We’ve temporarily removed a Retraction Watch post. Here’s why. (Hint: A bad law.)

Longtime Retraction Watch readers may recall that in 2013, we were forced to temporarily remove ten posts following a false — and frankly ridiculous — copyright infringement claim.

Well, it’s happened again.

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 way the DMCA works, Bluehost has to ask us to take down the post, or remove it themselves, as long as Khan fulfills certain requirements — which he did, committing perjury in the process — in order to remain what is called a “safe harbor” service provider. (You can read more about why a service provider would want to remain a safe harbor here.) Because Bluehost warned us that

Failure to eliminate or disable access to such alleged infringing material within such time period could result in suspension or termination of your website.

we have chosen to temporarily remove the post from public view, rather than risk all of Retraction Watch going dark.

We have also, however, filed a DMCA counter-claim, which means that if Khan doesn’t file a formal lawsuit against us for copyright infringement — which would be amusing, if nothing else — within 10 business days, we can restore the post. So the clock is ticking.

We also hope the clock is ticking on the ability of miscreants to misuse the DMCA, as we put it in 2015, as “an excuse to censor information they don’t like.” As we noted then:

In late 2013, we filed suit along with Automattic, the parent company of our blogging platform WordPress, against someone allegedly at a news service in India who falsely claimed that we had violated its copyright. Last week, we were pleased to learn Automattic won a similar case against a group that tried to censor another blogger.

As to our suit?

Last summer, we withdrew our suit, because the defendant had “neither served an answer nor a motion for summary judgment, and indeed has not appeared,” according to our dismissal filing. But by then the issue had made its way to Capitol Hill, where Automattic general counsel Paul Sieminski used our case as an example of DMCA abuse in testimony last March.

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4 thoughts on “We’ve temporarily removed a Retraction Watch post. Here’s why. (Hint: A bad law.)”

  1. Slightly confused as to why someone would go to this bother, what does it achieve in the long term if details of the misconduct are published elsewhere and that you guys are 100% likely to fight the notice?

  2. Glad to see the Automattic got involved. This (for those not self-hosting such sites) is the leading platform for small and medium sized content management uses. For most of us, we probably wouldn’t bother to respond to the takedown notices, but Automattic is right to help “police” such spurious moves.

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