Publisher Will Drop Lawsuit Against University Librarian
A chill wind will sometimes blow, one that challenges freedom of speech. When not countered by outrage and protest, such winds have a habit of spreading and growing, making it even more difficult for people to speak out in the future. Entire societies have fallen based on the successful silencing of its most vocal critics.
A university librarian previously employed by Kansas State University and now working at McMaster University discovered that his personal opinion about an academic publisher was deemed libelous, or at least that was the contention of Edwin Mellen Press, a New York-based publisher.
Dale Askey took EMP to task on his blog and the publisher cried foul, filing a pair of lawsuits against him and his current employer. Additional information about this drama can be found in a Feb. 2013 article published by SayCampusLife.
Late last week, EMP issued a press statement announcing that it was dropping one of its lawsuits against Askey and McMaster. That release, published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on its website, noted that EMP was discontinuing its lawsuit based on “…a social media campaign complaining about legal action taken by EMP.” EMP went on to identify the Association of Canadian University Presses as one of drivers of the social media campaign, although the online petition that generated the most publicity was created by an American professor in Iowa.
Notably, EMP acknowledged that the social media campaign put financial pressure on the publisher and on its authors. The publisher went on to state that it has chosen to “focus its resources on its business and serving its authors,” in a bid to put this matter behind it.
The publisher also made the point that everyone has the right to free speech. At the same time, EMP reiterated that all have the “right to take steps, including legal action, to protect their good names and reputation.”
One Suit Remains
The dropped lawsuit is the one that names McMaster and Askey. Another suit, against Askey alone, remains active. Thus, despite EMP’s assertions that it is both a “small publisher” and one with supposedly limited resources, it may find itself better suited to take on Askey alone in hopes perhaps of silencing a critic and gaining monetary remuneration. Librarians, however, are low on the financial pecking order, therefore staying with the remaining lawsuit seems senseless and may further harm EMP’s attempt to protect its “good name.”