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Thomson Reuters Sues Over Open-Source Endnote-Alike Zotero 181

Posted by timothy
from the gmu-also-home-of-econtalk dept.
Noksagt writes "Thomson Reuters, the owner of the Endnote reference management software, has filed a $10 million lawsuit and a request for injunction against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia's George Mason University develops Zotero, a free and open source plugin to Mozilla Firefox that researchers may use to manage citations. Thomson alleges that GMU's Center for History and New Media reverse engineered Endnote and that the beta version of Zotero can convert (in violation of the Endnote EULA) the proprietary style files that are used by Endnote to format citations into the open CSL file format."
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Thomson Reuters Sues Over Open-Source Endnote-Alike Zotero

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  • by Noksagt (69097) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @05:52PM (#25180331) Homepage

    I hoped that I kept the article summary relatively free of my personal opinion, which I will indulge in this comment:

    Thomson Reuters has too many asshats.

    Let us set aside the fact that academic software and those who develop academic software should embrace interoperability and knowledge sharing.

    I'll even set aside that, despite the (rewritten) title, Zotero has many fundamental differences from EndNote.

    The complaint is, in the words of Bruce D'Arcus, [muohio.edu] "a nuisance lawsuit designed to intimidate." Zotero's style repository [zotero.org] contains no EndNote .ens styles and seems to contain no styles derived from those styles. CSL styles are created manually [zotero.org] and through an online style creator [somwhere.org]. There is no way to get a new CSL style from an .ens file--the Zotero beta had mapped fields internally to allow .ens files to be used independently of CSL (but even this feature has been disabled in the trunk). Zotero thought about copyright issues surrounding this feature [zotero.org] and came to the right decision--not to distribute .ens files or .csl files derived from .ens files, but to retain the feature to work with user-provided .ens files (similar to the way OpenOffice.org can open and save MS Office files).

    I have decided not to purchase EndNote and I am asking my employer to do the same, unless the suit is dropped. I intend to donate at least as much as an EndNote license costs to George Mason University [gmufoundation.org], the Software Freedom Law Center [softwarefreedom.org], the Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org] or any other applicable entity that both defends Zotero in this case and solicits donations. (I don't know any organization who has stepped in on this case yet, but I imagine that one of these organizations can provide some sort of legal support in the future.)

    I encourage you to stop purchasing Thomson products too. There are plenty of reference managers [wikipedia.org] for all platforms (some proprietary, some free/open source) that you can choose instead, not the least of which is Zotero [zotero.org].

    Disclaimer: I am a developer of refbase [sourceforge.net], a free and open source reference manager that might be seen to compete with Thomson Reuters's EndNoteWeb. I have and continue to use many reference managers. While I have many technical complaints about the EndNote products, they aren't the worst technical products. Thomson may be the worst socially, though--in addition to inane and baseless lawsuits, they are very slow to respond to general feedback.

    • by Unending (1164935) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @05:59PM (#25180365)

      Thank you for doing your commenting this way, I hope that more story submitters will try to do the same thing in the future.

      • by moosesocks (264553) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:15PM (#25181249) Homepage

        Of course, the developer of a reference manager would be the type to take the time to adequately explain his argument, and fully annotate his sources :-)

      • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @09:15PM (#25181533)

        It would be easier for more story submitters to do the same thing in future if comments carried over from submissions to stories, and if you had a reasonable chance to review what the Slashdot editors did to your summary before it went live, or if you even knew in how many hours it might actually go live once it's modded up into a story.

    • by Elektroschock (659467) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:01PM (#25180383)

      Is it possible in the US to use an EULA to prevent third parties to read your proprietary formats?

      Do you think the legislator should better enforce interoperability provisions?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > Is it possible in the US to use an EULA to prevent third parties to read your
        > proprietary formats?

        It's not clear what you are asking. Someone who is not a party to a contract is not bound by the terms of that contract. Reuters is claiming that GMU entered into a contract with them as one of the conditions under which Reuters sold GMU copies of Endnotes and then breached that contract. No third parties are involved.

        > Do you think the legislator should better enforce interoperability provisions

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:00PM (#25181157)

        Is it possible in the US to use an EULA to prevent third parties to read your proprietary formats?

        Do you think the legislator should better enforce interoperability provisions?

