Another publisher is threatening to sue a librarian over comments made on the librarian’s blog.
In this case, the publisher is the OMICS Publishing Group, and its target is Jeffrey Beall, whose widely-read Scholarly Open Access blog lists publishers (including OMICS) that Beall considers to be questionable or out-and-out “predatory.” For the most part, these are publishers working under an open access (OA) model that exacts up-front charges from authors rather than access fees from readers, thus making the journals freely available to the public. There are both advantages and disadvantages to such a model; one downside is that it offers incentives to establish cheaply-produced and low-quality journals, accepting author submissions indiscriminately and with minimal editorial input, thus allowing the publisher to flood the market with free but shoddy material after taking its revenue up front.
Beall’s list has generated lots of comment and more than a little dyspepsia on the part of publishers included in it. (Earlier this year, he was threatened with a lawsuit by the Canadian Center of Science and Education, as well.) But OMICS’s response is unusual in several respects.
First, the group is asking for damages in the amount of $1 billion, as well as an additional payment of $10,000 to defray the cost of writing the letter itself. It also expresses the intention to pursue criminal charges which, under Indian law, could result in a jail term of up to three years.
Second, it demands that Beall send email messages to Nature and the New York Times, both of which mentioned OMICS in articles about Beall’s list earlier this year. While the letter doesn’t specify what the emails should say, one can only assume that OMICS expects Beall to use them to publicly disavow his previous inclusion of OMICS on his list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers.
Third — and perhaps most interesting of all — the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that an OMICS attorney has asserted the company’s intention to proceed with both its civil lawsuit and its criminal complaint regardless of whether Beall accedes to its demands.
The full text of the letter can be found at the INFOdocket website.
There are, frankly, many strange things about this letter. (Here’s a sample sentence, without edits: “Let us at the outset warn you that this is a very perilous journey for you and you will be completely exposing yourself to serious legal implications including criminal cases lunched against you in INDIA and USA.”) But what I find particularly strange is that OMICS would go to the trouble of sending a such a long and detailed letter asserting its implacable intent to pursue substantial civil remedies and criminal prosecution at some point in the future, no matter how Beall responds. If such is their intent, then why give him such a long and detailed heads-up? Why not simply file the suit and the criminal complaint? And what possible incentive would Beall have, if these actions are going to take place anyway, to submit to the company’s demands — even assuming that, for example, paying them $1 billion were within the realm of possibility?
Beall can take comfort in one thing, at least: extradition from the US to India, even in the case of convicted terrorists, is apparently quite difficult.