Edwin Mellen Press has announced in a press release that it will not pursue its libel suit against McMaster University and Dale Askey, a McMaster librarian.
EMP launched a $3.5 million lawsuit against the University and Askey in February over a 2010 post on Askey’s personal blog. EMP claimed that the post (still active) contains defamatory statements that slander the publishing company. McMaster was brought into the lawsuit on the grounds that the University refused to demand that Askey take down his blog post.
The press release made no specific mention of a separate $1 million lawsuit against Askey launched by Herbert Richardson, founder of EMP.
"All I know is what's in that press release. I'm awaiting further information before drawing any conclusions or making any comments," said Askey in an e-mail.
On Feb. 19, the Association of Canadian University Presses released an Open Letter to the Scholarly Community. The letter urged EMP to “withdraw this lawsuit” and found that Dale Askey’s comments “fall well within the range of fair comment.”
A petition on Change.org that calls for the end of EMP's libel lawsuit has gotten more than 3,100 signatures.
In the March 1 press release sent to the Silhouette, EMP stated: “financial pressure of the social media campaign and press on authors is severe. EMP is a small company. Therefore [it] must choose to focus its resources on its business and serving its authors.”
Andrea Farquhar, McMaster spokesperson, said this morning that the University was not contacted by EMP with the press release, and is seeking official confirmation that the lawsuit will be dropped.
Although EMP says it will no longer pursue the court case, it did not make any apologies for taking legal action in the first place: “EMP remains resolute that all have the right to free speech. Equally, all have the right to take steps, including legal action, to protect their good names and reputation.”
UPDATE: The University confirmed with its lawyers this afternoon that a 'notice of discontinuance' was sent by EMP to McMaster's legal counsel.
"We're pleased by the Press's decision [not to go through with this case]," said Gord Arbeau, a McMaster spokesperson. "This is good news for all those across North America who have supported McMaster's position in defence of academic freedom."
As for the second lawsuit against Askey in which McMaster University was not named, Arbeau said "that piece is still not clear at this point."
The University is not obligated to take action in the lawsuit against Askey if the suit persists.