        First off EULA's are not enforceable.

        Second even if they were their nature makes them useless in this case, even if the program had been reverse engineered to gain information from it the programmers doing said reverse engineering clearly are not the end user for the product, and since they can reverse engineer the program with out installing it its likely they never even saw the EULA, let alone actually agreed to it.

        Thrid, and most importantly copyright law has specific exceptions for format shifting, and interoperability. Even if its massively abused to do so copyright was never intended to restrict a market.

        So while I can think of laws that say this activity is allowed I can't think of any that would forbid it, I don't think their suit has a leg to stand on.

        This case's only hope is the DMCA, its got some pretty ridiculous restrictions of what can be done to software, and while I don't think it applies here I am however not a lawyer.

        Ok what the hell, is the captcha system context sensitive? my word was 'infringe'. Thats just spooky.

        • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @11:08PM (#25182123)

          First off EULA's are not enforceable.

          Sorry; I wish this were true, but it's not. EULAs have been found firmly to be enforceable by the courts.

          But enforceability of the EULA is a question that may arise in this case. And the question of enforceability of EULA may depend on which court the case is heard it. No court has made a ruling that says EULAs are generally enforceable are not.

          Some courts have found that certain EULAs were enforceable in certain circumstances, others have found that certain EULAs were not enforceable, so there is still some hope that sanity may set in with the courts and the legislatures.

          Additionally the laws vary from state to state; some states have passed UCITA, and EULAs are more likely to be found enforceable there.

          EULAs are a matter of contract law which is a decision of the states; so it is very possible that such an agreement may be completely legal, valid and enforceable in some states, whereas other states specifically prohibit or do not give EULAs much weight in court (favoring protection of the general public's liberty instead of the corporation's privilege to restrict).

          See Blizzard vs BNETD [eff.org]

          At issue in this case was whether three software programmers who created the BnetD game server -- which interoperates with Blizzard video games online -- were in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Blizzard Games' end user license agreement (EULA).

          The court issued summary judgement in Blizzard's favor, on the matter of the EULA, they found it enforceable, and that the authors of BNETD had violated it.

          • by Repossessed (1117929) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @02:26AM (#25182773)

            How exactly can an EULA be enforced against someone who doesn't own the software though? The makers of Zotero have no need to own Thompson Rueter's software. Nor is it necessary to have ever used the proprietary software in order to need to open the files. Even if you did once own TR's software, I don't know of any precedent that says you can be held to an EULA of a product you once used but no longer do (A non disclosure agreement type clause might be enforceable this way). And I somehow doubt TR can make a case that a significant portion of Zotero's users use both the TR software and Zotero, the reason to get Zotero is to stop using something else. (This differs from the BNETD case, where a user of BNETD must also have Blizzard software). In this specific case, the EULA seems unenforceable top to bottom.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by mysidia (191772)

              How exactly can an EULA be enforced against someone who doesn't own the software though?

              Because the University that developed and funded development of the open source software does own some copies of the proprietary software subject to EULA, presumably because they had some researchers/professors buy it at the University's expense.

              If they were subject to the terms of the EULA it doesn't matter whether they still use the software or not; only whether or not they agreed to the contract and installed th

              • by jabuzz (182671)

                Most Universities (at least here in the UK) have a site license that covers unlimited installations of the software.

                However Thompson's the owner of EndNote and Reference Manager the main products in this market, are a bunch of assholes.

                Try using EndNote on a multi user machine. I make my own reference style, where do I save it. Of course not under c:\Program Files\Endnote with all the default reference styles because that would be silly, and of course my friendly administrator has prohibited normal users w

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Teancum (67324)

              This is where you have to have "virgin" developers working on the software that is being developed. In other words, the software can only be developed based on specifications and not on actually observing the software in operation... or worse yet reading the de-compiled/disassembled software (and even worse still, proprietary source code) that made the product.

              I do think EULA's that insist upon a "no reverse engineering" clause ought to be found illegal... and on that point I don't know of any firm legal p

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by feijai (898706)

          First off EULA's are not enforceable.

          They are in Virginia, one of two states to enact UCITA.

          Guess which state George Mason University is a state school of.

    • by dnoyeb (547705) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:03PM (#25180397) Homepage Journal

      I was under the impression reverse engineering was not illegal. So why the reverse engineering claim as if this is a legal issue?

