Wednesday, April 25, 2007

John Wiley & Sons reaches for the hammer

Via Razib, I see that John Wiley & Sons is engaging in some heavy-handed (and dubious) copyright enforcement against a science blogger.

It seems that Wiley's Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture published some taxpayer-financed research showing that mixing alcohol (and some other less interesting substances) with fruit may improve its shelf life and antioxidant qualities. Shelley Batts, one of Seed's collection of bloggers, published a chart from the article in the original version of this post.

The result was this letter:

Re: Antioxidants in Berries Increased by Ethanol (but Are Daiquiris Healthy?) by Shelly Bats

The above article contains copyrighted material in the form of a table and graphs taken from a recently published paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. If these figures are not removed immediately, lawyers from John Wiley & Sons will contact you with further action.

I'm not really up on intellectual property law at all, let alone American copyright law, and I hesitate to opine as to what the law is (as opposed to what it would be if I had the dictatorial powers necessary to straighten things out.) But even if Wiley is within its legal rights, it should have to pay something in its reputation for this. The whole academic publications business survives on a business model of nothing but path dependence and inertia. To heck with them.

Update: Wiley has folded, blaming the misunderstanding on a junior staffer.

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