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Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software (sciencemag.org) 418

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'
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Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:20PM (#50916217)

    Let's do it!

  • So the response to a tool becoming unavailable is to make information about the tool unavailable? I appreciate that this is supposed to put some pressure on Jobb, and I enjoy petty acts of spite against nutjobs as much as the next guy. But this seems like it just further harms the tool users (and potential tool users), not so much Jobb.

    • If he's retroactively changed the license, it's not as if they have any choice in the matter.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @10:42PM (#50919185) Homepage Journal

      There's no point in having an editorial policy if you don't enforce it. The policy says the journal only allows papers on freely available software; the author submitted the article under those conditions then reneged, so he loses.

  • Not anti-immigrant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:26PM (#50916253)

    The most egregious yet prevalent error in modern news reporting, is to conflate someone being against ILLEGAL immigration with someone being against LEGAL immigration.

    If you can't understand why someone who does not want people who are by definition criminals entering the country in large numbers, then heaven help you - because reality certainly will not and history just laughs at you.

    • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@ g m ail.com> on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:34PM (#50916327) Homepage Journal

      If immigrants are granted asylum as refugees, how are they "by definition criminals"?

      • If a person is pardoned, it does not mean that prior to the pardon they were not a criminal.

        There may be good reasons to pardon someone (or to grant asylum) but that is still a VERY different thing than supporting legal immigration which people traditionally apply for.

        You can still be even for a large increase of LEGAL immigration vs. any kind of amnesty for those willing to spend the effort or money to break into the country illegally.

        Of course you do realize supporting mostly amnesty instead of legal immi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You are creating a false dichotomy and clearing forgetting about how this country came to be. The Irish came to this country in much the same fashion and numbers as Mexicans. They were fleeing starvation and lack of opportunity for a land that could provide them with opportunity as well as sustenance. It amazes me how similar the rhetoric is. The Chinese immigrants went through much the same which is why they ended up building large portions of our rail system that we use even today.

          We closed our borders a

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Indeed, the two have been conflated. And it's not just illegal immigration; the way some countries are handling immigration (or refraining from handling it) and open their borderds to any and all is also in violation of national laws or international treaties. Even so, it's not well done to mix politics with science in this way. However I do wonder if the reaction and backlash would have been the same if Jobb would have banned the use of his software in countries that oppose unlimited immigration, such a
    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:39PM (#50916387)
      This is from the author's own website: [treefinder.de] You can judge for yourself whether he makes any sort of distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

      Starting from 1st October 2015, I do no longer permit the usage of my TREEFINDER software in the following EU countries: Germany, Austria, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark - the countries that together host most of the non-european immigrants. For all other countries, the old license agreement remains valid. USA has already been excluded from using Treefinder in February 2015. This is all in accordance with the license agreement stated in the TREEFINDER manual since the earliest versions, which reserves me the right to change the license agreement at any time. I can do this because Treefinder is my own property.

      The reason: I am no longer willing to support with my work the political system in Europe and Germany, of which the science system is part. There is no genuine democracy, and I disagree with almost all of the policies. In particular, I disagree with immigration policy. Immigration to my country harms me, it harms my family, it harms my people. Whoever invites or welcomes immigrants to Europe and Germany is my enemy. Immigration is the huge corporations' interest, not peoples' interest. I am not against helping refugees, but they would have to be kept strictly separated from us Europeans, for some limited time only until they return home, and not being integrated here as cheap workers and additional consumers. Immigration unnecessarily defers the collapse of capitalism, its final crisis. The earlier the system crashes, the more damage can be avoided. Possibly a civil war in Europe. Not to mention the loss of our European genetic and cultural heritage.

      The most egregious yet prevalent error in modern news reporting, is to conflate someone being against ILLEGAL immigration with someone being against LEGAL immigration.

      How can these immigrants be ILLEGAL when the countries named allow them entry? That seems like a giant flaw in your point.