      • by InspectorxGadget (1230170) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:14PM (#25180461)
        Reverse engineering may be prohibited by a license agreement even though it is not protected by the protection generally afforded to trade secrets in the US, where reverse engineering is usually permissible. With that said, though, an interesting but minor issue that popped up in one of the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Bunner cases is the burden of proof that reverse engineering has actually been carried out by the defendant. In that case, the DVDCCA not only couldn't prove that Bunner (an online distributor of DVDJon's DVDDeCSS) had reverse engineered the software - required to prove the violation of the particular software's EULA - but also couldn't definitively establish that reverse engineering had even occurred. So even if someone reverse engineered Endnote - a fact that can probably be proven by analyzing the source code of Zotero's format convertor - Thomson-Reuters will still have to prove that a Zotero author or distributor subject to the EULA did so.
        • by Eil (82413)

          Reverse engineering may be prohibited by a license agreement even though it is not protected by the protection generally afforded to trade secrets in the US, where reverse engineering is usually permissible. With that said, though, an interesting but minor issue that popped up in one of the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Bunner cases is the burden of proof that reverse engineering has actually been carried out by the defendant.

          Bear in mind that in the U.S., there is one area where reverse-engineering

        • Remember the Goal (Score:3, Insightful)

          by YetAnotherBob (988800)

          The goal of this type of lawsuit isn't to win, it is to cause financial pain to the developer, in order to kill the competitor. The filer doesn't even care that its' lawsuit fails.

          As long as the legal system provides no real dis-incentives (IE real damages beyond mere legal fees) to the filers, this is seen as just a way of increasing market share by reducing the market.

          Unfortunately, it is a very common practice in the US against new or small companies. A lot of non-profits and Universities will drop all s

    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:12PM (#25180457) Homepage

      weren't there a bunch of alternative PDF readers long before Adobe made PDF an open format? and same with many disc image applications and proprietary file formats, non-Microsoft word processors and Word documents, Samba's interoperability with NetBIOS, etc.

      this seems like a blatant attempt by a proprietary software vendor to lock Universities and other academic institutions into their software. even if Zotero does allow users to convert from EndNote's style format to other formats, there's nothing inherently illegal about that. if users wants to import their custom styles from EndNote to Zotero, then that's their right.

      this is like suing filesystem developers because they include a copy feature in their software that allows users to potentially make illegal copies of files.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by John Hasler (414242)

        > even if Zotero does allow users to convert from EndNote's style format to other formats,
        > there's nothing inherently illegal about that.

        Reuters is not claiming (at least in the initial complaint) that there is. They are claiming that the defendants contracted not to reverse-engineer Endnotes and then did so, breaching the contract.

        > this is like suing filesystem developers because they include a copy feature in their
        > software that allows users to potentially make illegal copies of files.

        No i

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DECS (891519)

        There are a lot of things that are "not inherently illegal" that become the basis of a civil suit after one enters an agreement not to do it. That's what this case is about, so you can stop shaking the strawman of your populist idealism.

        Additionally, there are plenty of workalike compatibility tools and or independent implementations of a proprietary standard that exist, but could easily be assailed, probably successfully, by patent attacks.

        Microsoft could probably easily shut down Samba if it decided it wa

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          "There are a lot of things that are "not inherently illegal" that become the basis of a civil suit after one enters an agreement not to do it."

          This is one of the areas the people espousing the abolishment of patent and copyright laws miss. Patents and copyrights are not the only means that can be used to protect intelelctual property; trade secret and contract law also provide many opportunities to control the flow of information. In general these mechanisms are far worse for the society that relies on them

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @07:16PM (#25180867)

        No. PDF has always been well, if not fully, documented.
        Somewhere in a box I still have a copy of the first PDF reference manual (along with the postscript red, green and blue books) from back around 1993.

        • ah, i didn't realize that. i wonder why they took so long to submit PDF as an open standard (ISO 32000-1:2008).

          but the question remains, can a EULA be used to lock users/organizations into a particular company's products? i mean, if George Mason University isn't allowed to export their custom-created styles from Endnote, then couldn't a word processor's EULA forbid users from converting/reading their proprietary file format with another editor? and same with image editors. so anything you create with a part

          • by Cochonou (576531)
            ah, i didn't realize that. i wonder why they took so long to submit PDF as an open standard (ISO 32000-1:2008).

