News on Zotero suit

Sean made another post on the tenth (don’t know how I missed it) stating that the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice due to lack of jurisdiction. Unfortunately that’s all he knows.

What this means so far is that Thomson Reuters is free to bring the suit again, in the correct jurisdiction. The problem is that the term jurisdiction can cover a lot of territory. Say I live in Florida, you live in Oregon, and I sue you in Florida. Unless you have some connection with Florida (like for example you own a winter residence there) the Florida court has no jurisdiction over you. A court can also lack jurisdiction if it is the wrong court, for example some types of suit are required to be tried in Federal Courts, and cannot be brought in a State Court. Jurisdiction in this case is complicated by the release on the Internet of Zotero, is the proper jurisdiction the location it was downloaded, or the location it was downloaded from? Until we can read the written dismissal it’s impossible to tell.

The question now is, what will Thomson Reuters do? The term “Without Prejudice” means that they have the option of refiling the case in the correct jurisdiction, wherever or whatever that is. However they have spent a lot of money so far, for no gain, and ruined their reputation with the Academic and Free Software communities. Would pursuing the suit further bring them any gain, or would it cost them more in lost reputation?

And of finally there is the ultimate question – do they even have a case? The basis of the original lawsuit was that the University which underwrites Zotero had once been an EndNote licensee, and the EndNote user agreement prohibits reverse engineering. A lot depends upon the definition of “Reverse Engineering” used by the court which is the correct jurisdiction (and with knowing what the correct jurisdiction is I can’t even try to look it up). Another issue is what jurisdiction the license specifies for settling license disputes. Some states implemented UCITA, a set of rules governing license disputes. Other states have implemented anti-UCITA laws. If you live in a State with an anti-UCITA law, the state specified in the license doesn’t count, you have to be sued in your state. UCITA has been criticised for being to unfavourable to the licensee, which is why anti-UCITA legislation exists.

Each jurisdiction (damn that word) has slightly different rules for how the court operates, what is allowable, etc. At present there just is not enough information to make an informed guess as to what will happen.

Which is frustrating as all get out. Meanwhile I’ll keep on using Zotero. It’s a great addon, and it makes my writing a lot easier.


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