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DMCA Process Abused To Nuke Post About Researcher Who Faked Data On Federally-Funded Study

from the 'DM'-stands-for-'Dick-Move' dept

Wonderful. It's another one of those anomalies that happens all the time: copyright as censor.

This time, the person abusing copyright protection tools to shut someone up is a disgraced researcher (Kaushik Deb) who received a three-year federal funding ban for "intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly" fabricating data in a research paper created with tax dollars.

Retraction Watch was informed by its hosting service that it had received a DMCA notice targeting the post. The tactic used here is one we've seen before: copy-pasting and backdating of posts to make it appear as though the targeted site is the one engaging in copyright infringement.

On Wednesday, our host, Bluehost, forwarded us another false copyright claim — aka a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice — by someone calling himself “Jiya Khan” and claiming to be based in Delhi, India. (Well, specifically, in “Rohini,sector-12,” which would mean that he or she is based at one of two petrol stations.)

Khan insisted under penalty of perjury that a December 2014 post of ours — which we have now temporarily removed from public view (more on that in a moment) — violated his or her copyright.

What actually happened, in an eerie echo of the 2013 case, is that Khan copied and pasted our December 9 post onto his or her site, then backdated it to December 5 to make it look older than ours, so that he or she could make a false copyright claim. (That, among other things, is a bit of a problem for Khan; the Federal Register notice that the post is about — and to which it manages not to link — wasn’t published until December 9.)

The bogus backdated Blogspot blog contains several other copy-pasted posts, suggesting "Jiya Khan" is just a fake name fronting for a sketchy reputation management service. Presumably, bogus DMCA notices have been issued to target the mixture of critical articles and negative reviews splashed across the blog's pages. It's not exactly a surefire way to rid the net of criticism, but it's cheap and easy and works just often enough it's worth trying. We saw this with disgraced real estate lawyer Sean Gjerde, and gripe sites have seen it happen with just about everyone else.

For the time being, the Retraction Watch post is down. The Federal Register's recounting of the incident and its sanctioning of Dr. Kaushik Deb is still live, and there are multiple snapshots of Retraction Watch's post on Kaushik Deb's data-faking hosted at the Internet Archive.

Retraction Watch is challenging the DMCA takedown notice. Presumably, the post will be live again in the near future. Then again, "Jiya Khan" may continue to insist he created Retraction Watch's post, which means Bluehost won't be able to do much more than keep the post down until all permutations of the DMCA process have been played out.

But that's how easy it is to make fully-factual criticism disappear, even if only temporarily. And whoever's mismanaging Kaushik Deb's questionable reputation knows this. Even if there's provable perjury in the takedown request, who's going to actually be able to track down the real person behind the "Jiya Khan" facade, much less manage to hold them accountable for their abuse of the system?


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  • identicon
    Anomalous Cowherd, 20 Dec 2016 @ 8:49am

    Streisand Effect?

    AGENCY:
    Office of the Secretary, HHS.

    ACTION:
    Notice.

    SUMMARY:
    Notice is hereby given that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has taken final action in the following case:

    Kaushik Deb, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Columbia: Based upon the evidence and findings of an investigation report by the University of Missouri-Columbia (UM) transmitted to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review, ORI found that Dr. Kaushik Deb, former Postdoctoral Fellow, Life Sciences Center, UM, engaged in misconduct in science in research that was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants 2 R01 HD021896 and 5 R01 HD042201-05 and National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), NIH, grant 5 R01 RR013438-07.

    ORI found that the Respondent intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly fabricated and falsified data reported in the following published paper:

    Deb, K., Sivarguru, M., Yong, H., & Roberts, R.M. “Cdx2 gene expression and trophectoderm lineage specification in mouse embryos.” Science 311:992-996, 2006 (hereafter referred to as “Science 311”); this paper was retracted on July 27, 2007
    An earlier version of Science 311 had been previously submitted to Nature on or about June 24, 2005 (hereafter referred to as “Nature #1”). It was revised and resubmitted to Nature on or about August 24, 2005, and ultimately was rejected by Nature on September 14, 2005 (hereafter referred to as “Nature #2”).

    Specifically, ORI finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent engaged in misconduct in science by intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly:

    1. Falsifying and/or fabricating three panels of data in Figure 1 (Figures 1C, 1D, and 1E) in Science 311 and in Nature #1 and Nature #2, by photo-manipulating confocal fluorescent images to falsely represent three-, four-, and six-cell embryos, thereby supporting the paper's central premise that cells derived from a late-dividing blastomere would be positive for a transcription factor, Cdx2, while the cells derived from a leading blastomere would be Cdx2 negative

    2. using photo-manipulation to falsify and fabricate at least 13 panels of confocal image data in Figures 2, 3, and S2, including Figures 2K, 2L, 2Q, 2R, 2V, 2X, 3G, 3H, 3I, S2s, S2t, S2u, and 2W, in Science 311 and in corresponding figures in Nature #1 and Nature #2 so that these images falsely supported the central premise in Science 311 that Cdx2-expressing cells were peripherally located in the embryo

    3. falsifying Figures 2G, 3J, 3L, S2V, S2X, S6I, S6J, and S6K in Science 311, Figures 2A, 2C, S4v, and S4x in Nature #1, and Figures 2G, 3I, 3J, and 3K in Nature #2 by reusing and re-labelling the same image to represent different embryos and different experimental conditions

    4. falsifying Figure 4 in Science 311 and corresponding figures submitted in Nature #1 and Nature #2 to falsely illustrate that the first dividing cell of a two-cell mouse embryo will ultimately differentiate into the trophoblast; specifically, Respondent:

    Falsely colored and photomanipulated a single bright-phase image of a three-cell embryo to make it appear as four separate embryos that had been differentially injected with TRD
    falsely colored and photomanipulated a four-cell embryo to make TRD appear distinctly located in the lagging cell and in its descendent cell, when the actual embryo contained diffuse staining within the sub-zonal, extracellular space
    photomanipulated a damaged, non-viable two-cell embryo to make it appear viable
    re-used, falsely colored, and relabeled seven images from an unrelated experiment to falsely represent a time lapse course of eight different images
    5. falsifying Figures 5K, 5L, 5N, and 5O in Science 311 by photo-manipulating a single confocal image to falsely represent four different images at two different stages of embryonic development. The images also were presented as Figures 4k, 4l, 4n, and 4o in Nature #1.