            This is probably because they didn't want to relinquish the control of the PDF format until it was well developed. Or because they didn't see any benefit of submitting a format already well documented to a standardization organisation before governments expressed their preference to properly standardized formats.
            • Or because PDF is such a monumental clusterfuck it took 15 years to understand it and describe it in an even marginally comprehensible form.

              Actually, I'm being unfair - it didn't take quite that long. It was just that by the time they'd done it somebody had embedded a flash player, web server and email client in it so they had to start again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pjrc (134994)

        weren't there a bunch of alternative PDF readers long before Adobe made PDF an open format?

        Adobe from the very beginning of PDF claimed it was an open and fully documented format.

        I believe the very first open source PDF reader was "xpdf" created by Derek Noonburg. I used it for years before Adobe finally released their own, and I still use it today because it is much faster and simpler.

        For years there was quite a bit of tension between Derek and Adobe. His xpdf viewer, at one time, would display messages asking people to contact Adobe and make good on their claim that the PDF format was tr

    • by RisingSon (107571) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:02PM (#25181165)

      Thomson Reuters has too many asshats.

      Agreed! I dealt with them for almost a decade. I was a Bridge customer, bought by Reuters maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I also used lots of Thompson data and have colleagues who have had their companies purchased and ruined by Thompson as they so often do. I must say that a high percentage of folk I've had the pleasure to work closely with in this uber conglomerate are, in fact, asshats. Its appalling what they want to charge for data and services and their contract agreements are only second worst to Bloomberg. I've barked at their mismanagement and have actually received personal apologies from the then only Reuters senior executives. It ain't pretty.

      Its not surprising this buy-the-competition-worry-about-merging-later abomination is looking for $$ now that the economy and pending regulation changes are destroying a solid chunk of the Thompson Reuters customer base. Look for them in the news again shortly.

    • by Geste (527302) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:35PM (#25181361)

      "There are plenty of reference managers for all platforms"

      True. But I see lots of folks at my university who are addicted to EndNote's buggy "Cite While You Write" functions that provide MS-Word integration. RefWorks has an analogous "Write while you cite" function, but still lots of people have accumulated libraries in EndNote and still have a love/hate addiction to CWYW.

      To make it worse, he negatives of this situation are not limited to EndNote but extend to Thomson-ISI's intent to maintain vertical lock-in. Our library provides ISI Web of Science on-line, but when you look at the licensing terms real hard it's abominable -- yes you can access these citations but don't think about really *using* them in any meaningful way (like citing them on your Web page). It's draconian.

      So it feels like getting past EndNote to a more open alternative will require freeing up all elements of the stack to include citation repositories. I ask in earnest: is there an alternative vision for these? A combination of repositories, APIs and tools that would delivery a "free" citation/bib system from top to bottom?

      • by Noksagt (69097)

        True. But I see lots of folks at my university who are addicted to EndNote's buggy "Cite While You Write" functions that provide MS-Word integration. RefWorks has an analogous "Write while you cite" function, but still lots of people have accumulated libraries in EndNote and still have a love/hate addiction to CWYW.A lot of products provide "cite while you write"-like functionality. Zotero has CWYW-like functionality that can round-trip between MS Word and OO.o Writer. Bibus, another free/open source refe

      • by darkwhite (139802)

        It may be a little buggy, but Endnote's CWYW for Word 2007 (in combination with Word 2007's excellent UI and reduced quirkiness compared to 2003) is really the best way to write articles I know of. And yes, I use latex with bibtex with citeulike as well.

        To answer your question, I don't know much about new citation formats (there are way too many already), but the best alternative I've seen is direct BibTeX import from CiteULike or another online database.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pembo13 (770295)
      This (above) is the reference example to be used for postings.
    • by Kazymyr (190114)

      Seems to me they have indeed too many asshats.

      Reading through the Zotero docs, the procedure for importing data from Endnote involves exporting the database from within Endnote as text, then importing the text in Zotero. The last time I looked, Thomson Reuters did not hold the patent for text files.

  • by One Louder (595430) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:05PM (#25180417)
    Having read the complaint, it doesn't look like Thomson has much in the way of a case - this probably won't get very far.

