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U.S. gov’t sues academic publisher over deceiving researchers, readers

U.S. gov’t sues academic publisher over deceiving researchers, readers

The Federal Trade Commission’s job is to step in against deceptive practices against consumers, but suing a publisher, especially an academic one, seems rare. But the agency has decided to act on some egregious behavior by OMICS Group:

“The FTC’s complaint alleges that OMICS Group, Inc., along with two affiliated companies and their president and director, Srinubabu Gedela, claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices and have editorial boards made up of prominent academics. In reality, many articles are published with little to no peer review and numerous individuals represented to be editors have not agreed to be affiliated with the journals.

According to the FTC’s complaint, OMICS does not tell researchers that they must pay significant publishing fees until after it has accepted an article for publication, and often will not allow researchers to withdraw their articles from submission, thereby making the research ineligible for publication in another journal. Academic ethics standards generally forbid researchers from submitting the same research to more than one journal.”

According to the FTC, the company’s other deceptive practices include:

  • Calculating its own ‘impact factor’ for its journals, then claiming to have high scores
  • Telling researchers the company’s journals are indexed in PubMed and MEDLINE, which they are not
  • Including the names of prominent researchers as attendees and speakers at company-sponsored conferences, when said researchers had not agreed to participate

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “It is vital that we stop scammers who seek to take advantage of the changing landscape of academic publishing.”

The complaint can be found here. The suit was filed in federal district court in Nevada.

(H/T to Retraction Watch)

An unfortunate coincidence

An unfortunate coincidence

Long ago, I did a post called “Machine Readable“. It was about algorithms for search and ads and finding related content that fell into the gap of context and nuance. At the time, I picked on Google because … honestly, it was fun and relevant at the time.

Well, after all that time – it’s still kinda relevant, and not just an issue with Google. A friend of mine recommended a particular book, and I looked at the Amazon record for it. The screenshot was taken at 9:26 p.m. PST, January 2, 2016. The only alteration is the red oval pointing out the irony. At least, I dearly hope it is irony.*

At least it wasn't Strom Thurmond's autobiography?
* For those of you wondering why including work by former Sen. Trent Lott on an entry for a book about a tragic attack against the Civil Rights Movement, check out this link.


One for the Public Domain

One for the Public Domain

Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite as big a deal if:

  1. The public domain in the U.S. wasn’t currently in a state of suspended animation due to the Copyright Term Extension Act (do people still call it the Sonny Bono/Mickey Mouse Copyright Act?); and
  2. There weren’t those stories (not apocryphal, but perhaps not as common as one hears) about ASCAP going after scout troops for royalties.

But it IS a big deal. U.S. District Judge George H. King has ruled that “Happy Birthday” is in the public domain. And thus, the public domain has expanded by just a little bit. Not a huge victory, but I think we’ll take it.

The opinion is here. As noted in the article, the case isn’t over yet, and there is the possibility of an appeal – but still … PROGRESS!

Open Access & Open Ed: from SLA Annual 2015

Open Access & Open Ed: from SLA Annual 2015

I had the good fortune to catch a talk by Scholarly Communications Librarian Marilyn Billings (UMass Amherst), who talked about initiatives and best practices for open access models beyond journals publishing. Learned a lot from that talk, despite my scattered note-taking.

Encouraging Openness at your Institution: Trends in Open Ed and Open Access

Marilyn Billings
Scholarly Communications Librarian
University of MA Amherst

Textbook Trends
The high cost of commercial print textbooks is a major concern for parents, students, and even the federal government

2015 Horizon Report – mentions the proliferation of open ed resources
Babson Report:
Faculty not aware of OERs
Faculty appreciate OER concepts
Perceived quality of OERs
Lack of time to find and evaluate OERs
Faculty are key decision makers for OER adoption

What are OERs
O – Open
E – Educational
R – Resources (content)

5 Rs:
Reuse, redistribute, revise, remix, retain

OER includes:
Curriculum materials (syllabi, content modules)
Course materials (texts, assignments, simulations, learning objects, labs)
Collections (journal articles, e-books, art galleries, video libraries)
Tools (software, calculators, analytics)
… and more

Goals of Open Ed Initiative
To provide small incentive grants to faculty to adopt alternatives to high-cost textbooks – funded by Provost and University Libraries & other partners
To provide support infrastructure for creation and/or use of open educational resources and library content
To engage T&L partners and faculty in open ed
Academic Computing
Center of Teaching & Faculty Development
University Libraries

Workshop & Consultation Process

Two 1-hour workshops reviewing available OpenEd Resources and library resources
Individual consulting sessions for faculty with Scholarly Communications librarians and parters as needed

Topics: OER availability, copyright and licensing issues, etc.


Copyright and Author Rights
How do I protect my copyright on the works I create?
How do I make sure I’m not infringing on the copyright of others?

Licensing and Sharing Your Work: Creative Commons

Open Access and Fair Use
* Check the CC license to see how the creator would like something to be used.
* Exercise your fair use rights as academic researchers and educators


Lessons Learned: What Worked

Value of mini-grants and peer review
Meet faculty where they are – create cohorts
Capitalize on library strengths and value of existing services
Leverage complementary strengths of the partners.

Lack of knowledge by faculty
Time consuming to find or develop OE content
Lack of search tool or comprehensive catalog
May lack prepared quizzes and other content
Students may prefer print
Time commitment from partners
Getting beyond the pilot phase


Babson Survey Research Group Report
Horizon Report 2015
Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution
UMass Amherst’s OER LibGuide



The temptation to include a gif of the Futurama robot, Bender, saying “I’m back, Baby!” is strong, but I shall resist.

