OMICS Publishing Group Makes A Billion Dollar Threat

Effluvia

I'm in trial preparation mode, so this will be brief.

A publisher in India called OMICS Publishing Group has threatened to sue a blogger named Jeffrey Beal, who runs a blog called Scholarly Open Access. Beal critiques open-access publishing venues, and and ran a post asserting that OMICS engages in spamming and bait-and-switch. OMICS' threat would be mundane, except that its lawyer, Ashok Ram Kumar of the Indian firm IP Markets, has chosen to be so very ridiculous. He's threatening to sue for $1 billion, and to seek criminal penalties in India.

In India, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" or to publish false information. The punishment can be as much as three years in prison.

Lawyer, please.

Mr. Beal has little to fear from civil or criminal proceedings in India unless he wants to travel there.

First, if OMICS gets a civil judgment against him from India, they won't be able to enforce it here. The SPEECH Act prohibits any federal or state court in the United States from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation unless (1) the judgment creditor can prove that the foreign court offers equivalent protections for free speech as the defendant would have enjoyed in United States courts under the First Amendment, or (2) the judgment creditor can prove he or she would have prevailed even under the stricter standards in the United States.

Second, if OMICS seeks criminal charges against Mr. Beall in India, they won't be able to extradite him there. Like most extradition treaties, the treaty between the United States and India requires dual criminality — that is, that the offense is a crime in both countries. Hurting fee-fees isn't a crime in the United States. Moreover, under these circumstances, the chance that the U.S. Departments of State or Justice would cooperate with extradition requests is effectively zero.

So. OMICS can sue in the United States. If they do so, they'll have to satisfy their burden under U.S. law — for instance, by showing that Mr. Beall made provably false statements of fact. Attorney Kumar's bluster does not encourage confidence that they will be able to do so:

The rambling, six-page letter argues that Mr. Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent," and "smacks of literal unprofessionalism and arrogance." The letter also accuses Mr. Beall of racial discrimination and attempting to "strangle the culture of open access publications."

"All the allegation that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment of your imagination by you and the purpose of writing this blog seems to be a deliberate attempt to defame our client," the letter reads. "Our client perceive the blog as mindless rattle of a incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."

Let us know how that works out for you, Mr. Kumar. Remember: you can't say "all the publishing credibility of COMIC SANS" without OMICS.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

65 Comments

64 Comments

  1. Michael Donnelly  •  May 15, 2013 @8:17 am

    Really? No Harold and Kumar jokes yet? Come on, people. Kal Penn's parents emigrated here from India, you can't lose with that as a foundation.

    Maybe mix in a little bit of all-your-base meme action based on the machine-like translation of the last quotes.

    "All the allegation you have mentioned…."

  2. naught_for_naught  •  May 15, 2013 @8:24 am

    This may be one of the quotes from Scholarly Open Access that has Mr. Kumar so animated:

    I strongly recommend, in the strongest terms possible, that all scholars from all countries avoid doing business in any way with the OMICS Group. Do not submit papers. Do not agree to serve on their editorial boards. Do not register for or attend their conferences.

  3. He really said that...?!?  •  May 15, 2013 @8:34 am

    Wow.

    "The rambling, six-page letter argues that Mr. Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent"…

    Impertinent? You don't see that often in correspondence around these parts. Jeffrey Beal will certainly rue the day he crossed paths with Mr. Kumar.

    Two things that struck me in the article:

    "In 2012, The Chronicle found that the group was listing 200 journals, but only about 60 percent had actually published anything."

    And:

    "On his blog, Mr. Beall accuses OMICS of spamming scholars with invitations to publish (without disclosing fees-I added the part in parentheses), quickly accepting their papers, then charging them a nearly $3,000 publishing fee after a paper has been accepted."

    I'm wondering if, in some cases, they took the $3,000 and then didn't actually print the papers. If so, they must have attended the Prenda Law seminar on business modeling. What a sweet deal.

    Fun reading: http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/01/25/omics-predatory-meetings/#more-1243

  4. Hulinut  •  May 15, 2013 @8:35 am

    The rambling, six-page letter

    Six? blimey, the article they are complaining about would maybe fill three pages, how on earth did they manage to go on for six pages without going into detail about any specific complaints?
    Would love to see a full transcript of the letter as it would no doubt be an amusing lesson in "How to ramble on and on and on and on and on and on"

  5. He really said that...?!?  •  May 15, 2013 @8:45 am

    @naught_for_naught

    Quoting from your article:

    "…Do not agree to serve on their editorial boards."

    Not to worry, according to what I read, they'll sign you up automatically. No application required!

  6. delurking  •  May 15, 2013 @9:05 am

    OK, Ken, we really would like to see your polite letter to Mr. Kumar requesting further information, and his response.

  7. Ken Mencher  •  May 15, 2013 @9:27 am

    Why am I hearing Dr. Evil's "One Billion Dollars" comment here?

  8. naught_for_naught  •  May 15, 2013 @9:29 am

    I imagine the initial client interview looking something like this:

  9. He really said that...?!?  •  May 15, 2013 @9:30 am

    The LinkedIn profiles in this article are a must-read:

    OMICS Ineptly Uses Social Media to Promote its Brands

    http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/02/12/omics-ineptly-uses-social-media-to-promote-its-brands/#more-1310

  10. Mike  •  May 15, 2013 @9:42 am

    Unfortunately, companies such as OMICS are numerous on the sub continent. Especially in the education space.

    Those LinkedIn profiles are funny.

  11. MrSpkr  •  May 15, 2013 @9:44 am

    Jeffrey Beal will certainly rue the day he crossed paths with Mr. Kumar.

    "Rue the day"? Who talks like that?

  12. AlphaCentauri  •  May 15, 2013 @9:59 am

    Looks like the OMICS staff chose their favorite activities from this list:
    http://www.usaflivingfit.com/list-of-activities
    "Okay, Richard, you take 'Step Aerobics, Street Hockey, Surfing.' Tough luck, Justin, you're stuck with 'Clean the house, Clean the pool, Community Service Projects'"

  13. Relating them to Comic Sans: that's like calling them the Jar Jar Binks of the publishing world. I applaud you, Ken.

  14. Jack B.  •  May 15, 2013 @10:01 am

    Remember: you can't say "all the publishing credibility of COMIC SANS" without OMICS.

    Nerdgasm! Or should I say, Dr. Nerdgasm.

  15. Paul  •  May 15, 2013 @10:06 am

    Looks like they are having some other problems:

    U.S. Government Accuses Open Access Publisher of Trademark Infringement

    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2013/05/government-accuses-open-access-p.html

  16. WillG  •  May 15, 2013 @10:07 am

    Where's Mr. Kumar's law office? Whitecastle?

  17. RKN  •  May 15, 2013 @10:13 am

    As a scientific researcher myself I can second Mr. Beals advice to avoid anything related to the -omics group. I once accepted an invitation to present at one of their "popular" conferences, and discovered when I arrived there were maybe 20 people in attendance, almost all of them invited speakers! And then I got into an argument with the conference organizer when he claimed they never offered to cover my lodging at the hotel, even after I had presented evidence that they had.

  18. Jack B.  •  May 15, 2013 @10:14 am

    p.s. Damn you, Dreamhost. Damn you all to hell! You'll rue the day, et cetera, et cetera…

    Let's try this again:

    Nerdgasm! Or should I say, Dr. Nerdgasm.

  19. He really said that...?!?  •  May 15, 2013 @10:17 am

    Knew someone would pick up the Real Genius reference:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8NN2A4hQ94?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360

  20. dentonite  •  May 15, 2013 @10:19 am

    A tangential anecdote, re: Indian law and speech.

    I'm Canadian. I used to work with an older Indo-Canadian lawyer, a first-generation immigrant and naturalized citizen. Once, he came into the office somewhat upset, because he'd been to the mall, where he'd noticed for the first time that the tilework in the atrium floor had a maple leaf design.

    Because walking on national symbols is disrespecting them, see. And accustomed to Indian law, which has severe criminal penalties for doing so, he wanted to write to the newspapers/his member of parliament/various bar associations, calling for a similar law for Canadian national symbols.

    I had to explain in a depressing amount of detail why that would be a bad idea, before he gave up on it.

  21. Graham Shevlin  •  May 15, 2013 @10:40 am

    I think we need to add "ludicrously hyperbolic demands for redress" to Ken's standard admonition that vague threats are the hallmark of bullying and thuggery. 1 billion dollars? Who do these people think they are talking to?

  22. B  •  May 15, 2013 @11:00 am

    Hi, kennethwhite@popehat.com,

    It's recently come to my attention that you write a blog about suing people for $1 billion dollars (USD). I would like to offer to let you write a guest post for an exciting new advertising network I have. It would open up many opportunities for you in the field of suing people for $1 billion dollars (USD).

    Mac "Shady" McTeague, DDS.

  23. Paul  •  May 15, 2013 @11:03 am

    Mac "Shady" McTeague, DDS, he writes great pony articles :)

  24. Brett Middleton  •  May 15, 2013 @11:53 am

    OK, Ken, we really would like to see your polite letter to Mr. Kumar requesting further information, and his response.

