Journal A published a case report. Following publication, the publisher of journal A was contacted by a representative of the individual depicted in the article stating that, contrary to what the authors stated in the article, consent was not given for the publication. The article was retracted and removed to protect the identity of the individual and all indexing sites were updated. The original article was published under a CC-BY license with the authors as the copyright holders.
The article is available in full as a pdf on website Z. This is not one of journal A's indexing partners and we believe it may have been downloaded from journal A's website before retraction and uploaded to website Z. Numerous email takedown notices from the publisher to website Z have not been answered. Website Z lists a postal address and the publisher has written to this address twice. None of these actions has resulted in the article being removed from website Z.
Questions for the Forum
- Has anyone had success in having a retracted article removed from a website that was not originally supplied with the article by the publisher?
- Are there any other strategies for the publisher of journal A to try to have the article removed from website Z?
The Forum praised the journal for their handling of the case and for putting so much effort into contacting the third party. The forum noted that if there is a breach of privacy or lack of consent, removing part or all of the published article is one of the exceptions to the usual requirement that retracted publications are left in place.
There may be ways to find out who are the individuals behind the website and their individual contact details, or to find the host site. Rocket reach can be useful for finding email addresses and telephone numbers. Another suggestion was to contact the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to get help in removing the content from the third party website.
Is there a role for the authors' institution or funder here? Lying about consent is a serious misconduct issue, and perhaps the institution would have some more leverage because of the consequences of their researchers' actions.
The journal might need to get legal advice and tell the third party that legal action against them will be taken. The publisher may be able to act on behalf of the authors if there was a breach of copyright. The journal should check their instructions to authors, and consider adding a statement to the journal terms and conditions about acting on behalf of authors in cases of breach of copyright.
Similar cases could be prevented in the future if the journal asks authors for written proof of consent to publish case reports. The journal might also consider adding to the manuscript submission system a statement that authors agree to take liability if they have misrepresented consent or if consent was not adequate.