    They're basically relying on license language that prohibits the reverse-engineering of the program itself - but there's nothing there that prohibits reverse engineering of the file format that it uses.

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:15PM (#25180469) Homepage

      It should also be noted that as Reuters is claiming only breach of contract this suit will not prevent anyone not affiliated with the defendants from distributing and/or using the software. The project can continue if anyone is interested in continuing it even if GMU loses or gives up. I hope lots of people have downloaded the source.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:45PM (#25180663) Journal

      More to the point, any file created by a user is inherently the sole property of the user. The only way contract terms prohibiting reverse engineering of file formats would hold up would be if the terms explicitly prohibited giving the file to anyone who is not bound by the contract.

      In the absence of such a clause, as soon as that file leaves your hands into the hands of someone who did not agree to the contract terms, any rights the company has to protect their file format cease to be relevant or enforceable (with the exception of patents).

      In the presence of such a clause, you're going to have a hard time selling your application to anyone with half a brain, and such a clause would almost certainly be thrown out as unconscionable because of the unreasonable burden it would place on the user to verify the license of someone else before giving that person data that the user legitimately created and on which the user holds exclusive copyright.

      Either way, file formats effectively cannot be protected from reverse engineering. As such, this company would have to somehow prove that it was impossible to reverse engineer the file format without reverse engineering the app itself. Speaking as somebody who has reverse engineered file formats before, I can say that any such statement could not possibly be made by an intelligent person without it being perjury....

      So there you go. This suit is frivolous, and I hope the company has to pay a few million in restitution for pain and suffering to the victims of the suit. Such IP fraud deserves nothing less than a huge in-court bitch slap. This is precisely the sort of case that makes me opposed to every aspect of the Pro-IP act.... Yet another case of copyright abuse by a corporation to harm consumers and illegally stifle competition from smaller players.... *sigh*

      • by KGIII (973947) *

        Err... It's all well and good to rant about copyright but what the hell does copyright have to do with the story at hand?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lost Engineer (459920)

        Don't assume they did this in a clean room fashion. If the engineers did in fact agree to a EULA that said no reverse engineering and then did some reverse engineering, the plaintiff has a case. However, the only possible ruling could be that, in violation of the EULA these users or maybe the whole institution lost right to run the software. If anyone there was still running the software I can see a case for monetary damages.

        A long history of non-enforcement has let horrendously one-sided EULAs slip unde

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          Much as one would hope we would demand better legislators and better laws after all the draconian things that have been passed in the last few years. Doesn't make it likely. Until it bites them directly, most businesses can't be bothered to care about details like draconian EULA restrictions.... They have more important things to worry about... like lobbying to protect their offshore bank accounts from taxation. :-D

  • Same old story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benntop (449447) <craigo@gm a i l.com> on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:11PM (#25180449) Homepage Journal

    EndNote does one thing [citation management] well. The problem is that citation management isn't a difficult thing to accomplish in software. You get some information in one format, store it however you want, and then spit it out according to another format when you are done.

    I am sure that EndNote is a cash cow for Thompson, but the gravy train can't last forever. Other free (Zotero) and non-free (Papers) alternatives are becoming increasingly available - and they are far better than EndNote. Suing the competition won't make that problem go away.

    • by Sancho (17056) * on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:25PM (#25180545) Homepage

      EndNote does one thing [citation management] well.

      [citation needed]

    • by hweimer (709734)

      EndNote does one thing [citation management] well. The problem is that citation management isn't a difficult thing to accomplish in software.

      Absolutely true. Pybliographer [osreviews.net] has been available for years, so there is hardly a need for proprietary reference management software.

  • Damages? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by enHatt (1283014)
    The only ones using Endnote are already connected to a university or the likes which are going to pay for bulk licenses anyway. I could have gotten one without paying where I studied, but I don't use Microsoft Word, nor IE, so it's kind of a moot point. Are they afraid that most academics are going to switch to OpenOffice, Firefox and Zotero? If they are, they should relax: That's not happening for at least 10 years.
    • I've only occasionally come across Endnote - I think the ACM digital library has them as an optional download format for references - but in the computer science community BibTeX is pretty ubiquitous so I've never really looked at Endnote. How does it compare to BibTeX, which is around 20 years old and still seems capable of concisely expressing all of the references I've needed?
  • by edremy (36408) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:20PM (#25180513) Journal
    I guess I'll start strongly discouraging Endnote usage by all my faculty. The library already makes Refworks available and I've been using Zotero for my class this fall and love it. Endnote is expensive and since we have a pile of individual copies of varying vintage purchased through the years it's annoying to deal with anyway.

