Thomson Reuters Subpoenas Zotero Hacker Identities

Zotero is a fantastic Firefox addon for reference management. Mozilla used to ship it as part of Firefox Campus Edition. Recently, they got sued by Thomson Reuters because Zotero 1.5 acquired the ability to convert citation-style files from their proprietary Endnote software. I have an SVN/Trac account there because I contributed a little bit, and I just got this email:

Dear Zotero Development Community Members,

First off, please allow me to apologize for clogging your inbox with this unsolicited message, but I hope you’ll understand that the severity of the situation requires me to contact you. In its ongoing litigation with George Mason University, Thomson Reuters has demanded that the university produce contact information (name, email, and username) associated with all two hundred eighty-six Zotero SVN/Trac accounts.

We can think of no use Thomson Reuters’s counsel would have for this information other than to intimidate and harass you, and we made every effort to avoid turning over this information until compelled. We have requested that the contact information be placed under protective order, which in principle means that only the lawyers involved should have access to the information. Nonetheless, we feel it is our obligation to notify you that we are being forced to release this data. Please note that you are in no way required or requested to keep this disclosure confidential. If you are contacted by Thomson Reuters or their attorneys in connection with this lawsuit, please do let us know.

We deeply apologize for this encroachment on your privacy, and we sincerely hope that it does not dissuade you from remaining active members of the Zotero development community.

Best regards,

Sean Takats
Zotero Co-Director

I await with interest an email from Thomson Reuters.

5 thoughts on “Thomson Reuters Subpoenas Zotero Hacker Identities

  1. I’m guessing these slimy money-grabbers are looking for names to match against their product registration database, so they can sue their own paying customers.

    I spent a minute on Google and found a bunch of .ens files on their own website without having to agree to any click-wrap EULA at all. I wonder how they’d stop a “drive-by documentation” of their file format…

  2. Sigh, another instance of the lawsuit business model.

    I guess they’re all moderately hilarious at first. Seeing their users flocking to open source competition, Thomson Reuters looked at their product and decided that the only remaining proprietary edge their product has is in the style files–not the ability to format citations in various styles, but the catalog of styles themselves.

    At that point the sane thing to do is to admit there’s no business model here and move on. Instead they chose to go after their customers with an axe.

    Legally I don’t really care if Thomson Reuters has the right to prevent their customers from, you know, using the information that’s trapped in their product in a way that’s valuable to them. The company paid for that data to be gathered, and all the customers accepted the boorish terms of use. So, fine. Caveat emptor.

    But as strategy I really don’t get it. The styles themselves are not secrets. Zotero ships with a lot of styles anyway. It’s not like Thomson Reuters can, by being sufficiently evil, stop Zotero from having this information.

  3. I can think of several things they might want to do with this information. I’m not saying any of them are really good ideas, but there are various possibilities of things they might want to do with those data.