, they are generated by the authors, not the publisher. You usually see a "reprinted with permission" when the figure is included in a an other paper or book that will be sold. Otherwize, it's perfectly fine to reproduce a figure or a table from someone else's paper, provided that proper credit is given.

but her argument that it's taxpayer-funded (and therefore free to anyone) doesn't hold water.
The purpose of scientific publication is to dissiminate results. In many papers, the results are not published in terms of machine readable files (like for example the data points of a plot, in ascii format), but in figures and tables. So yes, these figures and tables are the end result of taxpayer money. And I bet you that the author of the paper greatest wish is to have his figure reproduced, indicating the great impact of his paper.

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889041)

Ease of creation (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with the argument, here. A lot of art is pretty easy to produce. (Ever used a camera?) Nor does the fact that the authors created the plots and tables (since they sign over rights to the journal when they publish, although exactly how much of the rights get signed over varies from journal to journal). The fact that authors (and journals) have COPYRIGHTS on the items in question is the salient point here. The copyrights are very similar to the copyrights that protect artists' works. In the case of scientists, our "art" just takes a different form.

So yes, these figures and tables are the end result of taxpayer money.
So is all of the art produced under NEA grants. It doesn't mean that the artists' copyrights are invalid. Similarly, your taxpayer dollars goes to pay for tanks and fighter jets. Care to try that same argument (you paid for it, you get to use it) on the DoD?

Seriously, do you really believe what you're saying or are you just being argumentative? I hope it's the latter since you seem to be trying to force me to argue that the blogger shouldn't have been able to reproduce the plots (I said I think that that's fair) rather than discuss my point that her *argument* is the wrong approach.

Re:Agreed, and more so... (3, Insightful)

HarveyTheWonderBug (711765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889537)

I admit being argumentative :) But I am quite baffled by this issue: I am a scientist. I publish in scientific publications. My research is completely funded by government money. I am evaluated largely on my publications in scientific litterature, that is, peer-reviewed articles. Every time I publish, I have to waive partially or fully my rights to the publisher. Sometimes, I am even charged to publish, for color figures for example (well, my grants pay for this). I am also acting as referee for some publications, a work that is done for free for the publisher, but paid by my government agency. So my epidermic reaction is : yes, use of reproducing any table or figure of my papers should be granted automatically, if the sources is properly referenced. There must be a "fair use" for this type of publications. So her argument is in a legal way the wrong approach: you made your point. But there must be a fair use for this type of situations, no ?

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889881)

Provide the usual rules for "Fair Use" are followed, I heartily agree that this absolutely should fall under that category and the publisher should be fought in court. This would be true even if the research in question were not government-funded. I think this is pretty clearly a case of the publisher bullying someone even though I doubt that they have a leg to stand on if it goes to court.

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

HarveyTheWonderBug (711765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890043)

Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I doubt it: I'm fairly sure the publisher (not the blogger herself) of the blog is not a non-profit organization: they probably make money from advertisement, etc... Given the current atmosphere about IP, it gets scary... Argh, i don't wanna become a lawyer to continue my job !

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890745)

I feel the same way all the time! When you're a government contractor, it's especially bad.

I don't think paid adverts on the website actually ruins the fair use case as long as they aren't selling the source material itself. It might be interesting to see that raised in court, but I suspect (non-lawyer that I am) that it wouldn't matter.

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18896941)

Does that really matter, or does the whole article really point to one thing, the death of scientific journals and the birth of properly referenced and cited 'wikis' being held and continually worked on at various repositories around the globe, be they at universities, scientific institutions or companies. It is just so much faster and more convenient, and actions like this just accelerate the whole process. The more legally active the scientific journals become the quicker that high quality authoritative wikis will start appearing (wiki as in wiki [] ;), not wikipedia which is a specific type of wiki)

Citing v. Copying (1)

yintercept (517362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888467)

"What's the point in publishing a paper that you want no one to cite!?"

Vanity is a tricky business. You want people to cite you. You don't want them to copy so much of your stuff, that the people who cited you get the future citations for your work.

Re:Citing v. Copying (1)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893197)

Well, I frequently get references to information in journals that are difficult to get (even if that means they're not online and I'd have to go to the library). It takes me about 20 minutes to look up and copy the article in the library, so I'll spend 20 minutes finding it somewhere else...

Re:Agreed, and more so... (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889103)

What's the point in publishing a paper that you want no one to cite!?
It's point is precisely what everyone hates about academic journals. Gouging taxpayers. The research is done with taxpayers money. The journal will be bought with heavily-subsidized-by-taxpayers tuition money.

Re: That's odd... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886879)

it sounds like she did what scientists do routinely, so I can't understand why they're suddenly picking on her.
Is fair use usually applied to figures? It's commonplace to see a figure labeled "used by permission", though you never see it on quoted text.

I'm not asking how things ought to be, nor how existing law ought to be interpreted. Rather, what is established praxis? For some reason hearing a complaint over a reproduced figure surprises me less than a complaint over a similarly-sized quote would.

Re: That's odd... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887129)

It's commonplace to see a figure labeled "used by permission"...

In journals, yes, in talks, usually not. A blog post is kind of a middle ground, although given that ScienceBlogs is a business venture (it is, right?) maybe it should be treated like a journal.

But as I said, now that she's changed the original post, it's hard to tell how appropriate the initial version was.

Re:That's odd... (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888123)

it sounds like she did what scientists do routinely, so I can't understand why they're suddenly picking on her.

Typically, scientists seek permission before reproducing figures for publishable work. Short quoted snippets and of course general conclusions regarding the work don't require it.

The response from Wiley sort of hints to this: ask us for permission next time, which we will grant, and this sort of mix up can be averted. This is how things are done.

scientific blogs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18886659)

Actually I am looking for blogs of leading pharmaceutical or drug discovery researchers or at least people around that field. None of them seem to blog.

What are some folks' favorite scientists' blogs?

Re:scientific blogs? (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886969)

Start here: []

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887257)

Thanks! That looks like a good one :)

Re:scientific blogs? (1)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893261)

We're too busy working.

Nice (1)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886677)

I like how this article is juxtaposed with the MPAA story 'MPAA Committed To Fair Use and DRM' below. Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't this legal action have been threatened under the auspices of the DMCA? A bill which was bought and paid-for by the MPAA?

Fair use, my arse.

Copyright (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18886685)

The copyright is retained by the author (or the publisher in this case if it was signed over). You cannot simply publish anything you want to if you don't have permission to do so, whether you are flying the flag of 'blogger' or not.

When Darwin Meets Publishing (4, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886699)

Darwin said it best when he said, "I love fools' experiments. I am always making them."

And it would seem that producing valid data in the form of a chart, publishing it and then going after someone for publicizing your findings is fool hearty at best, but sadly also very mean spirited and it works against the mission of the scientists in the long run.

I will not seek to help profit those who would still falsely believe in a captive audience, so therefore this publisher is coming off my reading list.

both sides (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18886747)

I'm someone who works in the publishing field, so I'm coming at this from both sides. As far as the blog's reproduction of the figures/tables is concerned, I would absolutely consider that as falling under the realm of fair use. However, I also have to deal with permissions to reproduce figures and tables. As far as I'm concerned, permission/payment should only be necessary when you intend to reproduce the material and include it in something that is sold (eg, another journal, magazine, pay website, etc). The problem is that many copyright lawyers don't see things that way...

Re:both sides (1)

dnahelix1 (1060308) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887475)

Absolutely agree. Even if I do the work, write the paper and then publish the paper, when I write my thesis, I have to get permission for use of the said material already published. Once you publish, it's in the publisher's hands.

Re:both sides (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887707)

I'm the GP poster, and one of our policies is that we let the author reuse any of their own material in future work, even though we technically hold the copyright. The only time this ever becomes even a slight issue is when the author wants to use something for a textbook chapter or the other paper's publisher requires permission in writing. Then all we do is slap together a brief memo granting them permission to use the tables/figures/whatever, so long as there is proper attribution.

Re:both sides (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892247)

author reuse any of their own material in future work... permission to use the tables/figures/whatever, so long as there is proper attribution.
So you would want me to attribute you for my own work?

boycott Wiley textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18886763)

A boycott of Wiley journals sounds like a good idea, but it is easier for an individual to select non-Wiley texts for his/her class than to get a library to cancel a journal.

Re:boycott Wiley textbooks (1)

bmljenny (1093853) | more than 7 years ago | (#18891323)

You know, if you go back and actually read the person's blog, she was NOT contacted by Wiley, but by someone at the Society of Chemical Industry that actually owns the journal. Wiley publishes the journal on behalf of that society. The "junior staffer" does not work for Wiley but threatened the blogger that Wiley would come after her. As far as I can tell, Wiley wasn't involved in this affair AT ALL but now everyone's piling on calling for a boycott.

Re:boycott Wiley textbooks (1)

hubie (108345) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894747)

Ever since grad school I've tried to avoid any Wiley book I could because almost all of the textbooks I have come apart at the binding. I don't think this has happened to any of my other textbooks, or my Wiley paperbacks.

They are known for extortion too! (5, Informative)

Chickan (1070300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886777)

Wiley & Sons are notorious in my book for being a bunch of crooks. They threatened to sue me over including a copy of the answers with a text book I was selling on a popular auction website. The sent me an extortion letter claiming if I paid $100 per copy sold and refrained from selling it in the future everything would be forgiven, or else they would sue me in court. It took several phone calls and a letter from my lawyer to get out of the mess. I wasn't even charging for the cd key!

Re:They are known for extortion too! (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887137)

But did the answers originally come from a solution manual that was available seperately for purchase?

Publishers make you buy the answers seperately because they know desperate university students will buy it.

What I'm not sure is if you mean a copy or a photocopy.

Re:They are known for extortion too! (1)

Chickan (1070300) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887273)

AFAIK, the answers were available seperately. When I purchased the book, I also, separately, bought a solutions cd with worked out solutions to the problems in the book in it. I looked around, and could not find them available for sale anywhere else.

Re:They are known for extortion too! (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889479)

Well that's why the publisher took issue to you giving it away for free. I'm not saying I agree with how they handled the situation, but they are trying to protect future sales and they saw you harming that by giving away their software for free, even if you were selling the book.

loot at the actual link (3, Interesting)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886813)

The first poster in response to her blog is actually on Wiley editorial board. And he agrees with her -- not the company. This is the problem with lawyers running everything. It's very hard to get them to understand the world beyond dollar signs -- most of them just don't have the background.

Re:loot at the actual link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887051)

The "problem" with this "article" on this "respected blog" is that, first of all, no "blog" is "respected". Second of all, this "blog " in question is *not* a "well known blog". It's just some guy who appropriated copyrighted material and now wants to WHINE to the "free as in beer" masses about it. WHAAAAAA!

Re:loot at the actual link (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888973)

First of all, it's not a guy. It's a gal. Quite a cute one, too. So if you haven't noticed that, we know you haven't even clicked on the link before making your statements. Unless... and I do see conspiracies everywhere, you are in fact the owner of the blog making statements as outrageous as you just made anonymously just to provoke this inevitable response.

What do the charts represent? (3, Insightful)

Yalius (1024919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886837)

I'd say that, if the reproduced charts are one of the major points of the article, and depending on the data reported they may well have been, then the blogger would have a responsibility not to reproduce them. Fair use ought to be a means of commenting or reporting on another work, not replacing it. If I can get all the information I need from the secondary source, that exceeds fair use.

Re:What do the charts represent? (4, Informative)

forand (530402) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887061)

Apparently you do not work in a scientific field. The only way to discuss the results of someone else's work in a reasonable way is to show those results. If I were to just say "and this is what their articles says, trust me" without BOTH showing their evidence and citing their work then what I am saying is just a bunch of bull. A scientist cannot ask the reader to trust them on their interpretation of another's work; they need to show it, if possible, or reference it heavily and try to show some of the relevant data.

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

vocaro (569257) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887831)

The only way to discuss the results of someone else's work in a reasonable way is to show those results.

Well, I work in the scientific field, too, and in most cases this is just not true. One must cite evidence, sure, but there's no requirement to reproduce it. As long as the citation is valid (i.e., accessible) and was published in a peer-reviewed manner, then that's sufficient.

For example, you can say, "Our results show a 35% improvement compared to prior work [Hodgman2005]." You don't have to show a graph that the Hodgman2005 article already contains. That would be redundant.

Okay, I suppose having the graph right there for comparison would help the reader, but that's just a convenience and certainly isn't necessary for showing evidence. In other words, scientific research does not require reproduction of others' results, only citation.

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888065)

I think you missed the point. GP wasn't talking about comparing his results to [Hodgman2005], he was talking about directly discussing the merits of [Hodgman2005] in the first place. As in, are the results of this study valid? How should we interpret them? In such a context I don't believe there is any question that reproducing the graphs from the original paper is both warranted and legal.

