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Publisher Threatens Librarian With $1 Billion Lawsuit

A scholarly publisher has issued a warning to Jeffrey Beall, a librarian who writes about what he calls "predatory" practices in the scholarly publishing industry, threatening him with a $1 billion lawsuit for his blog posts criticizing the company.

Beall is an academic librarian at the University of Colorado; he writes about the journal industry on his personal blog, Scholarly Open Access.

More specifically, Beall identifies and lists journals that he says prey on academics' need to publish their research. Such companies often charge a "handling fee" that requires authors to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars if a paper is published.

One publisher named on "Beall's List of Predatory Publishers 2013" is OMICS Publishing Group, which told him this week that it "intends to sue Mr. Beall, and says it is seeking $1-billion in damages," reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

And because OMICS is based in India, The Chronicle says, it also warned Beall that he could also face a prison sentence if an Indian court finds him guilty. There has been no indication that a lawsuit has been filed.

The message from OMICS came in a letter from its attorney at IP Markets, a law firm described on its own website as the "largest Intellectual Property rights management firm" in India.

"I found the letter to be poorly written and personally threatening," Beall tells The Chronicle. "I think the letter is an attempt to detract from the enormity of OMICS's editorial practices."

The Chronicle, also spoke to IP Markets' Ashok Ram Kumar, a senior lawyer. with IP Markets, who said of Beall, "What he has written is something highly inappropriate," adding, "He has committed a criminal offense."

Beall explains his criteria for scholarly publishers on his blog. The factors he looks at range from adhering to ethical standards and codes of conduct to being transparent about ownership and staffing. A warning sign, he says, is when a publisher creates dozens of journal websites at once. Or they might plagiarize the submission guidelines they provide authors.

An article on predatory publishers in The New York Times featured Beall last month. It described another ploy of unscrupulous publishers: creating scientific conferences that have names similar to — and none of the prestige of — established gatherings.

The Times article also mentioned the OMICS Group, and its director, Srinubabu Gedela, noting that the publisher "has about 250 journals and charges authors as much as $2,700 per paper."

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