    Time to talk to the reference librarians again about scheduling some more faculty training with them...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wanax (46819)

      I totally agree in general. I've been very impressed with Zotero, and have found it adequate for basic academic needs. My main issue with it is that there's no method of syncing or consolidating and index or database between multiple comps. Since I do all my writing on my Mac laptop, I've moved over to http://mekentosj.com/papers/ [mekentosj.com] which I've found to be exactly what I'm looking for.. It has the database feature, easy complex searches like Endnote, and costs ~$26 for students, ~$50 for others. But if you don

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by kipton (135584)

        My main issue with it is that there's no method of syncing or consolidating and index or database between multiple comps.

        There is a Zotero beta available which does provide synchronization support (its called 1.5 sync preview, available here http://www.zotero.org/documentation/sync_preview [zotero.org].)

        For those not familiar, let me give a short advertisement for Zotero. I'm a Mac user, and I recently switched from Safari to Firefox just for Zotero. Zotero makes it possible to add a citation entry to my library with one click in Firefox. Another nice feature is Zotero's ability to determine citation information for loose PDF's. And did I

  • by thephydes (727739) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:24PM (#25180535)
    probably the same as many other users. Nothing like some free advertising. I've downloaded it and will probably start using it. And yes I usually use endnote.
    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      probably the same as many other users. Nothing like some free advertising. I've downloaded it and will probably start using it

      Ditto for me. I hadn't heard of this before but it looks like it would be worth a try. If it works out well I will be encouraging the other faculty to take it for a trial run.

    • (To the theme of Obmoz.com. the quadratic parody of Zombo.com)
      We are suing people involved with *open source Zotero*.
      Never use Zotero. Zotero is bad. Yopu might think of using Zotero, but then we might sue you. Be afraid of Zotero! What was that program you were supposed to avoid again? Oh Yes. Zotero. That's right, make sure you remember to avoid *Zotero*.

      (Citations, managed without paying the lawsuit aggressors.)

      1. Zombo.com. Presumably a parody of empty DotBomb pseudocompanies, and possibly FeelGood mana

  • by base3 (539820) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:39PM (#25180619)
    . . . remove the "[zotero.org]" /. inserts first:

    Never know what idiotic (or corrupt) judge might grant a preliminary injunction forcing them to remove the source.

  • by dtaciuch (229229) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:42PM (#25180637) Homepage

    I teach at GMU (English); the library here has links to both Zotero and Endnote (with a site license for the latter. I wonder how much that cost?).

    I plan to ask the library to drop the license for Endnote; why pay them to sue us?

    I encourage my research writing classes to use Zotero anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:25PM (#25181297)

      Posting anonymously as I work within GMU (and don't have job protections that parent probably has).

      If software is managed campus-wide, then there's no need to bother the library. As far as I've heard (e-mail on the 25th), the entire university is dropping the EndNote site license as of Nov. 16. (Obviously, the injunction could have an impact on that.)

      We've been warned that EndNote is so tightly integrated with Microsoft Word and the rest of our base PC software load that there may be undesirable side effects when the license expires on November 16 -- it's too late to redo the image, so EndNote will have to stay installed but nonfunctional until the Spring image is pushed in January. I've only had a handful of students ask about using EndNote (to be fair to Zotero, I didn't even know about the software until we got notice that it would replace EndNote) and I've never come across a faculty member using it as part of a class.

      I was surprised by the announcement of the switch, since Zotero is FOSS. Quite frankly, the university spends money where it doesn't need to, and cuts corners where it shouldn't, which usually results in backpedaling, costing students and taxpayers. But maybe someone at GMU has figured out that trading expensive site-licensed software for comparable free software is a better alternative than cutting student services and operating hours in light of the recent statewide budget crunch.

  • by jacquesm (154384) <j@SLACKWAREww.com minus distro> on Saturday September 27, 2008 @06:51PM (#25180711) Homepage

    Really, what better way to make end users aware of the risks involved when they're using proprietary file formats?