    But we all know already how those go.

    Hi, I'm Ken from Popehat, where we amuse ourselves and our readers by making fun of censorious asshats and bashing them with the Streisand Hammer. We've had indications that you, excellent sir, are qualified to receive our finest attentions. Would you care to make any comments on the merits of your case that will enhance our coverage of the situation? Any little thing that will give us further ammunition with which to shoot you down will do. Thank you so very much.

    Honestly, I think Ken would probably get a lot further by not blowing his cover in the first paragraph of every such missive. :)

  25. Darryl  •  May 15, 2013 @12:00 pm

    I don't know about India, but in Texas it is an ethical violation to threaten criminal action to gain an advantage in a civil action.

  26. Elizabeth  •  May 15, 2013 @12:29 pm

    Brett, I would agree with you, but he keeps doing it and it keeps working.

    I don't know why anyone responds to those letters either! And yet they do!

  27. Ken White  •  May 15, 2013 @1:14 pm

    I can only assume it's some sort of parallel of the goofy guy — hot girl phenomenon, of which I am also very fond.

  28. Bill  •  May 15, 2013 @1:17 pm

    I sure hope Mr Kumar is an old man a few days away from retirement – it would really suck to have this as an opening gambit for one's career. Further, I'm really hoping that it's language differences and unfamiliarity with exchange rates driving at least some of this, a billion is a lot of money. I wonder if they have contingency fees in India too, if I was working on a billion dollar settlement (I know, there's 0 chance of it going down like this) it sure would be a bummer to find out I did it for $23.00/hr instead of 40%. India is a big place and there's a lot of great stuff there, but man, this is just one of many reasons to make you really glad you live in the US.

  29. Bill  •  May 15, 2013 @1:23 pm

    @Ken – that's actually a phenomenon and not just a movie plot? Maybe if said goofy guy has a 7 figure bank account or woman is over 30 – if that's happening in the under 20 crowd, things have changed a lot since my youth. It's a nice thought though ;-)

  30. W. Ian Blanton  •  May 15, 2013 @4:33 pm

    @Elizabeth says "I don't know why anyone responds to those letters either! And yet they do!"

    The irony is that Ken himself explains this pretty effectively:

    shutupshutupshutupshutup

  31. W. Ian Blanton  •  May 15, 2013 @4:34 pm

    Sorry, wrong code for the above
    shutupshutupshutupshutup

  32. Val  •  May 15, 2013 @4:52 pm

    Further, I'm really hoping that it's language differences and unfamiliarity with exchange rates driving at least some of this, a billion is a lot of money.

    @Bill: Could be, 1 billion rupees is about 100 Crore at current exchange rate which is about 18 million USD.

  33. Kat  •  May 15, 2013 @5:07 pm

    Hi, I'm Ken from Popehat, where we amuse ourselves and our readers by making fun of censorious asshats and bashing them with the Streisand Hammer. We've had indications that you, excellent sir, are qualified to receive our finest attentions. Would you care to make any comments on the merits of your case that will enhance our coverage of the situation? Any little thing that will give us further ammunition with which to shoot you down will do. Thank you so very much.

    Hee!

    BTW, good luck and have fun (?) in court, Ken.

  34. barry  •  May 15, 2013 @6:27 pm

    Defamation is not (always) a dirty word.
    It has to be in the public interest to publicise scams in scientific publishing. That affects everyone. The reputation of science is more important than the reputation of any individual publisher and their wikipedia (and other) sock puppets.
    The 'public interest' defence is for exactly that_ for when a reputation is wrong and should be defamed for the benefit of the world in general. It's more than just a personal thing.

    But why not go for a trillion dollars? Surely that would be scarier than a billion? _Nah, for most people, not really.

  35. barry  •  May 15, 2013 @6:28 pm

    can someone unbold that? (please)

  36. BaronLurk  •  May 15, 2013 @6:40 pm

    One has to wonder if the OMICS Marketing Department is outsourced to / located in Nigeria… ;)

  37. Mikhael  •  May 15, 2013 @6:46 pm

    Was beginning to worry about you, Ken

    No wonder OMICS is so oily

  38. xbradtc  •  May 15, 2013 @7:36 pm

    If there are genuine issues with someone's scholarship, it's not defamation to point that out. Defamation (in non-lawyer speak) by definition includes a falsehood.

  39. barry  •  May 15, 2013 @8:19 pm

    @xbradtc, I don't think the truth is a defence everywhere. The definition has more to do with reputation.

