Last year, we wrote about the troubling lawsuit filed by Thomson Reuters claiming that George Mason University, the makers of an open bibliography software, Zotero, had violated its copyright
by reverse engineering the file format used by Thomson Reuters' own proprietary bibliography software, EndNote. Zotero could open bibliographies created in EndNote and then resave them in an open format -- a very useful tool that should be perfectly legal -- but which Thomson Reuters claims violated its license agreement, which bars reverse engineering. Luckily, a judge has tossed out the lawsuit
, though (as of right now) it's not entirely clear what the reason for the dismissal was (the ruling doesn't appear to be anywhere online, and the reports on it don't seem to have the details either). Hopefully, Thomson Reuters takes the hint and drops the case, but there's probably a half-decent chance that it will refile the suit or appeal. However, one hopes that the company realizes that felony interference with a business model
isn't a crime, and reverse engineering has been held to be perfectly legal. Also, wouldn't it be nice if the company focused on competing by innovating on tools and features, rather than trying to sue competitors out of existence? Update
: There's a great analysis
of the complaint, that goes much more deeply into the details -- and corrects some misperceptions in this and the earlier post (though, I'd still argue it's copyright law that makes the license enforceable in the first place).