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

vocaro (569257) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890655)

If one is trying to point out a specific flaw in someone else's work, then yes, I agree that reproducing their data might be necessary and legal. But that's not what forand was saying. He was saying that the "only" way to simply "discuss" someone else's work is to reproduce their results. That's a very broad statement to make, and in the vast majority of cases it's simply not true. I've read countless Related Work sections of research papers (and written some of my own) where the authors provide a thorough comparison of prior work without the need to re-publish someone else's data.

Re:What do the charts represent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18890829)

You're right. But I think most people would acknowledge that there are some circumstances where the only way to do it properly is by reproducing someone's prior work, and in those circumstances it ordinarily would qualify under "fair use" (but publishers will often force you to seek permission anyway).

It's a little frustrating to have to say "it depends", but I guess that's the main point. More importantly, it usually isn't that hard to tell when it is a necessity, and therefore qualifies.

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

yankpop (931224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894961)

I think most people would acknowledge that there are some circumstances where the only way to do it properly is by reproducing someone's prior work

True, but these are by far the exceptional cases. In the great majority of papers in my field (evolutionary biology) cited works are just that - cited, without reproducing data or analysis beyond quick summaries. The poster who started this thread was claiming that it is standard practice to reproduce any data you discuss, which is not the case.


Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

yankpop (931224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889445)

The only way to discuss the results of someone else's work in a reasonable way is to show those results.

That's just wrong. It is in fact very rare to reproduce someone else's data in order to discuss them in your own paper. The point of citing their work is to allow readers to look it up if they want to see the details for themselves. It's up to the reviewers to make sure that they haven't grossly misrepresented the cited work, and up to the reader to evaluate for themselves the finer point of the discussion.

Apparently you do not work in a scientific field.

And what field do you work in? Can you provide a single peer-reviewed journal that routinely allows authors to republish other people's data as part of their discussion? Figures and tables, not just brief summaries.


Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18894205)

I'm sure you're right and I'm all for open access to scientific works.

However, the article is being reproduced for profit!

Now that may not be the prime motivation but there are at least five different advertiser / marketing / stats gathering companies - doubleclick, google, joost, sitemeter, amazon - with code on those pages. Also the article is buying good will for "SEED" and promoting "ScienceBlogs" and so helping to boost advertising revenues.

That's not "fair use" in my book.

You're sort of right about use of results - but a reference is sufficient along with a summary and statement of perhaps the most important statistic, in fact basically the article minus the graph and results table. What you say about

>>> "A scientist cannot ask the reader to trust them on their interpretation of another's work; they need to show it, if possible, or reference it heavily and try to show some of the relevant data."

I sort of buy if the blog is from posting their own results and demonstrating how they agree / differ from the original results. In this case it's just a report of someone elses report from what I saw.

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

HoldenCaulfield (25660) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887185)

While I understand the intent of this argument, who's going to draw the line? If we take your view point with regards to scientific papers, does that mean bloggers, reporters, etc should only be allowed to mention what's in the abstract? Is the conclusion verboten because it goes into more details? Is a meta-analysis where you compare the major finding with another major finding crossing the line?

As Asimov said, "There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." In my mind, in the realm of science, knowledge should be shared, especially considering the vast majority is funded with public dollars. Of course, even with journals having publishing policies that require published authors to make it so others can duplicate their experiments easily, this rarely seems to work in practice. (Here's a link to Nature's policy regarding availability of data and materials [] .) Yea for publish or perish and the ultra-competitive nature of funding . . .

Especially with regards to a scientific paper/article, showing a graph and a short blurb related to it isn't the main intent of the paper. Any researcher who's really going to utilize the material is going to need the full article, as it's neigh impossible to capture a whole scientific paper in a blurb.

A weak analogy here could be that you shouldn't reprint the punchline to a Peanut's comic strip as that would be the major point of the strip . . .

Re:What do the charts represent? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887221)

Precisely. 'Fair Use' is, contrary to the beliefs of many, fairly well defined - and fairly sharply limited. Among other things, if the chart and table in question represent the main contents of the paper of the paper - then case law is clear that republishing them is decidely not fair use.

Re:What do the charts represent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887931)

That's a load of nonsense. If the only way to criticize a particular paper is to reproduce *the* most critical figure from that paper, then it most assuredly does fall under fair use in that circumstance. Period.

