Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Predatory Business PracticesDavid Green
Background of Hostility by Public Knowledge Project
Since the publication of “Open Journal Systems Hacking Epidemic and Solutions” on January 26th, Public Knowledge Project (PKP) has unleashed multiple retaliatory posts on its website, denying OJS security vulnerabilities, and lashing out with wild accusations and defamatory statements against OpenJournalSystems.com.
Up until 2013, PKP Publishing Services held a monopoly over managed hosting and support for Open Journal Systems (OJS). PKP took advantage of this monopoly by charging an exorbitant rate for its services. For example, a publisher such as Mattioli 1885 (mattioli1885journals.com), with 9 titles and a 15 GB disk-space requirement, would have been required to pay $2700 per title to PKP Publishing Services for journal hosting. However; since the launch of OpenJournalSystems.com in 2013, e-publishers, such as Mattioli 1885, have been able to enjoy high-quality managed hosting and support for their OJS for as little as $360 per year! (See Mattioli Testimonial.) As OpenJournalSystems.com started gaining market share bit by bit, PKP began to launch vicious attacks against our company.
Over the past four years, PKP and its representatives have engaged in a pattern of conduct that appears to have one sole purpose – eliminate OpenJournalSystems.com as a competitor in the Open Journal Systems platform. This has been a concerted effort on the part of PKP, its representatives, and its affiliated companies and vendors to engage in defamation and to interfere with OpenJournalSystems.com’s business through social media and on other forums.
OpenJournalSystems.com has been subjected to continuous harassment and cyberbullying from PKP. Since 2013, PKP has blocked our access to its forum to try and maintain a monopoly on OJS services; created multiple websites directed at our CEO for the purpose of intimidation and defamation; and directed hundreds of baseless, defamatory social media attacks against OpenJournalSystems.com in an attempt to damage our reputation. Full details are available in our cease and desist demand letter.
PKP Legal Abuse and Bullying of OpenJournalSystems.com
Since 2014, PKP has engaged in overly aggressive litigious behavior in order to bully OpenJournalSystems.com.
In April 2014, PKP hired a trademark law firm to threaten OpenJournalSystems.com with a lawsuit if our company didn’t hand over the domain OpenJournalSystems.com and our social media accounts, etc.
In 2017, PKP hired another law firm, threatening OpenJournalSystems.com with a lawsuit over copyright violation for the use of the OJS user guide.
OpenJournalSystems.com had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to deal with PKP’s legal threats.
PKP False Trademark Claims
In the United States, to be able to trademark a name, you need to show that the mark you want to register is registrable; the use of a name does not by itself qualify for trademark ownership. The applicant must illustrate (1) the name is not generic, and (2) the name is not merely descriptive. The use of a name does not automatically entitle the owner of a product to claim a trademark unless those 2 conditions are met. For instance, if you sell spring bottled water and your product is simply called “water,” you won’t be able to obtain trademark for your product. Period.
In 2014, PKP applied to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register Open Journal Systems as a trademark; however, the PKP application was rejected by USPTO as the term Open Journal Systems is generic.
In 2014, OpenJournalSystems.com applied to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register Open Journal Systems as a trademark; however, our application for trademark was rejected because the name Open Journal Systems being merely descriptive.
In 2014, OpenJournalSystems.com applied to USPTO for a logo that incorporates the words “Open Journal Systems” in order to protect itself against legal threats by PKP. USPTO granted OpenJournalSystems.com’s request. PKP had a chance to object, but decided not to do so!
In Canada, however, the above conditions don’t apply to trademark a name, and as long as you’re an institution like SFU, you’ll be granted a mark, regardless. In short, the name “Open Journal Systems” is not trademarkable. This is the finding by USPTO, which is the federal authority for trademark registration in the United States.
PKP Online Harassment and Smear Campaigns Against OpenJournalSystems.com
Following the USPTO ruling and PKP’s failure to secure a trademark for Open Journal Systems in United States, PKP started multiple smear campaigns against OpenJournalSystems.com. We were, slandered, provoked, and accused.
The Pattern of the Smear Campaigns by PKP
All the campaigns so far have had a similar pattern: each starts with a smear blog, followed by PKP posting the smear blog on social media and asking their associates to retweet and provide support for it. This is followed by coordinated attacks on Twitter and Facebook by PKP’s Canadian associates, and it concludes with PKP thanking their associates for their support following the attack.
These perpetrators are not ordinary folks making simple criticisms. They are the agents of PKP, who are taking advantage of the differences in legal jurisdictions to carry out their attacks and benefit PKP by spreading a false and derogatory narrative to damage our company.
The Profile of Attackers
We have compiled a profile of these attackers who are acting as agents for PKP and the common denominator for these perpetrators are:
- almost all are Canadians,
- they all work for Canadian Universities,
- they all have high number of followers on Twitter,
- they’re all close associates of John Willinsky and PKP.
