Fair Use and Legal Intimidation in Science

Shelley Batts’s Retrospectacle neuroscience blog recently got hit with a legal threat from journal publisher Wiley for posting some graphs from a recently published article.

This request amounts to underhanded legal intimidation as using these graphs clearly falls under fair use. Shelley had clearly cited the source of the graph and accurately reported the results.

What might be their motivation for the legal threat? According to this comment by Shelley: “I think perhaps what the real issue here is that they were afraid I might bust their ‘press bubble.’ This study has been used as a justification for ‘fruity alcoholic drinks are health food’ and the spin was so ubiquitious throughout news venues it obviously was released that way. The real results do not support that conclusion.”
Many across the blogosphere have chimed in to support Shelley, and I’d like to be counted as one of them.

Science is about openness and sharing knowledge for the higher good of scientific progress. It’s perhaps telling that the legal threats included the parent company’s slogan “SCI – where science meets business”. They’re apparently too caught up in the business side of things, where legal threats for knowledge sharing are the norm.

Update: The disagreement with Wiley has been resolved.

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