First, it was Edwin Mellen press suing a university librarian who was critical of the publisher in a blog post. Edwin Mellen sued Dale Askey, a librarian at McMaster University, seeking more than $3-million in damages for a post where "Askey referred to the publisher as 'dubious' and said its books were of 'second-class scholarship.'"
The lawsuit prompted a public outcry where "critics have called the lawsuit an attack on academic freedom." After intense public pressure, Edwin Mellen decided to drop the suit.
Now there is a lawsuit brewing against Jeffrey Beall, a metadata librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver. Beall is "known online for his popular blog Scholarly Open Access, where he maintains a running list of open-access journals and publishers he deems questionable or predatory. The list now features more than 250 publishers that he considers to be 'potential, possible, or probable predatory' companies, which take advantage of academics desperate to get their work published."
One of the publishers on the list intends to sue Beall for $1-billion in damages. "The publisher, the OMICS Publishing Group, based in India, is also warning that Mr. Beall could be imprisoned for up to three years under India's Information Technology Act, according to a letter from the group's lawyer."
The funny part of these lawsuits is the amount of damages that the publishers are suing for. Who in their right mind thinks that a librarian could come up with that kind of money?!?
But the lawsuits do raise interesting questions about blogs and the defamation suits that may arise over a blogger's opinion. While opinions should be protected, there is still the problem with having to defend a lawsuit.
There is also the issue with foreign jurisdictions. Jeffrey Beall could be found in violation of Indian law and sentenced to a jail term in India for doing something that is not against the law in the United States.