It does not matter if it is the key part of the work if the purpose it is put to justifies it all alone (e.g., scholarly criticism), and it really is necessary. It's not like the unimportant figures are okay to copy for that task, but the crucial ones aren't. That's silly. How can you possibly critically evaluate the paper if you can't use the most important part of it?

The only time the degree/value of a part of a work matters is if the sole or main argument for justifying the fair use is because you have used a part of the work. If that portion happens to be the most valuable part, then, yeah, you could be in trouble if you don't have other justification.

The bottom line is, the issue of "fair use" isn't only about the amount, or only about how important the reproduced part is, it is also about what use that copied material is put to, and sometimes you can easily justify copying the "best" part of a work, because it is the only way to get the scholarly job done. Then you are in the clear. Always use the minimum necessary, and it must be in order to add your own criticism or comment (not merely to supercede the original), but certainly that minimum can sometimes be the "best" part of the original work.

What we are seeing here is the difference between what some publishers wish was the case (that permission and/or fee was needed for *every* use of every bit of what's published), and what actually exists in copyright law. It's good to err on the side of caution (i.e. asking permission), but it can take unnecessary time. Better to know the limits, and thank goodness many publishers are more enlightened than Wiley has demonstrated.

Re:What do the charts represent? (2, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887985)

That's complete bollocks. Fair use is far from well-defined and is an eternal game of brinksmanship. Courts have found it to include anything up to 100% of the work in question, depending on the circumstances.

Re:What do the charts represent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887427)

No, sometimes it might be just the opposite. Most "fair use" provisions make it a clear requirement that only the minimum or essential parts necessary to conduct a scholarly criticism (for example) be used. In other words, if you made a blanket copy of the whole thing or major parts of it, regardless of whether the whole thing was actually necessary, then the person doing the copying would be in clear legal trouble. If, however, only those parts necessary for the job of criticism, comment, or scholarly work were copied (with proper attribution), then that would pretty clearly fall under "fair use". That could be the key part of the paper.

I know this seems backwards, but the point is, the criticism, comment, evaluation, or whatever is the part that justifies the "fair use". It's the "purpose" of the copying that makes it an exception. If it didn't, then copyright holders could use copyright to hinder criticism or comment, which isn't good -- you shouldn't be able to stifle criticism by denying permission to copy something. If you use more than you need, then you are on the hook for the copyright violation. Likewise, if your purpose is not for (or not *necessary* for) criticism or comment, but it substantially supercedes the original, then you are also in heaps of trouble.

The relevant blog was skirting somewhat close to the line, because the description of the paper is fairly comprehensive and getting the point across did not really require directly copying the relevant figures (they were simple and easily redrafted, which would bear on the question of whether the copying was really necessary); but the publisher is being a bit of an ass, in that they no doubt are going to get more interest in the original article itself through the blog commentary.

It's a bit like a book publisher complaining about somebody reviewing a book ... when the review is positive! Stupid. Though close, I still think the original use was fine because of the attribution. Personally, I would have told the publisher it is clearly "fair use", so take a hike, and picking on a grad student (probably one of their future customers, for Pete's sake!) is rather low.

Wiley can bite me (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886911)

I had a question about one of the Wiley journals we receive hard copy. We were supposed to be able to access the online version as well. I called Wiley to ask about it. Left a message. No reply. Repeat ten times over a couple of months. Never did get the information. Screw them.

Trial (1, Troll)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886921)

I would love to see this thing go to trial and watch the judge bitch-slap Wiley and their attorneys around for bringing what would be a frivilous lawsuit. They should, although I'm not completely certain, get slapped with attorney's fees as well as punative damages. What assholes.

Re:Trial (1)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18889733)

I really can't tell why this was modded troll. While certainly not eloquent, my comment was in response to this blatant abuse of the copyright system. The fair use doctrine is perhaps the most important aspect of copyright protection. Without it, we couldn't have peer review of scientific articles, book or movie reviews, or even have teachers give out handouts in schools.
Wiley, in trying to hide behind this sacred doctrine, was attempting to commit a most egregious act. It incited anger (much like RIAA but possibly worse) and well, if that was a troll, then mod me down.

This is why we need Open Access. (4, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886955)

I think the usage in question certainly falls under 'fair use.' It certainly fits into the norms in the scientific community. Even though the journals are part owners (or sometimes full owners) of the copyright of papers, it's very normal for scientists to email each other PDFs, post copies on their websites, reproduce graphs in presentations, and so on. This is not only considered "fair" but very much considered "necessary" to maintaining healthy progress in science.

Yet despite the fact that these allegations have little merit (ethical or even legal), they create a very real chilling effect that slows science and decreases the distribution of information. Add to that the fact that most of this published research is funded by tax-dollars through government grants, and it becomes positively infuriating that the very scientists who do all the work are not allowed to freely disseminate the results of that work to the people, who pay for it.

This is why we all need to support the push towards Open Access [] in scientific publishing. If you are a librarian, student, postdoc, academic or industrial scientist, you should be putting pressure on journals to open their content to the people who do the work and foot the bill. For instance, consider publishing in an open access journal (see list here [] ), or at least sign the petitions (US [] or Europe [] ). Also see a discussion here [] which lists a bunch of things (small and large) that you can do to promote open access [] .

fair use (2, Interesting)

OldChemist (978484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18886995)

As an amateur blogger, sometimes on scientific topics... I usually like to give a web reference when I quote from some article or post. Unfortunately, if you are quoting from a scientific journal or article where the material is not available without a subscription, this is not going to do anyone any good. So I usually quote the stuff and put in the caveat that the post is done in the belief that it is allowed by the doctrine of fair use. I've cautiously put in some graphics in an attempt to test the waters. So far, no one has called me on it. I don't know what I'd do if they did. (Probably cave..) But as others have commented there always seems to be some jerk out there who thinks that they can make a lot of money out of some fairly trivial and shortlived post on a blog. Makes you wonder. OC

Academic journals are generally a mess (5, Informative)

Gogl (125883) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887013)

As a budding academic the state of publications and intellectual property is quite depressing. This is a good writeup on it [] , pertinent excerpt:

I have an ingenious idea for a company. My company will be in the business of selling computer games. But, unlike other computer game companies, mine will never have to hire a single programmer, game designer, or graphic artist. Instead I'll simply find people who know how to make games, and ask them to donate their games to me. Naturally, anyone generous enough to donate a game will immediately relinquish all further rights to it. From then on, I alone will be the copyright-holder, distributor, and collector of royalties. This is not to say, however, that I'll provide no "value-added." My company will be the one that packages the games in 25-cent cardboard boxes, then resells the boxes for up to $300 apiece.

But why would developers donate their games to me? Because they'll need my seal of approval. I'll convince developers that, if a game isn't distributed by my company, then the game doesn't "count" -- indeed, barely even exists -- and all their labor on it has been in vain.

Admittedly, for the scheme to work, my seal of approval will have to mean something. So before putting it on a game, I'll first send the game out to a team of experts who will test it, debug it, and recommend changes. But will I pay the experts for that service? Not at all: as the final cherry atop my chutzpah sundae, I'll tell the experts that it's their professional duty to evaluate, test, and debug my games for free!

On reflection, perhaps no game developer would be gullible enough to fall for my scheme. I need a community that has a higher tolerance for the ridiculous -- a community that, even after my operation is unmasked, will study it and hold meetings, but not "rush to judgment" by dissociating itself from me. But who on Earth could possibly be so paralyzed by indecision, so averse to change, so immune to common sense?

I've got it: academics!

So yeah. Fair use in blogs is just the tip of the iceberg - the most egregious issue is that *we* are the ones who write, check, and prepare the documents, and then we have to pay again just to read them (and even if we don't pay directly you can be damned sure the libraries pass the costs down to us in the form of tuition and such).

Problem already resolved (3, Informative)

orion024 (694922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887037)

The problem seems to have already been resolved. tory_a_happy_resolution.php []

Way to go blog-o-sphere, for making your voice heard. Though, interestingly, they didn't state that it fell under fair use, but rather they "gave her permission" to use the figure and data. So, maybe only a half-win.

Copying is just sharing, right? (0)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887049)

What right does some corporation have to exploit for financial gain the materials that they are publishing? This is scientific research, probably paid for by tax dollars and therefore belongs to everyone. Just because some journal publishes it doesn't mean the actually have any rights to the material and can keep it away from others, does it?

Just like someone recording music - once it is in digital form it can be shared freely because they owner gave up their rights. You have to give up your rights to put it in digital form, right?

And certainly copying part of something is fair use, even when it is the important part. After all, it is purely subjective what the important part might be so any part should be fair use, even when it is a big part. Right?

Sure. Keep smoking that stuff and believing.