      If you can't understand why someone who does not want people who are by definition criminals entering the country in large numbers, then heaven help you - because reality certainly will not and history just laughs at you.

      Are the majority of people in this wave criminals? Where in the world did you get that information other than your own bias? The UN seems to disagree with you.

      • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:54PM (#50916551)

        He says, " Immigration to my country harms me, it harms my family, ..." Are there a lot of immigrants writing software that builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data? Are they taking his job as a programmer and/or scientist? And, if so, does that harm him more if done (by either a local or immigrant) in his country than abroad? His work can be done anywhere.

        Or is he simply a xenophobic racist?

        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          Well, he's suggesting that it alters how the government spends money, which he presumably pays in taxes. Also, his family could be in some other way impacted by immigration.

          To be honest, he could be xenophobic and racist. Or perhaps he is just fine with people from those places as long as they don't impact him in a manner he considers dangerous to him.

          Let's look at H1-Bs. There's nothing particularly wrong with Indians. They generally share the same spectrum of smart/dumb, nice/asshole that every other

      • How can these immigrants be ILLEGAL when the countries named allow them entry? That seems like a giant flaw in your point.

        Maybe they didn't allow the Syrian TSA to go through their stuff when they were crossing the border? I'll bet that's at least a misdemeanor.

      • His entire rant more or less screams 'I don't want brown people in my country!', and as such discredits and dishonors him.
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        Xenophobes are rarely logical. Germany desperately needs hundreds of thousands of immigrants just to support the ageing population, yet this guy seems to think they're hurting him (and his family, etc.). That speaks volumes to just how much of this issue he doesn't understand. Germany - and him and his family - need these immigrants. This is demonstrable fact, and not a surprise to anyone who's spent any time trying to understand what's going on.

    • The most egregious yet prevalent error in modern news reporting, is to conflate someone being against ILLEGAL immigration with someone being against LEGAL immigration.

      If you can't understand why someone who does not want people who are by definition criminals entering the country in large numbers, then heaven help you - because reality certainly will not and history just laughs at you.

      except in the U.S., immigration laws are considered civil, not criminal, matters. persons here without immigration authorization are not criminals, by the actual definitions used in the law.

      this may differ in other countries, but typically immigration law has been under civil and not criminal statutes.

      • Indeed. I wonder how hard that would be to change? One of the biggest problems with illegal immigration here in the US is that you can't really stop it. The border is enormous and the way we handle things now the captured undocumented asshole is immediately punted back into Mexico to try again. If the offense carried with it a small prison sentence, say 6 months of forced labor (just warms my heart to say it) then his or her family would receive any of those dollars they so depend on and maybe that particul
    • by Jack9 ( 11421 )

      Can I get an even an anon explanation of why this is offtopic?

  • Is it even possible? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:27PM (#50916255) Journal
    Is it even possible to retroactively change the terms of a software license like that?
    Or did the new license only apply to new versions of the software?
    • Is it even possible to retroactively change the terms of a software license like that?

      It is if the license requires users to obtain a copy of the software directly from the publisher, not from a redistributor.

      • I can see it for new copies he gives out, but.....
        What about the copies he's already given? Can he change the terms of those copies?
        • Corporations apparently can, and do it all the time.

          Many of us disagree you should be able to change the terms of a license retroactively or at all.

          But since corporations have apparently bought the right to do it, why not crazy idiots?

    • You'll use it like I tell you to use it, and when I decide I want to change how you use it you'll fucking change how you use it.

      Copyright, bitch. Death plus seventy years - all the way to your great-grandchildren.

    • by RDW ( 41497 )

      Is it even possible to retroactively change the terms of a software license like that?
      Or did the new license only apply to new versions of the software?

