Website copies articles documenting scandal of disgraced cancer researcher, then uses DMCA to get the originals censored

Retraction Watch, a website that documents the retraction of scientific papers, has had a series of articles about disgraced cancer researcher Anil Potti abruptly censored by WordPress in response to a DMCA copyright complaint from a dodgy Indian website that appears to have copied all the articles to its own site, then complained to WordPress on the grounds that Retraction Watch had copied it:

One of the cases they followed was Anil Potti, a cancer researcher who, at the time, worked at Duke University. Potti first fell under scrutiny for embellishing his resume, but the investigation quickly expanded as broader questions were raised about his research. As the investigation continued, a number of Potti's papers ended up being retracted as accusations of falsified data were raised. Eventually, three clinical trials that were started based on Potti's data were stopped entirely. Although federal investigations of Potti's conduct are still in progress, he eventually resigned from Duke.

In all, Retraction Watch published 22 stories on the implosion of Potti's career. In fact, three of the top four Google results for his name all point to the Retraction Watch blog (the fourth is his Wikipedia entry). Despite the widespread attention to his misbehavior, Potti managed to get a position at the University of North Dakota (where he worked earlier in his career). Meanwhile, he hired a reputation management company, which dutifully went about creating websites with glowing things to say about the doctor.

This morning, however, 10 of the Retraction Watch posts vanished. An e-mail Oransky received explained why: an individual from "Utter [sic] Pradesh" named Narendra Chatwal claimed to be a senior editor at NewsBulet.In, "a famous news firm in India." Chatwal said the site only publishes work that is "individually researched by our reporters," yet duplicates of some of the site's material appeared on Retraction Watch. Therefore, to protect his copyright, he asked that the WordPress host pull the material. It complied.

The Ars Technica article skirts outright accusation, but makes a clear inference that a "reputation management company" committed fraud as part of a campaign to rehabilitate the reputation of Potti.

One important thing to note is that WordPress isn't obliged to respond to DMCA takedowns, but if it fails to do so, it could be jointly sued, along with its users, over the alleged infringement. In theory, though, WordPress could decide that these takedown requests don't pass the giggle test, reinstate the posts, and tell the company that sent in the notices to sue and be damned.

Site plagiarizes blog posts, then files DMCA takedown on originals [John Timmer/Ars Technica] (via Making Light)


  1. I am starting to get very tired of people using questionable copyright/IP/prior use claims to force shutdown of legitimate use.  Any good ideas about how to kick copyright trolls in the junk?

    1. Part of the answer is that you need a fairly badass web host.

      As a legal remedy, maybe if the penalty for false copyright claims were on a par with the penalties for actual copyright infringement?

      1. In this case, the Bad Guys not only made apparently false copyright claims, but appear to have committed copyright infringement as well.  The question is whether it’s possible to sue them for it in the US or not (and whether it’s possible to collect enough to make it worthwhile.)

        1.  You should be able to sue the person that hired them under the presumption that they knew or should have known the tactics that would be used

        2.  Hmm. . .  good point.  It’s not a precisely symmetric situation, in that the first response to allegations of copyright infringement is the takedown, and the Bad Guys in this case don’t really care if their content gets taken down from NewsBulet.In­. As long as they have taken down retraction watch, they have achieved their goals.

    2. I use for my blog ( They’re pretty aggressive on protecting their customers and their rates are rather astoundingly low. YMMV, but I’m paying ~$12/year (most of that in the domain name registration).

      Also, no aggressive up-selling or marketing games. They really just let their service record and happy customers sell it.
      While I doubt that it will happen, I’m looking forward to being able to thumb my nose at any faux-copyright disputes that might try to silence me :-D. (Having your own domain is nice.)

  2. … its simplistic style is partly explained by the fact that its editor, having to meet a publishing deadline, copied the information off the back of a packet of breakfast cereal, hastily embroidering it with a few footnotes in order to avoid prosecution under the incomprehensibly tortuous Galactic copyright laws. It is interesting to note that a later and wilier editor sent the book backwards in time through a temporal warp, and then successfully sued the breakfast cereal company for infringement of the same laws.

    —Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  3. I’ve always assumed that “reputation management” firms were crooks and enablers of crooks. If some of them are actually legit, it would seem like a good idea for them to form an industry association to self-police, before it’s too late. If it’s not too late already that is.

    1. I’ve always assumed that “reputation management” firms were crooks and enablers of crooks.

      They’re also pro astroturfers.

  4. There appears (surprise) to be no “Narendra Chatwal” associated with Nor is there a “Medical Reviews” section of the site.

    1. That’s because the DCMA claim came from “” (one L), which has since shut down; the URL now redirects to “”.

    1. That was such a strange story and yet so topical.  You know, even Jules Verne and HG Wells didn’t try to predict the impact of technology on average people, so I guess i would not be fair to mock RW Chambers for  imagining a futuristic 1920 without autos or airplanes. 

  5. I wonder if “Online Reputation Manager” are among the ‘reputation management’ companies that spam me periodically?

    I usually repay the favor by writing up an entry for them at selected web-of-trust-type sites. It’s surprising, actually, how many of these self-styled ‘reputation management’ companies have really terrible reputations at such sites, or have a lengthy Googleable history of malfeasance. Physician, heal thyself.

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