Sunday, 28 September 2008

Zotero under fire

Zotero the excellent, free, open-source reference manager is under fire from its closed source competition via a law suit. Thomson Reuters the makers of the unstable and expensive market-leading Endnote software have sued George Mason University, the developers of Zotero, for "violating its license agreement and destroying the EndNote customer base" (Courthouse News Service). The complaint comes primarily from the fact that the latest version can import Endnote styles. I picked up on this from Neil Saunders' blog post who puts it really well
"Here’s my simple, black-and-white view of the world. The greatest achievement of the internet is the potential to set information free. There are free-thinking, forward-looking organisations like GMU who see this potential and act upon it. There are also organisations who see only threats to their corporate interests. Publishing corporations no longer control the flow of information to consumers and some of them seem to be struggling to accept this, adapt and move on."
Our support should definitely go to George Mason University who have moved the world forward and improved it with not just a piece of software but a great implementation of the open-source idea. This is software driven forward by users, in this case initially at the GMU's Center for History and New media. Comically there is also a claim that "GMU reverse engineered Reuters' EndNote software to create Zotero". I don't see any signs of that, thankfully they are not very similar in any meaningful respect, Zotero is generally much better. Zotero works nicely from within a web browser, Endnote works when it feels like it.

Zotero is not alone however. There are a growing number of free (though often not open source) web based reference management systems. Maybe Thomson Reuters are just trying to mark out some territory and delay the inevitable a bit longer. Ultimately they are going to fail, I just hope their lawyers don't hurt Zotero too much on their way down.

No comments: