Predatory Journals on Trial: Allegations, Responses, and Lessons for Scholarly Publishing from FTC v. OMICS | Journal of Scholarly Publishing

Abstract:  On 25 August 2016, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued OMICS Group Inc., iMedPub LLC, Conference Series LLC, and Srinubabu Gedela, all affiliated with open access mega-publisher OMICS International, for deception in their solicitation of journal articles and advertising of conferences. The ongoing lawsuit seeks to stop OMICS’s deceptive practices and disgorge US $50.5 million in ill-gotten gains. OMICS has in turn claimed over $2.1 billion for harm caused by the lawsuit to its business and employees. This article describes the main arguments, counter-arguments, and court decisions in the 5920 pages of pleadings, exhibits, and orders that have been filed through 14 October 2018. The article then evaluates the case to formulate key take-aways for publishers, editors, academics, and universities. Depending on its ultimate outcome, the case against OMICS may be a turning point in the practices of questionable open access online publishers, making this interim case assessment pertinent to all concerned about the future of academic publishing.

German Publishing Giant Claims Blocking Ads Is Copyright Infringement, In Yet Another Lawsuit Against The Industry Leader | Techdirt

Of course, big publishers don’t let little things like losing court cases at every level of the legal system stop them from pursuing their attack. As the Heise Online site explains (original in German), Axel Springer is suing Eyeo yet again, this time for alleged copyright infringement (via Google Translate):

“Advertising blockers change the programming code of websites and thus directly access the legally protected offerings of publishers,” explains Claas-Hendrik Soehring, Head of Media Law at Axel Springer. “In the long run, they will not only damage a central financing basis for digital journalism but will also jeopardize open access to opinion-forming information on the Internet “

As Eyeo’s company spokesperson pointed out to Heise Online, this claim is ridiculous. Adblocking software operates within a person’s browser; it simply changes what appears on the screen by omitting the ads. It’s no different from resizing a browser window, or modifying a Web page’s appearance using one of the hundreds of other browser plugins that are available. It’s completely under the control of the user, and doesn’t touch anything on the server side. …”

Can the law be copyrighted? | TechCrunch

UpCodes wants to fix one of the building industry’s biggest headaches by streamlining code compliance. But the Y Combinator-backed startup now faces a copyright lawsuit filed against it by the International Code Council, the nonprofit organization that develops the code used or adopted in building regulations by all 50 states….

UpCodes’ first product, an online database, gives free access to codes, code updates and local amendments from 32 states, as well as New York City. For building professionals and others who want more advanced search tools and collaboration features, UpCodes sells individual and team subscriptions. In 2018, UpCodes released its second product, called UpCodes AI. Described as a “spellcheck for buildings,” the plug-in scans 3D models created with building information modeling (BIM) data and highlights potential errors in real time….

It argues that its use of building codes is covered by fair use. The ICC, on the other hand, claims that products like UpCodes’ database harm its ability to make revenue and continue developing code. The ICC wants UpCodes to take down the building code on which it claims copyright, and has also sued for damages….”

What the Chemical Industry Didn’t Want You to Know

Tucked away in an Oregon barn for decades was a collection of internal documents, correspondence, and chemical safety studies detailing the lengths the chemical industry took to conceal the dangers of their products.  

The documents in this collection—dubbed the “Poison Papers”—allege fraudulent chemical safety testing, corporate concealment of chemical dangers, and collusion between the industry and the regulators who were supposed to be protecting the public and environment. Commonly used herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate), dicamba, atrazine, and 2,4-D feature prominently among the papers, as do nearly every large chemical corporation. 

Now, thanks to the combined efforts of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the Bioscience Resource Project (BRP), this collection is available online for the first time….

The Poison Papers are the digitization of about three tons of files from litigation against Monsanto, litigation involving some of the Dow Chemicals products, open records requests, and Freedom of Information Act requests to the federal government as well as state agencies. It represents documents that were discovered over the past 40 years but some of the documents, including scientific studies, are older than that because they are from litigation….”

