Thy're Baa-Aack! or, a Spendid Wake for a Corporate Suicide, Part Two

American Libraries, February 1995 | Go to article overview

Thy're Baa-Aack! or, a Spendid Wake for a Corporate Suicide, Part Two


Gordon & Breach, the European publisher of science journals, is making news again. The last time the company did so was in 1990, when they sued physicist Henry Barschall, the American Institute of Physics (AIP), and the American Physical Society (APS) (AL, Sept. 1989, p. 717-718). At that time, American Libraries learned that the company had also threatened academic library administrators with legal action--essentially because they'd said publicly that the prices of G&B journals were high.

Barschall's alleged offense was to survey the cost of physics journals; his findings appeared in Physics Today, the monthly magazine of AIP. After extensive negotiations, the professional organization refused to publish a Gordon & Breach-prepared correction. The company filed suit in France, Germany, and Switzerland for false advertising and a Gordon & Breach attorney said a U.S. suit was being considered.

At that time I wrote "A splendid wake for a corporate suicide," chiding G&B for threatening its librarian customers and suing a member of the group that gives them the articles they publish for profit (AL, March 1990, p. 172). "If G&B successfully commits corporate suicide," I concluded, "the wake will be splendid." Sporadic but protracted negotiations ensued with a New York public relations firm about the amount of space AL would provide for G&B's rebuttal.

The European litigation dragged on for several years. Both sides claimed victory. In August 1994, a U.S. district court judge ruled that Barschall's article was protected by the First Amendment (AL, Oct. 1994, p. 813). AL wondered if that was the final shot in the "serials wars." Apparently not. Gordon & Breach is now telling subscribers that usage of its serials will be regulated, not by national copyright laws but by a contract between publisher and subscriber. Some subscribers to Gordon & Breach journals have received a Subscription Rate Explanation (SRE), a grid that lists four different rates in vertical columns and seven usage activities in horizontal rows. …

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Thy're Baa-Aack! or, a Spendid Wake for a Corporate Suicide, Part Two
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