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LexisNexis to fight free legal information movement?

January 26, 2007

How LexisNexis would respond to the ever growing body of free legal information, some of it very good, being published by lawyers, law professors, and law students on blogs and the like has been an open question.

Though not directly related to blogs, we may have gotten a taste of what’s to come. Elsevier, which like LexisNexis is owned by publishing giant Reed Elsevier, is part of a PR effort to combat the ‘free information’ movement (also called the ‘open access’ movement).

As reported by Amy Gahran at Poynter Online:

On Jan. 24, Nature reported that a group of major science journal publishers has hired the notoriously aggressive PR agent Eric Dezenhall to combat the “free information” movement… Kevin McCauley, an editor at O’Dwyer’s PR Report, reportedly dubbed Dezenhall the “pit bull of public relations.”
Open Access News explains that the movement’s goals include: ‘Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature on the Internet, and making it available free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.’ Some science journal publishers, which rely on often-hefty subscription fees, worry that open access to scientific papers via public databases would threaten their existence.

Nature said that Dezenhall advised the science publishers to ‘focus on simple messages, such as ‘Public access equals government censorship.’ He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and ‘paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles.’

Like Amy, I can understand peer reviewed publications wanting to protect their businesses. However, those businesses will benefit from open discourse on the subjects and authors being published.

Also applying Amy’s logic from science publishing, legal publishing shouldn’t be at odds with good legal discourse and the advancement of the law.

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