EndNote creator sues Zotero creator

Actually, it’s Thomson Ruerters (creators of EndNote) that is suing George Mason University (Virginia), which funds Zotero, They are suing for 10 million annually. As I understand it, there are two aspects to this. One, is that Zotero allows accessing EndNote’s proprietary format. Two, Thomson alleges that Zotero reverse engineered the proprietary format through decompiling EndNote.

On the second point, I don’t know how one can prove decompiling considering Thomson most assuredly didn’t witness the alleged act, nor do I find it likely that collaborating witnesses have come forth. Also, consider that decompiling is not necessary because it’s reported that one can open the corresponding file format –with a simple text editor. And many files reportedly don’t have licenses because they are user contributed. Lastly on this point, consider that if any decompiling has occurred by someone, this suspect’s culpability is questionable because he or she “may” or “may not” have agreed to the EndNote ULA (User License Agreement) prohibiting such actions. And just how do you go about proving reverse engineering?! Aside from proving this, there is the belief that tinkering, or rather … reverse engineering, is an American tradition, and some would even say this is protected by law, but I’ll leave that to someone else to elaborate.

On the first point, gee if my friend wants to open his food cans with a knife rather than a can opener (made by the can manufacturer), is he a criminal for doing so? Should I report him to the police, and inform the can company so that they take him to court, or –worse– jail?

Similarly –in the case of other proprietary formats– AbiWord and OpenOffice.org have been able to open Microsoft’s Word format for years –without being prosecuted (or is it persecuted?) by Microsoft (to the best of this writer’s knowledge). So, where is the precedence for such a lawsuit? My g-d, Thomson’s actions paint Microsoft in a better light!

Talk about frivolous suits. And talk about sheer stupidity, suing one’s client base!

I have some business strategy advice (in the form of a question for Thomson), “Why not just try to make a better product and have the public decide if they want to continue using it?”. Specifically, “Why not continually build more features into EndNote than can be easily supported by third party programs?”. That way you continue to retain control over the “latest and greatest” EndNote features.

What ever happened to healthy competition and the free market? Or is a monopoly the point of all this? Improving the OS X port so Mac users stop criticizing it might help too!

You can read more about the case at the following sites.

http://freeculture.org/blog/2008/10/25/zotero-lawsuit
http://ostatic.com/blog/file-format-brouhaha-pits-foss-against-proprietary
http://ostatic.com/blog/thomson-reuters-takes-virginia-to-court-over-zotero
http://www.courthousenews.com/2008/09/17/Reuters_Says_George_Mason_University_Is_Handing_Out_Its_Proprietary_Software.htm
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/27/2113248

Maurice Cepeda

This is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License. All brands mentioned are properties of their respective owners. By reading this article, the reader forgoes any accountability of the writer. The reading of this article implies acceptance of the above stipulations. The author requires attribution –by full name and URL– and notification of republications.

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One thought on “EndNote creator sues Zotero creator

  1. A question remain. Science has a propietary format?
    This is the reason for what some autors can access journals with your articles , just bussiness with the knowledge.
    Zotero tries to put knowledge close to the public and provide a tool to share it, if this policy avoids merchandaising for me is welcome

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