Standard Procedure (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887063)

The standard procedure in the scientific community is that it's fine to describe someone else's results, critique their study, and even make your own graphs and figures that demonstrate their results. The problem is scanning / copying pixel for pixel a copyrighted, published figure or table and then re-publishing it in your own outlet. A picture's worth a thousand words... reproducing a thousand words from someone else's work = plagiarism... Making your own picture to summarize their results isn't. Another way to put it is that the ideas from the tax-funded research are public property (with citation, of course), but the artwork isn't.

Re-using someone else's figures can be done (and frequently is), but you have to get permission from the publisher. Of course, whether a blog counts as re-publishing is another debate entirely... this usually applies to reproducing a figure in a different journal or a book. It's not just this publisher, though, for those who are calling for a boycott; they almost all have equivalent rules on figure and table re-publication.

Re:Standard Procedure (1)

Hits_B (711969) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887785)

Having dealt with journal publishing, here is how I handle things. Modify the figure. Then all you have to do is reference it by saying "modified from Jack and Jill (1969). Of course your modification should add something to the argument.

Re:Standard Procedure (1)

bflynn (992777) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890379)

Coincidentally, this is almost the same as copyright. Remember that you cannot copyright information, even information that you generate. You copyright the presentation of that information. So, a chart is copyright to the maker of the chart. If I scan the image and present it as fair use, it might be too much, especially if the chart is good and conveys a large amount of information. If I make a similar chart based on the exact same information, I hold the copyright. I suspect there is a good chance that if you used Excel or another commercial tool to generate a standard chart, you could not claim infringment if someone else fed the same data to the same tool to generate the same chart because there's no creativity involved. I don't see much in this article.

Re:Standard Procedure (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18891703)

"A picture's worth a thousand words... reproducing a thousand words from someone else's work = plagiarism..."

With attribution it isn't plagiarism. The work isn't being claimed as someone else's. It might still be copyright infringement, yes.

"Re-using someone else's figures can be done (and frequently is), but you have to get permission from the publisher."

That isn't necessarily the case. Yes, publishers will ordinarily require you to seek permission from the original publisher. This is routine practice. But I suspect that the great number of such examples probably qualify as "fair use" anyway, and the effort is therefore redundant. Publishers are being cautious, because they'd rather not be in the legal situation of having to use a "fair use" claim as a defense in a copyright infringement case, and if you are running a business, it is hard to argue with that approach. But their choice of extreme caution (get permission for everything) doesn't change where "fair use" actually is. It also doesn't mean other people have to accept the hassle of seeking permissions all the time if they think they are in the clear. Copyright does have limits.

The insidious part of this, even though they are only protecting their interests, is the way that publisher's persistently narrow interpretation of "fair use" erodes the ability to have scientific publications (or any scholarly publication) without many legal entanglements. That's one of the reasons why specific limits were placed on copyrights in the first place: to simplify and enable scholarly activity (among several other things). The stimulating effect of having copyright limits without significantly compromising the copyright holder's commercial value is seen everywhere that copyright applies. Employing an "always ask permission" doctrine obfuscates the fact that it often isn't necessary, and it simply slows down the process.

Heck, I've received stuff via interlibrary loan with the usual "warning: no further copies" boilerplate on it, warning me about the copyright that applies to the work, and that I'm only getting the copy because the relevant university library has paid a blanket license fee for copying, and if I want another copy I need to pay X dollars more. Excuse me, but the paper I requested was first published in the 1860s!!! Copyright is expired and it is public domain! So I tore off the warning. Even some librarians apparently don't understand copyright.

No, this stuff is out of hand, and publishers have tilted things much too far towards their interests while ignoring what the law actually says. It's time we take back "fair use" by actually using it. If I was this blogger, I would tell Wiley "Thank you very much for permission, but for future reference, can you please clarify whether or not you would still consider my use to fall under 'fair use' even if I had not sought or received permission from you?"

I'd really like to know the answer. Dropping it because they gave permission doesn't clarify the situation at all.

Re:Standard Procedure (1)

AP2005 (922788) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892423)

Mod parent up. This is the crux of the issue. Copying a figure "pixel for pixel" requires permission unlike quoting a few sentences which just requires a citation.

Re:Standard Procedure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18893765)

"tax-funded research are public property (with citation, of course), but the artwork isn't."

Since when is a graph artwork?

Are you suggesting that we should take the values, and create a new graph (exactly the same)?


