Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fair Use of Journals by Blogs

Blogger and fellow geologist Chris Rowan does a nice job of summarizing a recent debate over the "fair use" of digital images, data, and text from scientific journals published online. The debate arose after a light comment by blogger and neuroscience graduate student Shelly Batts summarizing an article about positive health effects from natural alcohol and other volatile compounds found in berries and other fruit. Ms. Batts mentioned the original study by Chanjirakul et al. in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture as well as a summary of the same article on the BBC News website, "Alcohol makes fruit healthier." Her use of two figures from the published article, however, prompted a strident demand that she take down her post from a member of the journal's editorial staff.

As Ms. Batts herself announces in her own blog, Retrospectacle, she eventually prevailed in this debate. The journal's publisher, John Wiley & Sons, has made clear that they recognize and encourage the "fair use" of the materials they publish for teaching as well for even the most light-hearted posts we academics make in our personal blogs. Posts at both The Volokh Conspiracy and Scientific American emphasize the role of fellow bloggers in pressuring Wiley and the journal's editors. Regardless of the forces at play, I am encouraged by the outcome, I expressed some of my own concerns over this very issue in this blog entry posted several months ago.

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