  40. Bill  •  May 15, 2013 @8:19 pm

    @Val – I know I'm generally a little quick to give the benefit of the doubt on language/cultural differences, but I'm trying to think of even the most shameless lawyer in the US (hell, even including Saul Goodman), even John Edwards channeling dead babies, or Willie Gary( I had a lawyer friend who told me several Gary stories saying he was so shameless he made Edwards look sincere & justice minded).but even the worst of the worst, it's hard to imagine them saying "I've got this lawsuit going for $1 Billion" against even a company – but an individual. I've heard it said many times that winning a judgement or lawsuit is the easy part, collecting is the challenge. So even if you thought you could get the verdict, you'd just be inviting ridicule to think you could collect without it getting reduced on appeal or had any chance of collecting. Almost seems like it's based on a caricature of what you hear of frivolous law suits in the US. It's like if you could even say it with a straight face, the listener would die laughing. 18 million still seems pretty ridiculous, but it's two orders of magnitude more so either the dude is delusional, a masochist or something – it's just hard to see a sane professional even contemplating it.

  41. Charlotte  •  May 15, 2013 @8:30 pm

    @Ken Mencher – if that's wrong, I don't want to be right. (in other words, meeeeee toooooo)

  42. xbradtc  •  May 15, 2013 @8:51 pm

    @Barry-

    @xbradtc, I don't think the truth is a defence everywhere.

    Maybe not in India, but throughout the USA, the truth is an absolute defense. And as Ken noted in his post, as long as he stays out of India, the case has to meet US criteria.

  43. htom  •  May 15, 2013 @9:03 pm

    Hmm.

    In India, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" or to publish false information. The punishment can be as much as three years in prison.

    Is this letter itself not grossly offensive, have menacing character, and contain false information?

  44. Bill  •  May 15, 2013 @10:46 pm

    @htom – I know India's legal system isn't the model of the world (not implying our is either) but man such wording is so freaking vague. One has to think that it means whatever a really well-connected attorney wants it to mean

  45. Val  •  May 16, 2013 @3:03 am

    @Bill: You'd be surprised at the "quality" of "lawyers" you can get in India. For example in Mumbai near both the courthouse areas and shanty areas there are lot of law offices that offer their services. The quality is….well..it is what it is I guess you could say, nor is it to say that there aren't any good lawyers in India either. Law itself is rather complex over there to the point of nearly being byzantine (I sat in a civil claims proceeding about 10 years ago where 3-4 lawyers on the defendant's side were struggling to figure out which regulation they were trying to fight on, and that was not a major case either).

    Nonetheless I fully agree with you that $1 Billion USD is an obscene amount for an individual penalty (although the IRS class action for $250 billion potential has got to be the highest I've ever heard to date against a single entity), my guess is because of the way that INR numeric denominations work there happens to be a mistranslation, specifically:

    1 crore is written: 1,00,00,000 (note the zeroes)
    100 crore is written: 1,000,000,000

    Assuming of course that he really didn't put the $ or USD denomination anywhere in his letter then, 100 crore is 1 billion rupees which is about 18 million USD currently and I can see how this can happen.

    Doesn't really justify anything else and yes I'm probably being pedantic.

  46. ZarroTsu  •  May 16, 2013 @5:45 am

    Dr. Evil and Ganondorf had a lovechild?

  47. Chad Miller  •  May 16, 2013 @7:53 am

    Re: the language issue: I was going to mention that the meaning of "billion" is actually ambiguous, because English "billion" used to be different from American "billion" and both meanings are apparently still in use in India. Then I remembered that the (formerly) English billion is larger than the American one, making the possibility that Mr. Kumar meant the other one even more hilarious.

    Re: "Shut up": One of my favorite comment exchanges ever went something like this:

    Ken: [writes an article about a bad legal threat]
    Threatener: [shows up to explain himself]
    Ken: [asks a question]. "By the way, this isn't legal advice, but you shouldn't answer my questions."
    Threatener: [answers anyway]

  48. Bill  •  May 16, 2013 @8:20 am

    @Chad -Here my faith in humanity was not destroyed b/c I was banking on a language or cultural barrier. now you're telling me it might be worse than it looks? We really are doomed.

  49. mcinsand  •  May 16, 2013 @8:41 am

    Someone has apparently borrowed Ken's Streisand Hammer. Not only have they used it well, but they have rewritten the book:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyclay/2013/05/14/lessons-from-amys-baking-company-six-things-you-should-never-do-on-social-media/

  50. Stephen Hutcheson  •  May 16, 2013 @10:52 am

    >I'm in trial preparation mode, so this will be brief.

