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    Further Developments In the Retraction Watch Takedown/Censorship Case

    Adam Holland, February 22, 2013

    Abstract: Retraction Watch's Anil Potti posts are back up, but the situation remains very strange.

    We referenced the Retraction Watch ("RW") dust-up in an earlier Weather Report, but for those of you new to the story, here is a summary:

    Retraction Watch is a site devoted to studying, and making transparent, research misconduct. They had a series of posts focusing on the exploits of Anil Potti, a Duke University oncogenomics researcher who left Duke under a cloud of scandal.

    Retraction Watch's posts, in their entirety, were copied and published on an Indian website, which then issued DMCA takedown against the originals.
    Given the way the DMCA works, the originals came down immediately, and RW had some difficulty convincing the right people that they were the true and correct rightsholders, such that the posts could be restored. As RW notes:
    "Automattic's process, which many people found maddening, was necessary for them to retain their "safe harbor" status. Otherwise, they would be liable for damages following a successful copyright infringement claim, and shut down sites completely. Some have suggested that having the blog hosted somewhere other than WordPress would prevent future such attacks, but our understanding is that any host would do the same thing if it wanted to maintain its safe harbor status."

    In what is only good news, Retraction Watch has recently announced that all of the posts in question have been successfully restored.

    Also noteworthy is that Retraction Watch's blogger, Ivan Oransky, apparently used an automated counter-notice generator, indicating that the automation arms-race is percolating down to individual-level users, at least a little bit.

    However, whoever was behind the original copying and takedown looks to be still at it.
    Another site writing about Potti has received takedown notices, and to further compound the weirdness, Potti himself has contacted Retraction Watch to disavow any involvement, going to far as to say that an online reputation manager working on his behalf had actually been hired without his knowledge.

    In our view, this is simply further evidence that the process itself can become the point, or the focus of attention in a way that makes any claim over the underlying content almost irrelevant--surely not the intention of the DMCA's drafters.


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