Edwin Mellen Press Threatens to Sue Society for Scholarly Publishing

The Society for Scholarly Publishing has removed two blog posts about a legal battle between a scholarly publisher and a librarian after a lawyer representing the publisher threatened to sue the society.

The posts were written by Rick Anderson, a librarian at the University of Utah, for The Scholarly Kitchen, a blog published by the society, which is a nonprofit organization of publishers, printers, librarians, and editors. In the posts, Mr. Anderson discussed a lawsuit filed by Edwin Mellen Press against Dale Askey, a librarian at McMaster University, in Ontario, and against the university itself.

Mr. Askey and McMaster were sued for more than $3-million by the press after the librarian wrote a blog post criticizing the publisher in 2010. The press dropped the lawsuit in early March. A separate lawsuit, filed by the press’s founder, Herbert Richardson, against Mr. Askey, continues. It concerns statements made in the blog’s comment section.

Mr. Richardson could not be reached for comment on Friday, but in an interview this week he told The Chronicle that his lawsuit against Mr. Askey would not be the last in his fight to protect his reputation as well as the reputation of the press and its authors.

“It’s going to develop and develop,” Mr. Richardson said. “It’s a little bit of a cyclone, and it isn’t quite clear where the eye of the cyclone is going to form. But the eye could be over the practice of people using the social media to anonymously bully other people.”

Mr. Anderson, the blogger for The Scholarly Kitchen, was pulled into the fray after the society received a letter from Edwin Mellen Press’s legal counsel this week.

“We do not believe you should have, as one of your bloggers, a person who is motivated by a personal grudge,” says the letter, from Amanda R. Amendola, a lawyer in Upstate New York. “We are putting you on notice that the moment Mr. Anderson publishes or provokes any statement about our company or authors that is the slightest bit defamatory, we will pursue legal action not only against him, but your organization as well.”

Mr. Anderson said he did not have a personal grudge against Mr. Richardson.

“He has certainly never done anything to me personally,” Mr. Anderson said. “My published comments about the quality of EMP’s publications are simply my opinions about books, informed by my experience and expertise as a librarian.”

The press also demanded that comments below Mr. Anderson’s blog post that were written by Kristine Hunt, a freelance copy editor in Idaho, be removed. In a letter from Ms. Amendola to Ms. Hunt, the press threatened to sue her as well. According to the letter, Ms. Hunt had written that the press offers “no copy-editing, proofreading or layout services.” Ms. Amendola’s letter states that “this statement is simply untrue as well as disparaging.”

Kent Anderson, the blog’s editor in chief, said he had decided to remove the blog posts and all of the accompanying comments. Mr. Anderson, who is not related to Rick Anderson, posted both letters from Edwin Mellen Press’s lawyer on the site.

“The society and the blog are both volunteer-run efforts,” Kent Anderson said, “and the feeling was that the best way to respond to the threats was to comply with them but also show people what the threats were.”

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