Monday, July 13, 2009

Clinical Reader: Starry ethics fail

July 17 '09 7:40am edit

Closing this entry with an open letter to Clinical Reader.

July 15 '09 7:20am edit

Thank you for your support!

July 14 '09 3:42pm edit

With permission from the author, here is the email apology I received this morning from Clinical Reader. I have replied that I accept it.

I would also like to note that there is mention of the above apology on Twitter yet still not a public apology to me as there was for one of the artists yesterday.

July 13 '09 4:00pm edit:

As of this time, Clinical Reader is or already has removed all images I discussed below from their website. I commend them for their quick attention and responsiveness.

However, there was this before that:

I do not remove my blog articles. I am happy to edit when information within them is in need of updating, as am I doing now, or corrections with clear markings as to what is original and what is corrected.

Others speak well about that legal ramifications part.

Original, unedited post below

It is with concern that I've heard about some of my colleagues promoting and collaborating with the newly launched company, Clinical Reader.

Why? (red scrawl emphasis mine)

This above-the-page-fold graphic is intentional (not accidental, this is clear marketing intent to lend quick visual credibility to the organization) and currently displayed everywhere (homepage, sections pages, multimedia page, the newsletter, etc.) throughout the resource.

It is bogus as far as the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is concerned since the U.S. Government doesn't endorse or grant 5 stars to anything. The NLM Copyright Information page offers more elaboration, bold emphasis mine:

Endorsement: NLM does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. The views and opinions of authors expressed on NLM Web sites do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Government, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

But wait, there's more.

Clinical Reader also currently uses two copyrighted images on their Partners (specific original source, copyright notice at bottom) and Advertising pages (from somewhere on Signalnoise). A 'credit' link to a source doesn't honor an image copyright. Even free open source images, such as this set of Springer Images, are often limited to usage for noncommerical purposes. Commercial organizations can well afford to purchase or design their own graphics.

As a medical librarian, I respectfully request that Clinical Reader remove all occurrences of these images from their website immediately. If not, this is my statement of intent that I'll request removal of my blog from their proposed medical librarian resources. I have already notified NLM and the artists involved about these images. All have replied and thanked me for doing so, one noting "They might have credited me, but not cool using my work to sell something."

I uphold the Medical Library Association code of ethics, the Library Society of the World Cod of Ethics, and my professional photographer friends deal with people stealing their copyrighted work all the time. Professional integrity means taking a stand to explain who, what, where, when & why when something is amiss. I'm a bit more direct than some.

carefully review new resources (and re-evaluate the old ones from time to time) for information. Any company that falsifies endorsements and displays copyrighted materials for their own use should raise immediate red flags for librarians. How does it reflect on our profession to recommend a resource that is not compliant for accountability to clinicians, faculty, students and your own colleagues regardless of how nice it looks and functions?

An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do. - Aggie Code of Honor, Texas A&M University, recipient of a 2003 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant that funded my MSIS education in partnership with the University of North Texas.


Anonymous said...

Even without considering these ethical lapses, I'd be skeptical of a health/medicine information source that thinks it's helpful to include a twitter feed which is nothing more than a search on:

"health OR surgery OR medicine OR lancet OR clinicalreader OR cancer OR physician OR doctor OR nhs OR fda OR pubmed OR bmj OR health2.0"

Can't they at least pick a few respectable sources for their feed instead of showing EVERYONE's tweet about going to visit a doctor?

Amanda said...

Totally unrelated, but as an Aggie (Class of '78), I was pleased to see that the grant they received helped create such a great medical librarian as you.

Douglas Carnall, @juliuzbeezer said...

That "cod of ethics" typo is a bit unfortunate...

lukethelibrarian said...

as of right now, the "according to..." graphic with NLM logo persists on all their topic/subdomain pages, i.e. ... I have advised them

Nikki Dettmar said...

Hi Julius,

The Cod of Ethics is not a typo, it is a real, non-copyrighted print of a fish. Please see


Anonymous said...

Harsh words for clinical reader but looks like they're not unwarranted. Good to see another Aggie blog (c/o 05 here) in the health and science field. Seems like we have a growing community. Keep up the watch dog efforts as we've seen in the past and continue to see there is substantial bias throughout all levels of information dissemination, from dr to patient as well as from journal to dr/researcher.

Good to keep the industry honest at all levels...

Creaky said...

I have changed my initial blogpost about Clinical Reader after viewing what you and Steve Lawson and others have written earlier this week, and applaud you for taking a (very) public stance about their non-fair use. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

This is the world we live in and part of what we encounter in our work. Let CR and other entities be examined as our own work is examined and critiqued.