The Ring Leaders
- Jacqueline Appleby: librarian at University of Toronto, Canada (see cease and desist letter),
- Karen-Majer Kline: ex-communication officer at PKP, Canada (see cease and desist letter),
- Nick Ruest: archivist at York University, Canada
- Dale Askey – librarian at McMaster University, Canada
- George Siemens – educator at Athabasca University, Canada
- D’Arcy Norman – manager technology integration at University of Alberta, Canada
- Dave Cormier – student relations management at University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
- Sara Allain – archivist at University of Toronto, Canada
- Amy-Buckland – archivist at University of Guelph, Canada
The people listed above all have a high number of Twitter followers. So, once they create their defamatory posts, multiple retweets from their followers follow, causing maximum exposure. For instance, a post by a close associate of PKP, George Siemens, stated: “Looks like Ben Amini and @OpenJournalSys are a shady and unethical operation.” Please note that George Siemens is a close friend of John Willisnky, the director of PKP. Also note that George Siemens has never conducted any business dealings with our company before or offered any proof to back up these absurd statements. As well, Dale Askey has been sued previously by Edwin Mellen Press for defamation, so these attacks seem to be their usual tactics.
The Pro-PKP Reporters
PKP also uses “Pro-PKP” reporters to ensure the most coverage for their campaign. These “objective” Open Access journalists, who are not interested in fair and balanced reporting, are the supporters of PKP and use their high profile to help PKP shape public opinion:
- Richard Poynder
- John Mark Ockerbloom
PKP False Confusion Claims
There are other companies using the name Open Journal Systems to provide OJS services, including OpenJournalSystems Dot cl, and OpenJournalSystemsHosting Dot com. However, PKP has never played this “confusion card” against these entities except OpenJournalSystems.com. Since 2013, our company has provided excellent service to over 500 clients and none have ever expressed confusion about PKP’s services versus those of OpenJournalSystems.com. In almost every instance, our company has signed a contract identifying PAXTER LLC as our parent company, with our address in Phoenix, AZ, and the name and signature of our company president on the contract. We have a service provider agreement with major US universities, including the University of Hawaii, NYU, UNLV, MSU Press, Case Western University, FSU, Findlay University, Dominican University, Northwestern University, to just name a few. We also have signed agreements with major international universities and institutions, including universities in Australia, Austria, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia, UK, Germany, and many more. No one has ever claimed that they have mistaken OpenJournalSystems.com with PKP.
Setting the Record Straight with Actual Facts
Here are our response to some of the allegation made by PKP:
- Allegation: PKP has alleged that OpenJournalSystems.com own or operate multiple websites to harass their associates.
Fact: OpenJournalSystems.com does not own or operate any website for defamation against anyone and we have always discouraged anyone from doing so.
- Allegation: PKP has alleged that OpenJournalSystems.com own and operate multiple twitter account to harass their associates.
Fact: OpenJournalSystems.com does not own or operate any other Twitter account except our own official Twitter account. We neither encourage nor are responsible for expressed opinions of others on Twitter. Our official Twitter account is used exclusively to inform people about our own products and services and to respond to false information being spread about our company.
- Allegation: PKP has alleged that the members of PKP community have been harassed by OpenJournalSystems.com.
Fact: OpenJournalSystems.com does not recognize those PKP agents who harass our business on behalf of PKP as community members. Having said that, we categorically deny any harassment against anyone.
- Allegation: PKP has alleged that OpenJournalSystems.com’s recent Security Plugin is unnecessary, puts client’s information at risk, and is only a cash-grab.
Fact: This is complete nonsense. Our recent Security Plugin was created to address the glaring documented vulnerabilities in OJS (see OJS Hacking Tutorials on Google Search). Also, OpenJournalSystems.com offers this Plugin free to all clients as part of our hosting package. We give it away!
Parallels to Attacks against Edwin Mellen Press
This is not the first time that PKP and their Canadian library associates have launched a libelous campaign against a US corporation. In 2010, Dale Askey, a PKP associate and a librarian at McMaster University, wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary, referring to the publisher as “dubious” and saying its books were often works of “second-class scholarship.” In June 2012, Edwin Mellen Press filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Dale Askey and McMaster University for defamation. PKP’s Canadian library associates started an online publicity campaign against Edwin Mellen Press, calling the defamation lawsuit an assault on academic freedom and free speech. Overwhelmed by this negative publicity campaign, Edwin Mellen Press withdrew their lawsuit in order to avoid any further damage to their business.
According to software freedom law center : “Way down in the roots of Software Freedom are the same ideas from which the belief in free speech derives. Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) projects are not often built by people who value censorship, and there is a strong belief within most FOSS communities that projects should thrive on their merits, and not use legal weapons to silence critics and competitors.” By using legal threats against their competitor, PKP has demonstrated that their business practice it is not aligned with the spirit of FOSS!
PKP receives millions of dollars in grants, donations, Canadian federal funding, and university support. John Willinsky, who preaches Open Access and solicits donation on behalf of PKP can afford to own two multi-million dollar properties, one in Vancouver, BC, and the other in Palo, Alto, CA. Willinsky claims to be the champion for Open Access and yet, under his leadership, PKP has done everything in its power to block our access and hinder our service to the Open Access community.
OpenJournalSystems.com does not receive multi-million dollar grants, donations, or affiliation fees, as is the case with PKP. Our company spends thousands of dollars in the development of new, high-quality themes and plugins for OJS. These themes and plugins are copyright (See OpenJournalSystems.com Copyright and Licensing) but astonishingly, PKP’s forum is allowing others who’ve pirated our theme codes to create posts with links to these illegally obtained themes. It is true that we are a commercial entity, but none of our employees are making the 6 or 7 figure salaries like the PKP executives. We do our best to give high-quality, low-cost service to help publishers.
The true goal of Open Access philosophy is to unite, not to divide. We believe PKP’s actions are against the spirit of the Open Access philosophy.