Every time a traditional publisher puts their foot in it, an angel gets its wings.

Zuska alerted me to Shelley’s recent run-in with Wiley, one of the big 7 — or is it 6 now? — science/tech/med publishers. Shelley reviewed a recent article in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (no link — what would be the point, they won’t let you read most of it), and in doing so reproduced a chart and one panel from one of more than 10 figures. Rather than see this as fair use and damn good publicity, Wiley sent a nastygram:

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.
Editorial Assistant
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Society of Chemical Industry
14-15 Belgrave Square
London UK
T: [redacted]
F: [redacted]
E: [redacted]
W: www.soci.org
SCI – where science meets business
Register with Wiley Interscience to sign up for free contents alerts to SCI journals (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, Pest Management Science and Polymer International) by email. Visit http://www.interscience.wiley .com/alerts

Note that the flack doesn’t even bother to spell Shelley’s name properly; and can you believe that marketing boilerplate bullshit at the bottom there?
Shelley got around this hassle by re-creating the necessary figures for herself, but as she rightly notes, the point of science publishing is to disseminate information, not to threaten grad students who happen to be interested in a particular paper. Except that for Wiley, the point is profit, and apparently you do make that by threatening grad students. (Cue more flacks in my comments squealing about how Wiley is “your partner in research” or somesuch. Save your breath, weasels.)
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re a researcher, publish only in Open Access journals whenever possible, and if you absolutely have to publish with a toll-access journal then use an Author Addendum to retain copyright in your paper and in your data and deposit your article in an OA repository just as fast as you can find one to take it. Until the research community stands up and says “enough”, we will continue to be held hostage in this fashion by greedy, oversized corporations — but the good news is, we need only reach out and take that power back. In the Gutenberg era, publishers had leverage; in the Google age, they have none.
If this kerfluffle is the first you’ve heard of, or really thought about, Open Access publishing, please read Peter Suber’s brief introduction or more detailed overview. If you have serious stamina/interest/masochistic tendencies, you could also read my 3QuarksDaily series on Open Access/Open Science (part 1, part2, part 3).
Update: Shelley got a pretty standard-issue non-apology apology from further up the foodchain, and (having neither the time nor the money to waste on pursuing this further) is content to let it rest there. So, Shelley now has permission to reproduce the figures in question and no threat of attack lawyers, and Wiley has a public black eye; seems about right to me. Per Shelley’s request, and because apparently some of the letters she received were less than polite, I’ve redacted the original flack’s name and contact details above. (Obdisclosure: I wrote, but I was polite — although I included a link to this entry, which isn’t.)

One thought on “Every time a traditional publisher puts their foot in it, an angel gets its wings.

  1. What a great motivating example to switch to OA. Although I always asked for permission when reprinting figures and charts, I never understood why that wasn’t considered fair use. But, as you said, just from a business standpoint, this is simply a dumb move on the part of the publisher – you can’t buy this kind of free advertising!

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