    Sue your own customers because they try to break the lock in? Great plan!

    I'm sure that 'Thomas Reuters' will see their business go through the roof after this :)

    • Re:fantastic news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gronofer (838299) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @09:17PM (#25181551)

      Really, what better way to make end users aware of the risks involved when they're using proprietary file formats?

      Sue your own customers because they try to break the lock in? Great plan!

      I'm sure that 'Thomas Reuters' will see their business go through the roof after this :)

      What better way to make anybody, large organization or individual, aware of the risk of open source software development? Why allow resources to be used, perhaps when it's hard to even measure the financial return, when you are opening yourself up to the possibility of multi-million dollar lawsuits, with all of the wasted management time and legal costs that will be incurred even if you fight and win?

      Just saying, I think the legal system as it relates to software is completely broken.

      • by jacquesm (154384)

        unfortunately your point is very valid, it's just that in this particular case the message seems to be don't start developing an open source product without checking the license of the products you own that you plan on replacing

        everybody else is free to do so anyway (maybe not as motivated though).

  • why a jury trial? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:04PM (#25181187) Homepage

    I wonder why Thomson is demanding a jury trial in a technical case like this. Surely they don't expect a company like theirs to come off as a particularly sympathetic victim. Juries tend to find cases like this confusing. I would think that I would prefer trial before a judge. Or is the idea that their case is so bad their only hope is to confuse a jury?

    • The point is to confuse a jury. Think about their case: they are claiming that an EULA which prevents reverse engineering the software was violated, but the case centers around reverse engineering their file format. The only possible way to win such a case is to confuse the people deciding it, and confusing a judge isn't as easy as confusing a jury (a judge has a certain level of education, whereas a jury isn't required to have any education at all). I can imagine their case already: keep shouting pres
  • Endnote should die (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigbigbison (104532) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:12PM (#25181229) Homepage
    Some colleagues keep suggesting that I use Endnote to keep track of my citations and so every year or two I give it a try. Even though they seem to update it every year it is still one of the worst programs I've ever used. It is unintuitive, offers no real error messages so you can't tell if it is working or not, and its method of inputting citations by hand is frustrating and confusing.

    I've only tried Zotero once shortly after it came out but hopefully it will survive this lawsuit and last long after Endnote is long forgotten...
    • Virtually all citation management software is difficult to deal with. To be honest, I find it more intuitive to just enter the citations manually into the OpenOffice.org bibliography database than to use any of the tools currently out there. Some people swear by EndNote, but I can't deal with it.
  • Can you say... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kalten (20368) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:18PM (#25181261)

    ...f***ing hypocrites?

    Thomson alleges that GMU's Center for History and New Media reverse engineered Endnote and that the beta version of Zotero can convert (in violation of the Endnote EULA) the proprietary style files that are used by Endnote to format citations into the open CSL file format.

    Thomson Reuters has a major division that develops tax and accounting software. The important thing to know about the tax and accounting software market is that it's saturated. Every accountant who wants software has it. If you want customers, you've got two choices: either get new accountants just coming into the market (which is balanced out by accountants retiring or otherwise leaving the market), or take them from your competitors.

    And how do you take customers from your competitors, you ask?

    First, by making better software. Second, by making sure that your prospective new customers don't have to re-enter every bit of information. You develop conversion software. Yes, that's right. You develop software--most likely in violation of the competitor's software's EULA--that extracts the data and digests it into a format that your software can handle.

    And Thomson Reuters does this on a regular basis.

    I used to work for them. I did exactly that for seven years. I think they may have just opened a can of worms that they really don't want to have open.

  • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:19PM (#25181271)

    Virginia was one of the two states that stupidly enacted the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). Maryland was the other. Maryland made a few significant changes; Virginia changed very little.

    UCITA allows nasty provisions to be inserted in EULA's and is tilted to favor the large, downstream licensor (such as Reuters). IIRC, the version of UCITA enacted in Virginia doesn't even guarantee the licensee access to a copy of the license after the licensee clicks "I Accept" and allows EULA provisions under which the licensor can post revisions to the license on a web page at any time with the licensee being bound to the revised license without any other notice.