    Shortly to be filed under "puns, vile, barristers, for the avoidance of."

  51. Brett Middleton  •  May 16, 2013 @1:42 pm

    Shortly to be filed under "puns, vile, barristers, for the avoidance of."

    I think that one is already on file, placed there by Ben Franklin. Or maybe his great, great grandfather.

  52. Shelby  •  May 16, 2013 @4:23 pm

    Off topic, Atkinson-Baker has done it again. Another thousand-word "short story" about, apparently, the importance of Haagen-Dazs to the inspiration process.

  53. Dyspeptic Curmudgeon  •  May 16, 2013 @5:18 pm

    ">I'm in trial preparation mode, so this will be brief.

    Question: What sort of brief?
    Answer: Depends.

  54. Frank Rizzo  •  May 16, 2013 @9:47 pm

    Real or troll?

    Update: We've received an email from Dennis Morris, a gentleman with a hotmail.com email address purporting to be Ford's attorney. Here is the message. We haven't corrected its formatting.

    Greetings;I am a lawyer,and have been contacted by Mayor Ford's office in reference to your indicating you will post a photo of Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. Mayor Ford denies such took place,and if such posting occurs,it is false and defamatory,and you will be held legally accountable.In reference to the photo,you wish to publish, Mayor Ford has his photo taken daily,sometimes with others.

    If the person you mention is now deceased,it is sad,regardless of his alleged background.

    Please govern yourself accordingly.

    Dennis Morris.

    For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine

  55. Frank Rizzo  •  May 16, 2013 @9:53 pm

    Interesting.

    Controversial Toronto councillor says he's not guilty of charges Last Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Toronto City Coun. Rob Ford says he will plead not guilty to criminal charges of assault and making a death threat….Ford also added some detail about events at his home this week that resulted in the charges.

    Lawyer Dennis Morris told CBCNews.ca that his client was arrested in his Etobicoke home Wednesday morning after being accused of committing an assault earlier that day. Morris said Ford denies the assault took place and will plead not guilty.

    "Our position is that these offences never did occur," Morris said, noting that in cases of alleged spousal abuse, police are obliged to make an arrest.

  56. Frank Rizzo  •  May 16, 2013 @10:02 pm

    The Toronto Star just published a story on this.
    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in 'crack cocaine' video scandal
    A video that appears to show Toronto’s mayor smoking crack is being shopped around by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade.

    A lawyer retained by Ford, Dennis Morris, said that Thursday’s publication by the Gawker website of some details related to the video was “false and defamatory.” Morris told the Star that by viewing a video it is impossible to tell what a person is doing. “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?” Morris said.

    Your mileage may vary.

    Two Toronto Star reporters have viewed the video three times. It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches.

    “I’m f—ing right-wing,” Ford mutters at one point. “Everyone expects me to be right-wing. I’m …” and his voice trails off. At another point he is heard calling Trudeau a “fag.” Later in the 90-second video he is asked about the football team and he appears to say (though he is mumbling), “they are just f—ing minorities.”

  57. Ravi  •  May 17, 2013 @12:13 pm
  58. As an (impoverished) screen printer, I will take up the call to make those t-shirts. I'll even donate a portion of the profits to whatever charity or legal defense fund you guys deem worthy. :)

  59. Alana Forsyth  •  May 18, 2013 @6:26 pm

    With a 20,000-member editorial board, who could go wrong?

  60. Disputo  •  May 20, 2013 @10:56 pm

    It's possible that Mr. Kumar is using the long scale of number naming, as the British did until recently, which would mean that when he says he wishes to sue for "one billion dollars" he means what we in the US refer to as "ONE TRILLION dollars", which would give us what is surely the world's first TRILLION dollar sue threat.

  61. Eli Rabett  •  May 23, 2013 @7:44 pm

    Gotta bring this to the attention of Scam-O-Rama With Mr. Kumar taking the lead the boys from Lagos cannot be far behind.

  62. Eli Rabett  •  May 23, 2013 @7:47 pm
  63. He really said that...?!?  •  Jun 1, 2013 @1:32 pm
  64. Alternate Being  •  Jun 5, 2013 @1:31 am

    The threat based on Indian IT Act Section 66A:

    In India, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act makes it illegal to use a computer to publish "any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character" or to publish false information. The punishment can be as much as three years in prison.

    may sound comical but it is very real and serious.

    Aspirants like OMICS seem to have headed to one particular Indian Police 'Cyber Cell' somewhere in Mumbai to get arrests rolling; see Google search for this. Now there is a guideline barring low ranking cops from using 66(A) for arrests. But the law is still in place.

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