      Even before he went completely off the rails, the author had this weird thing where the user had to click to agree with the CURRENT version of the licence (which he could change at any time) every time the package was run, or else create a text file in a specified format (which the software would check on startup) where they promised always to abide by the latest licence and basically be his bitch. Whether this sort of nonsense is actually legal is another thing, of course.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:31PM (#50916285)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As a regular user on this site, I was about to post the same Youtube video anonymously too.

      Most of the first migrants to come to our country over the past few decades were the richest, bravest, and most intelligent. Now however, we're getting a flood of third worlders, and as a result, the crime rate is going up whilst the economy will go down. It's an invasion in slow motion.

      Sweden's got it worse than even us, as people can barely speak out over there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        Pure utter BS that should get you smacked upside the head with a reality stick, instead of modded up.

        The 'richest, bravest, intelligent', as if they are somehow more worthy, and were less desperate for an improvement in circumstances, even though that's the primary motivation in migration. This is simply racism, claiming that current migrants are somehow inferior and different from previous ones.

        No the crime rate isnt going up; migrants almost always have lower crime rates than the native population.
        No the

  • It would be wonderful if, on an internet forum, we could have a discussion about a topic such as this without virtue signaling. For whatever reason, it seems impossible.

  • Might just be easier to ask it that way.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:36PM (#50916343) Homepage
    Treefinder has been dead for about a decade. If youre still using im surprised you have enough data from it to continue a grant proposal, but i hope you'll consider other more functional applications like PHYLIP PAUP MEGA Phylo_win ARB or DAMBE
    hybridization or recombination events got you down? concaterpillar to the rescue. http://rogerlab.biochemistryan... [biochemist...ogy.dal.ca]
    distance matrix analyses on nucleotide or protein sequences? seriously, get a copy of ODIN. while i couldnt get funding for a beefier desktop, i DID get compute time on our university supercomputer and ODIN absolutely screams on linux.
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @02:38PM (#50916375)

    License change and re-release in February 2015:

    Starting from 1st February 2015, I do no longer permit the usage of my TREEFINDER software in the USA. For all other countries, the old license agreement remains valid.

    http://www.treefinder.de/ [treefinder.de]

    • So what's the legality of retrospectively changing a licence? By all accounts all the people who agreed to the original license in the USA are still valid users of it today providing the service isn't subscription based.

  • breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability

    I wonder, what — if any — other applications of this policy can be found. Has there ever been another case of this same publication withdrawing an already published article over "software availability"?

    I also wonder, if they'd have acted, if the license-changes were aimed not at immigration-supporters, but at, say, "Nazi-sympathizers" or "Global Warming-deniers"?

    My own license for a tiny open-source program bans owners of Che Guev

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.treefinder.de/
    Original License

    TREEFINDER version of March 2011 and all earlier versions are free of charge for scientific purposes. For commercial or military use or integration into such software please contact the author.

    You may distribute this software non-commercially, provided that neither this manual nor any other components of the software are changed.

    The software and its accompanying documentation are provided "as is", without guarantee of any kind. Gangolf Jobb does not w

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @03:30PM (#50916789)
    I don't think there is yet a clear legal precedent about what conditions in EULAs are and aren't legally binding. I want some German person to actually use this software, get sued and take this to Strasbourg, or maybe some higher court. I'm very confident that any sane court would rule that the researcher broke no law in using the software while German, and this is what we need to invalidate many other stupid conditions stipulated in software EULAs.
  • Theyre not refugees! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Prune ( 557140 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @04:09PM (#50916985)
    Most of these people are economic migrants, not refugees. In the case of Syrians now flooding into Europe, for example, most did not come directly from Syria — they came from migrant camps in Turkey. Turkey is a stable and safe country, but doesn't provide quite the level of social services and economic opportunities that a Western European country does. Of course, as has been pointed out in various places, the German government is worried about an aging population and needs young workers, so they opened the gates under the pretense of humanitarian reasons — preservation of culture, values, and social cohesion be damned.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How is that not a refugee? It's not like they built up a permanent residence in Turkey.

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