    With Virginia being a UCITA state, I wouldn't make any assumption about the strength of Reuters' case or what seems reasonable in a proper system of law. UCITA could let Reuters get away with things that would shock the conscience of anyone with a sense of fairness.

  • by yes it is (1137335) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @08:42PM (#25181391)
    Zotero is the best piece of software I've come across in a long time, and the database schema is particularly nice. I always thought that Thomposon were fools. Now on one side they're having their lunch eaten by google scholar, and on the other side by a variety of free and/or open source bibliographic managers. For any Thomposon execs reading - if you don't stop regarding the users data as your property and start opening up instead, your decline will be much faster than similar proprietary software companies.
  • So apparently, Reuters recently got bought out by Thomson. Let's hope they don't start suing Wikinews...

  • by Arrogant-Bastard (141720) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @09:30PM (#25181623)
    Thomson has obviously come to the conclusion that they cannot compete against a superior piece of software -- so rather than admitting this, they are going to try to use their legal thugs to crush it. We have seen this strategy many times before, so it is nothing new. But it is still a pathetic, transparently desperate action deserving only of our contempt.
  • Subject (Score:3, Funny)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Saturday September 27, 2008 @09:33PM (#25181633) Homepage

    Not that I'll ever be likely to use this extension, but: *Archived*!

  • This is one of the few times in history that a non gaming story has been posted on slashdot that involves a technology I don't understand the use of. Someone please attempt to try and explain why they use citation software. I've googled,wikipedia-ed and left a few messages on friends answering machines. So I'm turing to you o 'ye unwashed slashdot hordes. You're my last hope.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by belmolis (702863)

      If you're a scholar you need to cite your sources when you write, in a variety of formats, and you also need to learn about publications in the areas you work on. A citation manager helps you do this. The core of a citation manager is a bibliographic database. Each record corresponds to one journal article, book, technical report, or publication. Each record contains information about the author or authors, title, name of the journal, volume, number, pages, etc. A citation manager also contains import tool

      • I must wonder, though, why bother with anything more than the citation database? OpenOffice.org will format your bibliography directly from the citation database, in the same manner that it can build other tables and indexes from database sources. Why bother with a "citation manager" for this seemingly simple task?
  • I've had Zotero isntalled for a while but I'd not got round to using it, so with all this kerfuffle on slashdot I thought I'd have a play.

    So I went to google scholar and googled myself, as you do.

    So I check out a few things, and use the button on the URL bar to add them to Zotero. Neat, no more fiddling with curly brackets and at-signs in my .bib files, EVAR!

    And then I notice the 'Import into EndNote' links on my papers in Google Scholar. I click, thinking I'll get to save an EndNote

    • by Noksagt (69097)

      And then I notice the 'Import into EndNote' links on my papers in Google Scholar. I click, thinking I'll get to save an EndNote format reference so I can reverse-engineer it and get sued, and guess what... IT IMPORTS IT INTO ZOTERO!! There's an option in Zotero to use it for RIS/Refer files, so maybe that's what the .enw file is.

      That option used to be called "Import EndNote/Refer files" or something similar, but Thomson had Zotero remove the "EndNote" trademark from that option. I wonder why they don't ask

  • If they want to invest in lawyers instead of developers they should prepare to sue a lot of people and organizations all over the world. And that includes countries where there alleged basis for sueing does not even exist.
    I have had my issues with End Note before and I have long ago decided to avoid it like the devil. This move is just a little detail that reinforces my decision.

  • by stm2 (141831) <sbassiNO@SPAMgenesdigitales.com> on Sunday September 28, 2008 @10:47AM (#25184871) Homepage Journal

    In my lab there was a discussion about buying or not endnote (or similar program).
    Now thanks to Thomson Reuters and Slashdot I know of a nice alternative I didn't know before.
    I will also include this plugin as default in Dnalinux VDE.

  • I recently bought a Thomson SpeedTouch 516 ADSL modem.

    The interface is crap, restrictive, and the option to turn it into bridge mode disappeared from the UI (I had to telnet into the modem using information from the forums to do it).

    What's most infuriating - on the first page of their manual, there's a "SPEEDTOUCH SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS AND REGULATORY NOTICES". Under which there's a section called "Directive".

    It looks like a bunch of EULA crap that cannot be enforced -

    Unless express and prior approval by THO

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