A decision has been rendered (8/26/97) by the United States District Court: Southern District of New York in the matter of Gordon and Breach Science Publishers v. The American Institute of Physics and The American Physical Society (AIP/APS). Gordon and Breach (G&B) is appealing this decision, denying its application for an injunction prohibiting AIP/APS from promoting their journals as being more cost-effective based on Henry H. Barschall's methodology.
The issue at hand was the publishing and use of a survey by Barschall that compared prices of science journals, and which ranked commercially published journals (as opposed to non-profit society journals) at the bottom of a purportedly unbiased survey.
The Court acknowledged that Gordon and Breach presented evidence that there are superior procedures for determining a journal's cost-effectiveness. However, it ruled that Barschall had accurately calculated the components of his ratio and that his test was therefore reliable. In so doing, the Court believed that G&B did not meet the standard for obtaining an injunction. Yet in a parallel case in France, the court there ruled in G&B's favor, stating "the defendants, by publishing in their journals articles which, in scientific guise, have as their goal the denigration of competing journals by presenting them as more expensive and less influential than those published by themselves, committed acts of unfair competition by illegal comparative advertising, for which they must make reparation." That ruling has been appealed by AIP/APS.
G&B and its counsel continue to believe that G&B is entitled to be granted relief from any such false claims by AIP/APS under the Lanham Act's protection against unfair competition. Gordon and Breach is appealing this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
We appreciate the Court's conclusion that Gordon and Breach has proved that librarians would be "ill-advised to rely on Barschall's study to the exclusion of all other considerations in making purchasing decisions."
Likewise, we are heartened that the Court stated that if the AIP/APS were to assert that Barschall's methodology proves that their product is superior in value and quality to that of Gordon and Breach, then serious concerns would be present. Nevertheless, reasoning that the AIP/APS' present acknowledg[e]ment that Barschall's analysis does not demonstrate product superiority or quality, and considering that they were effectively stopped from making such claims in the past and are not threatening to make such claims in the future, the Court has decided not to bar or enjoin the AIP/APS from making any such claims.
We are concerned, however, that the Court, in rendering its decision, chose to highlight its displeasure with the AIP/APS's claims that G&B sought through litigious venues to suppress adverse comment upon its journals. We believe that all businesses need to be able to protect their employees, whether scientists, researchers or professionals, from the threat of grave harm to their enterprises. It should be noted that these 'comments' were not merely isolated price complaints. In most of these instances, G&B faced threats and aggressive actions in the form of circulated and published articles that used erroneous information to foster boycotts and cancellations of its journals. We believe that our course of action is the least that should be expected from any business so threatened, and further, that all actions pursued by us were wholly within our rights and, especially, our duties as a duly formed and operating corporation.
191.2 SUPPORT FOR "MESSAGE TO SPRINGER"
Tom Leonhardt, Oregon Institute of Technology, email@example.com
While her letter is still fresh in my mind, I would like to publicly thank Cindy Hepfer for her "Message to Springer." For too long we have issued blank checks to publishers, blank checks payable on public funds entrusted to us (librarians) with the expectation that we would spend them according to sound business practices. My cable company would love it if I would allow them to add channels whenever they pleased, automatically billing me for them. Mortgage companies have tried similar schemes by which they added their own insurance charges to the overall bill without knowledge or permission of the buyer. That has been judged unethical and illegal. At least Cindy had the option of not paying and returning the unsolicited material she was not obligated to buy. All publishers are not so straightforward. Some take money in a current year for materials not yet published and apply it to extra issues published the year before. Only a transfer of subscriptions from one vendor to another brought that situation to light. Cindy may be on to something and it may be larger than this one publisher and this one issue, no pun intended.
191.3 VENDOR CAN HELP REDUCE SERVICE CHARGE
Scott Piepenburg, Dallas Public Schools, firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't know how well this would work in a large university environment, but when I used to work for a serial vendor, we often would help a corporate library control costs by folding in popular titles from individual subscriptions around the company into one major order. The discount rate from those titles helped ease the library's handling charge problem.
As regarding billing, the library would supply the company's internal billing number for each title, then we would print out a list of titles purchased for each department and how much that department had spent. This was also a popular move for the CFO as it cut down on paperwork and check processing.
Again, I don't know if it would work in an academic environment or if the library wants to get involved in the business of periodicals, but it can be an effective way to control costs.
191.4 WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE??
Peter Graham, Rutgers University Libraries, email@example.com; Marcia Tuttle, firstname.lastname@example.org
...Because I consider the Web version of the newsletter to be the archival edition, I am correcting the numbering of the previous issue there and repeating no. 190 for this issue of the paper edition.
This is wonderful, and grist for discussion on another list or newsletter entirely. If you find a typo in a previous issue, will you correct that in the archival version? If an author requests a correction? If another author requests a retraction? If it is another publisher, say Springer or Elsevier, maintaining the archive, what is their stance on such matters?
I assure you I have no quarrel with your changing the number; it is the obvious thing to do, and I was interested to see it as the first example of such that I've seen. But the issues of integrity and authenticity are pointed up by your action. Users are already unsure of the volatility of information on the net. Libraries (and I don't think publishers) will have a role in assuring that integrity. Which means we may ultimately keep you from renumbering our archival copy!
[Peter, Indeed, I have made many corrections in the original copies of the pricing newsletter for the "archival edition," including not only typos, but adding numbering to the articles so they could be cited easily. Author messages requesting corrections (there have been several!) and retractions appear in the next issue to be published and do not cause changes to be made in the original issue. Let the shakedown period for electronic publishing continue! - Marcia]
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The Newsletter on Serials Pricing Issues (ISSN: 1046-3410) is published by the editor through Academic and Networking Technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as news is available. Editor: Marcia Tuttle, Internet: email@example.com; Paper mail: 215 Flemington Road, Chapel Hill NC 27514-5637; Telephone: 919 929-3513. Editorial Board: Deana Astle (Clemson University), Christian Boissonnas (Cornell University), Jerry Curtis (Springer Verlag New York), Isabel Czech (Institute for Scientific Information), Janet Fisher (MIT Press), Fred Friend (University College, London), Charles Hamaker (Louisiana State University), Daniel Jones (University of Texas Health Science Center), Michael Markwith (Swets North America), James Mouw (University of Chicago), and Heather Steele (Blackwell's Periodicals Division). The Newsletter is available on the Internet, Blackwell's CONNECT, and Readmore's ROSS. EBSCO customers may receive the Newsletter in paper format.
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