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Maker of EndNote Citation Software Sues George Mason U.

Posted by comartslibrarian on September 29, 2008

Wired Campus: Maker of EndNote Citation Software Sues George Mason U.

Thomson Reuters Inc. sued George Mason University in a Virginia court this month, arguing that a free software tool made by the university makes improper use of the company’s EndNote citation software.

The company’s complaint argues that programmers at George Mason’s Center for History and New Media reverse-engineered EndNote to create a free program called Zotero. The university’s free software is a plug-in for the Firefox Web browser, and it is designed to help scholars store and organize their online research. It has been downloaded more than 1 million times.

Thomson Reuters argues that the latest release of George Mason’s software, which can import files created by EndNote and turn them into files that can be used and shared online using Zotero, “is willfully and intentionally destroying Thomson’s customer base for the EndNote software.” The company seeks $10-million in damages for each year the university has offered the software and to stop the university from distributing versions of Zotero that can convert EndNote files.

I’m a big fan of Zotero.  To me, this lawsuit is akin to Microsoft suing Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) for making a better web browser.   Considering that Zotero is a browser plug-in, and EndNote is a proprietary, stand-alone software application, this lawsuit is alleging some pretty fancy reverse-engineering.  A dubious claim in my view.

BTW — Zotero is free.  EndNote is $250.   Maybe if Thomson focused on improving its product, and cutting its absurd prices, it wouldn’t feel so threatened.  Just a thought…

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