Not so new (1)

Nutty_Irishman (729030) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887117)

The blog didn't reproduce, it directly (I assume screenshot, it has been subsequently removed) copied the source from the images. Since then she reconstructed the data from the source using her own graphs-- which (should) be perfectly fine. Most journals (not open access) require written permission (several weeks/months of waiting) to copy a figure from their paper. There are exceptions in some cases (e.g., if you are an author of the original work), but basically, you give up a lot of your rights to the material when you publish in a non open-access journal.

A brief read of the PLoS copyright [] compared to the present article's copyright Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture copyright [] really shows the difference between Open-access journals and others.

remove the chart (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887121)

It's an ugly Excel chart, he should just remove it if he hasn't a better looking one.

screwdrivers (0, Offtopic)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887157)

More importantly, does this mean I can keep drinking screwdrivers?

Not censorship (as tagged) (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887271)

Censorship is prior restraint. It's worse than taking legal action after the fact, because we don't get to judge the material for ourselves and support the author or its continued distribution if needed.

Mistakes (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887363)

It's a good thing none of us ever do anything wrong or overreact or have a bad day and snap at someone.

Seriously... in this case, it seems like it was one person, doesn't it? The company apparently retracted it and resolved it. But sometimes it seems people are so anti-corporation by default that if one solitary fallible human being makes a mistake or gets mad and takes it out on someone, the entire company is at fault and either we should boycott them or burn their publishing house down or something.

Because, afterall, every mistake that happens by anyone in any corporation is premeditated from the CEO down.

Not saying there aren't bad corporations out there (after all, they are run by people!), but perhaps we should be fair at times and not immediately assume the corporation is trying to ruin the entire world of scientific research. Hrm.

e0p!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18887527)

the proSje3t as a

This isn't fair use (2, Interesting)

Shohat (959481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18887779)

This is not about fair use or commentary/research - The blog is commercial, filled with ads and other goodies. Her blog post generates revenue, and is not just shown to a classroom for educational purposes. This isn't about scientific blogging.

Re:This isn't fair use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18888541)

Yeah, but I only read it for the articles (and the photos of the parrots)

business as usual (1)

spongebobsquarepants (588438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888071)

Quite honestly, the publisher's actions seem pretty normal. If I want to use one of my own figures/tables that I have previously published in a subsequent publication, I need to get the premission from the appropriate publisher. I've never been denied, but I also don't make any money off of my publications...usually, at least in the biological sciences, you have to pay some pretty steep page charges.

Lots of scientific journals need to be boycotted (2)

AxelBoldt (1490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18888983)

If you are about to publish a scientific paper, please read this call to action [] by the ever wonderful John Baez first and make your choice accordingly.

Re:Lots of scientific journals need to be boycotte (1)

call -151 (230520) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890135)

It's not just publishing- we should also refuse to referee articles for expensive journals. There is an excellent article in this month's American Mathematical Society Notices about the mass resignation of the Journal of Topology editorial board in protest of unfair pricing: here [] and there is a description of the Banff Protocol here [] .

The Banff Protocol:

We agree neither to submit to, referee for, nor participate in the operation of any journal that charges an excessively high per page subscription fee, as compared to the average of the 25 highest impact journals in pure mathematics**

Main point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18889717)

I think we're all missing the main point here, which is that the blogger is a babe.

Resolved? I don't think so. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890071)

The matter between Wiley and the blogger was resolved [] by the publisher ignominiously blaming the "junior member of staff" they had tasked with their dirty work. They admitted no fault and continue to push against fair use by demanding permission up front, not from the author but from themselves. The matter between Wiley and the wider world, therefore, remains open.

I would not recommend anything rude, but the publisher should hear that we are not slaves and do not want to live in a permission society. They will listen because they need us more than we need them.

Based on the many /. science bloopers I've seen .. (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18890115)

I would like to see more "correct use" before I start caring about "fair use" in scientific blogging :P.

To get blogged, publish in Open Access journals (1)

dnarepair (936270) | more than 7 years ago | (#18895887)

One side aspect of this story is that if you want the blogging world to pick up something about an article you are writing, it is best to publish it in an Open Access journal, preferably one using the Creative Commons license or something like that. I have found that papers I have published in PLoS Biology or other OA journals have a much stronger and longer life in the blogosphere than those in non OA journals. Note - I try to only publish in OA journals but sometimes am thwarted by coauthors.
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