    The Respondent failed to take responsibility for the fabrication and falsification described in ORI's findings.

    The following administrative actions have been implemented for a period of three (3) years, beginning on November 17, 2014:

    (1) Respondent is debarred from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and from eligibility for, or involvement in, nonprocurement programs of the United States Government referred to as “covered transactions” pursuant to HHS' Implementation (2 CFR part 376 et seq) of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Guidelines to Agencies on Governmentwide Debarment and Suspension, 2 CFR part 180 (collectively the “Debarment Regulations”); and

    (2) Respondent is prohibited from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
    Acting Director, Office of Research Integrity, 1101 Wootton Parkway, Suite 750, Rockville, MD 20852, (240) 453-8800.

    Donald Wright,

    Acting Director, Office of Research Integrity.

    [FR Doc. 2014-28859 Filed 12-8-14; 8:45 am]

    BILLING CODE 4150-31-P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 8:52am

    Wait that is a federal crime?

    I know of multiple people guilty of this! If only there were some kind of reward system to allow us to turn in all of the people stealing funding just like this guy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:03am

    Hey, there's clearly _three_ petrol stations in sector twelve.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ben (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 5:19pm

      Re:

      There is also 'ESI Hospital' which, considering the research under discussion, would seem a more likely location.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 1:00am

        Re: Re:

        The ESI hospital is in sector 15A, apparently.
        "Rohini ESI hospital address" is apparently a bit of a trending google search at the moment, for some reason...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:06am

    Abolish Copyright

    And the sooner the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:41am

    Disgusting yes, surprising no

    With absolutely no penalty for lying and claiming copyright on something you don't own, thanks to the law being entirely one-sided it's not surprising that more and more people are using it to get rid of things they don't like and/or want others to see.

    If the system were a little more balanced, with actual penalties for abusing it(or 'using it as intended', take your pick), and it wasn't 'Take it down immediately, and you can put it back up if you're willing to fight for it', stuff like this likely wouldn't happen nearly as much, but as it stands the one-sided law makes things like this just too tempting, and entirely risk free to engage in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:53am

      Re: Disgusting yes, surprising no

      I'd be all for the punishments they want for infringement if it was applied backwards with double the intensity if the complaint is bogus. Of course not only this ain't happening but we can also expect things to get worse when the next reform comes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: Disgusting yes, surprising no

        That would certainly be entertaining.

        'You want the punishment for copyright infringement to be X? Alright, assume for a moment that the punishment for falsely claiming infringement is twice that, you still want X as the punishment?'

        Of course the glaring problem that is currently in the system, and that would have be to fixed if that was to mean anything is that it doesn't matter what the penalty was, it could literally be 'smeared in BBQ sauce and thrown into a pitch black room filled with rabid and/or starving dingos' and so long as it was never enforced like the current law isn't then they'd still break it on a regular basis.

        The punishment doesn't matter if it's never applied, so I'd say that is a bigger problem than the punishment itself, inconsistent(or non-existed in the case of bogus DMCA claims) repercussions for falsely claiming infringement. Fix that and you could keep the current (currently entirely theoretical) punishment of perjury and that would solve a great many of the problems. You'd still have the problem of 'Guilty by accusation, innocent only if you're willing to fight back', but punishment for abusing the law would at least be a good start.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Vidiot (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re: Disgusting yes, surprising no

        Send him to Germany, where lying about facts (a.k.a. "fake news) will soon be a crime.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:44am

    So to create their fake story, the copied and pasted the original to their site and then back-dated it.

    Can't they be sued for direct copyright infringement? Since they know how to file a DMCA notice, isn't it then willful? How are they not in violation of CRIMINAL copyright infringement for the behavior?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      Can't they be sued for direct copyright infringement? Since they know how to file a DMCA notice, isn't it then willful? How are they not in violation of CRIMINAL copyright infringement for the behavior?

      As the Techdirt post noted at the end, the supposed rightsholder is almost certainly an alias with a fictitious location, so applying any sanction whatsoever, whether a copyright suit or an action for the false DMCA claim, is difficult. On the other hand, since Jiya Khan is clearly an attempt to conceal the origin, then according to the FBI's theory that attempting to conceal one's identity and/or location is an indication of knowing wrongdoing, it should be easier to get the FBI interested in extrajurisdictional hacking (conveniently now legal!) to find this person and bring them to justice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 9:47am

    According to our renowned and wise trolls it's all anomalies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 20 Dec 2016 @ 10:43am

    kaushik Deb fake

    Yesterday... never heard of him. Today... know all about him.

    How's that reputation management working out for you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 4:08pm

    DMCA is an American law and, like any other law, it is supposed to stop "crime". But... like any other law, it can't stop crime. Instead, it is used to censor things and to protect the copyright monopoly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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