February 19, 2013
When All Else Fails, Sue or Threaten to Take to Court the Publishing Industry Critic
In a recent post about the curious case of Edwin Mellen Press which alleges that Dale Askey committed libel (and McMaster University, vicarious libel) in a Canadian court, Mark Giangrande wrote "I can’t imagine a suit such as this making much progress in a U.S. court. Otherwise every bad book review ever written would be the subject of litigation" See Academic Librarian Sued For Dissing Publisher In A Blog Post on LLB. In Another informative item on the Edwin Mellen Affair (Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog) Chicago Law prof Brian Leiter comments that "Canadian libel law is a bit closer to the insane British model than I had realized, for example, in putting the onus on the defendant to establish the truth of the facts asserted and the reasonableness of his opinions."
Yesterday, Mark reported that the Canadian Center for Science and Education (CCSE) is threatening to file suit in a US court against Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and scholarly initiatives librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, over being included in Beall’s List: Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers based on his Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers (2nd edition). Both posted were published on Beall's Scholarly Open Access: Critical analysis of scholarly open-access publishing. Do note well the blog's subtitle.
Both Askey and Beall were practicing critical analysis grounded in their professional expertise. Perhaps if the posts had been written by someone who was not a librarian, neither publisher would have given either post a second thought.
On Feb. 14, 2013, ARL and CARL issued a joint statement in support of Dale Askey and McMaster University.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) share a commitment to freedom of opinion and expression of ideas and are strongly opposed to any effort to intimidate individuals in order to suppress information or censor ideas. We further share the belief that a librarian must be able to offer his or her assessment of a publisher’s products or practices free from such intimidation.
“No academic librarian, research library, or university should face a multi-million dollar lawsuit because of a candid discussion of the publications or practices of an academic publisher,” said Brent Roe, Executive Director of CARL. “The exaggerated action of Edwin Mellen Press could only impose a chill on academic and research librarians’ expression of frank professional judgments.”
I haven't checked to see if ARL-CARL has issued a similar statement of support for Jeffrey Beall but it wouldn't take much text editing to do so.
If Askey had published a post along the lines of "the 2012 winner of best new title in academic publishing is X which was brought to market by Edwin Mellen Press" and/or Beall had posted "the best scholarly open-access publisher in 2012 was CCSE," the only people who might be questioning their street creds would be other librarians. I seriously doubt questioning librarians would sue the blog authors for injury to their and their profession's reputation. Differences in frank professional judgements based on the rigor of critical reasoning abound inside and outside the library community.
Apparently there are two publishers who fail to understand this. Alternatively, their lawyers fail to understand that not all publicity is "good." Think of the legal publisher community's private WTF reactions to the Land of 10,000 Invoices cocoon which resulting in the myopic arrogance of TR Legal washing its dirty laundry in the public forum known as Rudovsky. Question our editorial updating practices! Well, yes. And then there was the opps known as Whatever Happened To The Rudovsky Case? In the context of CCSE's lawsuit threat, Mark writes "I think this may be another be careful what you ask for situation." Yup.
End note. But for lawsuits, filed or threatened, I would not have been aware of either Askey or Beall's blogs. Of particular interest to me is monitoring dubious practices in the scholarly OA publishing industry. Taking the RSS feed for Beall's Scholarly Open Access: Critical analysis of scholarly open-access publishing is highly recommended because I don't know any librarian who is doing as good of a job as he is by thinking out loud in the librarian blogosphere about the sometimes too-good-to-be-true claims of OA publishing. For example, just read the following two posts:
Publisher Charges Authors for Retractions ("I am involved in a case of duplicate publishing — as the person who discovered and reported it to Springer, who published it the second time. I have been copied on many emails being sent among the authors, the editors, and Springer.") and
New Publisher Fakes Association with Reed Elsevier (If you want a really good example of a predatory publisher, have a look at KnowledgesPublisher. This brand-new publisher uses lies and deception to make itself look legitimate. The journal has a large logo on the left side of the page that says, “2012 Impact Factor 0.315!” The problem is that the 2012 impact factors have not been published yet and won’t be until summer. At the bottom of the page, the site has this statement, “Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.” This is deception; the journal is trying to associate itself with Elsevier. In fact there is no connection. (Emphasis in the orginal))
Just an FYI a group of librarians will be meeting on Twitter to discuss this issue Thursday 2/21 at 9pm est. They will be using the hashtag #medlibs. The discussion is open to all who are interested, please feel free to join in or forward this information to others who are interested. -Thanks
Posted by: Michelle | Feb 21, 2013 2:00:47 PM