‘Predatory’ Scientific Publisher Is Hit With a $50 Million Judgment – The New York Times

In the world of scientific research, they are pernicious impostors. So-called predatory journals, online publications with official-sounding names, publish virtually anything, even gibberish, that an academic researcher submits — for a fee.

Critics have long maintained that these journals are eroding scientific credibility and wasting grant money. But academics must publish research to further their careers, and the number of questionable outlets has exploded.

Now the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in, announcing on Wednesday that it has won a $50 million court judgment against Omics International of Hyderabad, India, and its owner, Srinubabu Gedela.

Omics publishes hundreds of journals in such areas as medicine, chemistry and engineering. It also organizes conferences. The F.T.C. claimed that Omics violated the agency’s prohibition on deceptive business practices….”

FTC hits predatory scientific publisher with a $50 million fine

“It used to be that publishing a scientific journal was a significant undertaking, requiring infrastructure for peer review, printing, and distribution, and the costs were often defrayed by charging authors for the honor of publishing. Now, it’s possible to simply convert submissions to PDFs and throw them online. With those barriers gone, science quickly became plagued by predatory publishers who decided to eliminate peer review as well. Instead, they simply published anything from people who have the money to cover the publication fees.

The profits of these “predatory publishers” come from a mixture of genuine scientists who are unwary, people who want to pad their publication records, and fringe scientists who just want to see their ideas in the literature regardless of their lack of merit. All of them can end up putting misinformation into the scientific record and confusing a public that generally doesn’t even know about the existence of predatory publishers.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission has won a summary judgement that just might cause some predatory publishers to step back from their business model. An India-based predatory publisher has been hit with a $50 million dollar judgement for deceptive business practices, along with permanent injunctions against most of the activities that made it money….”

Paris’s High Court has ordered French ISPs to block access to the pirate libraries LibGen and Sci-Hub

For more than a decade, publishing research articles have been a lucrative business for research institutes. As a result, some sites such as Sci-Hub and LibGen have gained popularity because of offering free access to scientific articles obtained through web scraping.

For instance, Sci-Hub has more than 25 million articles, readily accessible by researchers from all over the world. But Sci-Hub and LibGen have come under intense pressure from academic publishers who are not happy with the service.

The academic publishers believe Sci-Hub and LibGen are pirate libraries which are a threat to their multi-billion dollar industry. The publishers have unsuccessfully drafted ways to shut the services down through lawsuits.

But on March 31, there was a victorious breakthrough for the academic publishers after the French Judiciary ordered several of the largest French ISPs to block access to the pirate libraries; LibGen and Sci-Hub….”

[Judgment in Federal Trade Commission v. OMICS Group]

“The Court finds that a permanent injunction against Defendants is appropriate under the circumstances to enjoin them from engaging in similar misleading and deceptive activities. Here, Defendants did not participate in an isolated, discrete incident of deceptive publishing, but rather sustained and continuous conduct over the course of years. An injunction is therefore necessary to prevent future misconduct and protect the public interest….

Where, as here, consumers suffer broad economic injury resulting from a defendant’s violations of the FTC Act, equity requires monetary relief in the full amount lost by consumers….Accordingly, the Court finds Defendants jointly and severally liable for restitution in the amount of $50,130,811.00….”

Court orders publisher OMICS to pay U.S. gov’t $50 million in suit alleging “unfair and deceptive practices” – Retraction Watch

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has won a judgment against a publisher and conference organizer that has been widely viewed as predatory.

As reported in brief by Courthouse News Service, U.S. District of Nevada Judge Gloria M. Navarro ordered OMICS International to pay the U.S. government $50,130,810. …

Following the suit’s filing in August 2016, The FTC won an initial ruling in September 2017, prohibiting OMICS from engaging in “deceptive practices” but not banning them from publishing or organizing conferences….”

“Revisiting Controlled Digital Lending Post-ReDigi” by Michelle M. Wu

Abstract:  Now that the Second Circuit has ruled on the ReDigi appeal, some libraries and users may be curious to see how the decision factors into controlled digital lending (CDL) efforts. To understand the interest and the implications, we first need to establish the basic contours of copyright, fair use, CDL, and ReDigi.