But yes … I’m reviving this blog to explore issues around access to information. Copyright, of course, privacy and confidentiality, scholarly communication and open access, e-scholarship, speech and censorship. And more, I’m sure.

Forgive me as I dust away the cobwebs and scrub away the mold. It may take quite a while to get the lay of the landscape again, but I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into it again.

Reaction Round-Up: Golan v. Holder

Reaction Round-Up: Golan v. Holder

In the midst of the SOPA/PIPA protests of yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court released a 69-page opinion, deciding Golan v. Holder [PDF] in favor of the government.  These are only some of the stories, analyses and reactions out there in the press and blogosphere. Some content excerpted following links.

Press and Tech Press

Ars Technica – Supreme Court rules Congress can re-copyright public domain works

New York Times – Public Domain Works Can Be Copyrighted Anew, Supreme Court Rules

TechDirt – Supreme Court Chooses SOPA/PIPA Protest Day To Give A Giant Middle Finger To The Public Domain

Thomson Reuters – Amid SOPA debate, SCOTUS gives Congress broad copyright power

Wired’s Threat Level – Supreme Court Says Congress May Re-Copyright Public Domain Works

Library & Educational Press/Blogs

Chronicle of Higher Ed – Supreme Court Upholds Law That Pulled Foreign Works Back Under Copyright

But the ruling could open the door for Congress to craft further changes in copyright law that scholars might consider even more restrictive, said Kenneth D. Crews, director of the copyright-advisory office at the Columbia University Libraries.
“It is a grant of sweeping authority to Congress to shape copyright law in almost any way that it chooses,” he said of the decision. “This should raise a red flag to be watchful about other developments in congress like SOPA,” he added, referring to the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261).

Kevin Smith at Duke University – Losing our focus

Last night my colleague Will Cross and I were teaching a class session on copyright for library students.  Will discussed (among other things) two aspects or principles of copyright decision making that seem relevant to today’s decision.  First was the idea that the federal courts tend to show great deference to Congress in the area of copyright.  That deference is very evident in today’s majority opinion: “This Court has no warrant to reject Congress’ rational judgment that exemplary adherence to Berne would serve the objectives of the Copyright Clause.”
The other principle Will discussed was the incentive purpose that is given as the reason, in the Constitution, for allowing Congress to enact intellectual property laws.  This purpose is pretty clearly rejected by the majority, when Justice Ginsberg writes that “Nothing in the text or history of the Copyright Clause, moreover, confines the ‘Progress of Science’ exclusively to ‘incentives for creation.’” …

Library Journal – Supreme Court Upholds Law Restoring Copyright to Some Public-Domain Works

Law Blogs

SCOTUSblog had the opinion and probably the first analysis of it – Opinion Recap: The Public Domain Shrinks

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy – Supreme Court Considers Case on “Unprecedented” Assertion of Congressional Power

Timothy Sandefur at Freespace – The smug analogy falls flat (in reaction to Kerr’s post)

Wendy Seltzer – Copyright in Congress, Court, and Public

Golan reminds us too that we can’t count on the courts to help us where Congress gets copyright wrong. The majority leaves a great deal to Congressional discretion, as it did in Eldred (striking down a challenge to copyright term extension): “the Copyright Clause does not demand that each copyright provision, examined discretely, operate to induce new works.” In a chilling phrase, the Golan majority quotes the district court’s finding of a “settled rule that private censorship via copyright enforcement does not implicate First Amendment concerns.”

Going Dark

Going Dark

Like a lot of other sites, this blog will be going black tomorrow to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Now, this blog isn’t active, isn’t popular, isn’t necessary in the larger scheme of things.  But I believe that SOPA, and its Senate analogue, Protect IP Act (PIPA), would do serious disservice to the open exchange of information and knowledge on the Internet.

So, I will stand with EFF, with the Internet Archive, with Wikipedia, and more.  See you on the other side.

Research Works Act

Research Works Act

The Research Works Act is a very small bill, text-wise. Oh, but the ripples …

H.R.3699 — Research Works Act (Introduced in House – IH)
HR 3699 IH

1st Session
H. R. 3699
To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.

December 16, 2011
Mr. ISSA (for himself and Mrs. MALONEY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Research Works Act’.


    No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that–
      (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or
      (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.


    In this Act:
      (1) AUTHOR- The term `author’ means a person who writes a private-sector research work. Such term does not include an officer or employee of the United States Government acting in the regular course of his or her duties.
      (2) NETWORK DISSEMINATION- The term `network dissemination’ means distributing, making available, or otherwise offering or disseminating a private-sector research work through the Internet or by a closed, limited, or other digital or electronic network or arrangement.
            (3) PRIVATE-SECTOR RESEARCH WORK- The term `private-sector research work’ means an article intended to be published in a scholarly or scientific publication, or any version of such an article, that is not a work of the United States Government (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code), describing or interpreting research funded in whole or in part by a Federal agency and to which a commercial or nonprofit publisher has made or has entered into an arrangement to make a value-added contribution, including peer review or editing. Such term does not include progress reports or raw data outputs routinely required to be created for and submitted directly to a funding agency in the course of research.

This shot across the bow appears to be nothing less than an effort to shut down future open access mandates AND kill off PubMed.  Simply put, the time to organize against this is now.

Cultural Gems That Should Be in the Public Domain Today – The Atlantic Wire

Cultural Gems That Should Be in the Public Domain Today – The Atlantic Wire

Cultural Gems That Should Be in the Public Domain Today – Entertainment – The Atlantic Wire

This has been passed around, I’m sure. But the geekier parts of me finds it interesting that all of Lord of the Rings and most of the Chronicles of Narnia could be in the public domain by now, if not for the 1976 Copyright Act.