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Archive for October, 2008

Thomson Reuters Speaks

Posted in Technology on October 31st, 2008 by darcusb – 7 Comments

Following GMU’s release, Thomson Reuters has their own. In it, Thomson Reuters VP, Business Strategy and Development, Dave Kochalko claims:

Simply put, we strongly believe that the creators of Zotero have reverse engineered our software code which enables EndNote’s bibliographic formatting capability. These format files only exist as software code; there is no content or information independent of lines of code and these files can only be interpreted by the computer. A key value of EndNote is its ability to format a bibliography within a manuscript and the format files are integral to that capability. We have talented employees who have invested many years in building this resource for the EndNote community.

Notice the subtle legal/technical sleight of hand here: he says we strongly believe that the creators of Zotero have reverse engineered our software code, but he’s not actually referring to the application code itself, which is what one normally means when one refers to reverse-engineering of software. Rather, he is making the absolutely ridiculous claim that the style files themselves constitute “software” and thus that reverse-engineering the files constitutes reverse-engineering of the “Endnote software.”

Just to again bring up an analogy: this would be equivalent to Microsoft suing OpenOffice.org, Sun, and so forth for reverse-engineering Word when they reverse-engineered the Word file format. These are completely different technical and legal issues, but Dave wants to collapse them.

I cannot believe they actually make this claim in good faith; it seems more likely to me that they are attempting to confuse the issue so as to constrain competition in the marketplace, and it’s for this reason they are asking for a jury trial.

Note, also, that they claim that they have talented employees who have invested many years in building this resource for the EndNote community, but fail to note that their users have done much of the work on Endnote style files, and seem to have no problem at all implying that those users are violating the law if they want to use that work in other contexts.

I realize there’s already been some significant backlash against this suit, but maybe it’s time to start a formal “boycott Endnote” campaign to encourage individuals to migrate away from Endnote, and for institutions to drop their site licenses?

GMU Pushes Back

Posted in Technology on October 29th, 2008 by darcusb – Comments Off

Dan Cohen has a link to an official comment from GMU on the Thomson Reuters lawsuit, the most choice two sentences being:

CHNM announces that it has re-released the full functionality of Zotero 1.5 Sync Review to its users and the open source community. As part of its formal response to this legal action, Mason will also not renew its site license for EndNote.
So they’re not backing down from the belief that they are within their rights to release the functionality to read Endnote style files, and they’re dropping their site license in response to the heavy-handed lawsuit. Excellent!

Of course, this still isn’t anything but a stop gap solution until we manage to have better CSL creation and editing.

Thomson Reuters Believes They Own All Endnote Style Files??

Posted in Technology on October 23rd, 2008 by darcusb – 6 Comments

Along with Thomson Reuters’ lawsuit against GMU/Zotero, they’ve also sought to close down access to their style files. They have done this by slapping a terms of use agreement on their own online style archive. But, some Endnote users have asked, what does this mean for them sharing their styles?

We have an answer:

It has always been and continues to be our policy that licensed EndNote individual and institutional customers are free to customize and share style (.ens), database (.enl & .enlx), filter (.enf), and connection (.enz) EndNote files created using EndNote with other licensed EndNote users for use solely in conjunction with the Software.

Jason Rollins, EndNote Product Development

So, someone asks in reply, what does this really mean?

Just for clarification: would these limitations apply not only to files that were originally distributed by EndNote, but also to files that are created in EndNote from scratch? I can’t find anything in my current EULA that would limit my rights for such files and no other software I have seems to make these claims. If I write a paper in Word, Microsoft doesn’t limit my distribution rights of that file.

Answer, from Thomson Reuters’ alternative universe:

Just to be completely clear, it has never been possible to create an EndNote Bibliographic Output Style file (.ens) file “from scratch”. When one creates a new .ens file from within EndNote, this is actually a modification of a file template that contains thousands of characters of code that defines many default and essential characterics of the file and its interaction with other components of the overall EndNote application.

Wow; this is really breathtaking! I really can’t believe they actually want to claim that they own ALL Endnote style files and can constrain how they’re used! Nevermind that any file, of any format, is going to contain many default and essential characteristics of the file and its interaction with other components; it’s true of a Word template file, or some database, or whatever.

This is the most ridiculous IP claim I’ve seen in a long while. I hope some of the legal blogs that have been following this manage to pick this up and analyze it from a more formal legal perspective.

Measuring the Health of a Free Software Project

Posted in Technology on October 13th, 2008 by darcusb – 2 Comments

Michael Meeks offering another take on the health of the OpenOffice.org developer community, using an analysis of code contributions:

[T]he statistics show a picture of slow disengagement by Sun, combined with a spectacular lack of growth in the developer community. In a healthy project we would expect to see a large number of volunteer developers involved, in addition - we would expect to see a large number of peer companies contributing to the common code pool; we do not see this in OpenOffice.org. Indeed, quite the opposite we appear to have the lowest number of active developers on OO.o since records began: 24, this contrasts negatively with Linux’s recent low of 160+. Even spun in the most positive way, OO.o is at best stagnating from a development perspective.

More broadly:

A half-hearted open-source strategy (or execution) that is not truly ‘Open’ runs a real risk of capturing the perceived business negatives of Free software: that people can copy your product for free, without capturing many of the advantages: that people help you develop it, and in doing so build a fantastic support and services market you can dominate. It’s certainly possible to cruise along talking about all the marketing advantages of end-user communities, but in the end-game, without a focus on developers, and making OO.o truly fair and fun to contribute to - any amount of spin will not end up selling a dying horse.

Ouch.

Migration

Posted in Technology on October 10th, 2008 by darcusb – Comments Off

One of what I hope is just the beginning of institutional backlash against Thomson’s suit against GMU is that institutions’ decision to drop Endnote. As they announced:

With litigation pending between Thomson and Mason, we’re letting our campus site license for EndNote expire at the end of November. When it lapses, any copy of EndNote that was downloaded and installed under the terms of that license will have to be uninstalled and removed.

They’ve also setup a nice website for current Endnote users to help with their migration to Zotero.