In case there are any Slaw readers who have not yet learned of it, I thought I’d point you to some posts about Edwin Mellen Press‘s lawsuit against McMaster librarian Dale Askey (and against McMaster University as well). EMP claims Askey defamed them online in a post, and a series of comments to it, entitled “The Curious Case of Edwin Mellen Press” (a turn on Dickens’s “The Curious Case of Edwin Drood,” by the way) and in the Notice of Action begun in June 2012 they ask for $3,500,000.00 in damages.
The Notice of Action is available online here. You will find the original post by Askey, dated September 22, 2010, and various comments, some by Askey, also alleged to be libellous, as an appendix to the Notice of Cation. The post and comments appear on a blog, Bibliobary, that Askey started in 2009 and maintains on a domain unconnected to McMaster. The nub of EMP’s complaint is that Askey said that much of what they publish is “second-class scholarship” and that they charge unreasonably high prices for it, something they are able to do, he alleges, because libraries don’t perform adequate due diligence when purchasing books or when failing to return those originally sent on approval.
The original post and associated comments have been removed from Bibliobary.
If you would like to follow up on the story, the following blog posts are worth reading:
- “Edwin Mellen Press Suing a Librarian?“, February 6, 2013, Academic Librarian
- “Shocking attack on academic freedom at McMaster by Edwin Mellen Press?” February 6, 2013, Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog
- “Unprecedented $3 million dollar lawsuit filed against McMaster librarian for blogpost,” February 7, 2013, Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians
- “Edwin Mellen Press Sues University Librarian for Libel,” February 8, 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education
It would seem that the matter has had a burst of publicity because Les Green, Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford and an adjunct faculty member at McMaster, took an interest in the case and began tweeting about it.
Yesterday, McMaster University made a public statement concerning the lawsuit. I reproduce it here in full:
February 8, 2013
McMaster’s commitment to academic freedom
McMaster and one of its librarians have been named in a lawsuit launched by the Edwin Mellen Press. The suit stems from a blog post published in 2010.
In its Statement on Academic Freedom, McMaster University affirms the right of the academic community to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion. Beyond this commitment to teach and learn unhindered by non-academic constraints, the University strongly supports the exercise of free speech as a critical social good.
For this reason, McMasterUniversity has for more than eighteen months rejected all demands and considerable pressure from the Edwin Mellen Press to repudiate the professional opinions of university librarian Dale Askey, notwithstanding the fact that those opinions were published on his personal blog several months before he joined McMaster.
Because of our respect for individual freedom of speech, the University finds itself today a co-defendant with Mr. Askey in a legal action brought by the Edwin Mellen Press.
The University will continue to rigorously defend its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech as the case proceeds before the courts.