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Reply to Wiley's claim that they "do not create fake DOIs"
NOTE: this is an archive of my response to Tom Griffin of Wiley's email to the Liblicense listserv
claiming that Wiley do not create fake DOIs.
My response is below, in case it does not pass moderation at the original list.

Tom's email:;8d87a4a7.1606

edit: My email response has appeared on the listserv:;5e950629.1606

Hi Tom,

I am the person who posted the original document about fake DOIs (

Every single claim you make above is demonstrably false.

You said:

Wiley does not use fake DOIs.

Wiley does have fake DOIs on its website. I have attached a screenshot, and I refer you to this blog post: To claim otherwise is creatively redefining 'fake DOI'. What you're doing is polluting the web with things that are designed to match the pattern of real, Crossref registered DOIs, but which are in fact designed to trigger access restriction.

In addition to creating fake DOIs, the blog post linked shows that Wiley is creating fake articles attributed to real institutions.

We strongly support the DOI system and were a founding member of CrossRef

Goeff Bilder at Crossref has explicitly said (here that Crossref discourages the behaviour you have exhibited. So whether you claim to support them or not, they don't support what you are doing.

What was contained in the document were URLs

The URLs in my original post were constructed by me using the pattern I observed on Wiley's site to reach a PDF directly from a Wiley DOI. That is, "" + DOI + "/pdf". I found those DOIs in the wild and tried to resolve them via Wiley's website, as explained in the first link.

These URLs are not discoverable online, they cannot be indexed

Here's one being indexed on Google:

... and will not have an impact on the DOI system

The entire problem is that they are having an impact. If academics in the course of their work find an apparent Wiley DOI and try to visit the corresponding page, then find their institution blocked, that is a very serious and damaging impact.

Only individual IP addresses were affected, no institutions were banned from accessing Wiley content

After I initially visited the URLs corresponding to the fake DOIs in the first link, several departments and a separate institute at Cambridge were blocked from visiting Wiley, including open access titles. The block lasted at least a week.

All access has now been restored and clicking on those links will no longer disable access.

Here's a thread on Twitter demonstrating this to be false:

The URLs are a security measure visible only to Wiley and our customers’ security officers, and we do not know how they came to be known more widely.

See my first post and the google link above. They came to be known more widely because I posted about them after you blocked my institution.

I see only two possible explanations for your email: deliberate misinformation or complete technical incompetence. Either way, I hope the library community and the broader academic community will continue to hold Wiley accountable for their harmful behaviour.

Richard Smith-Unna

Mozilla Fellow for Science, University of Cambridge

hvwaldow commented Jun 23, 2016 edited


Except, no, those are not "fake DOIs". That doesn't abstract anything from Wiley's idiocy, but encourages them to fight about that definition instead of addressing the actual problem, as evidenced by Griffin's email. Call it "fake DOI-URLs" and you are fine. I would prefer "malicious links" though.

blahah commented Jun 23, 2016

I think it's valid to call them fake DOIs. They were presented on Wiley web pages as actual DOIs:

screen shot 2016-06-23 at 12 46 08

blahah commented Jun 23, 2016

Bizarrely in the case above, resolving one fake DOI via Wiley's site led to another fake DOI being presented!


What would happen if we get EVERYBODY to 'click the bait' ? :-)

eshellman commented Jun 23, 2016 edited

All the trap urls lead to the same page. That's why Google's ranking likes it.
The trap urls might be nonces that can be used to trace back to the user session. If so, it might not be useful for everyone to click the bait. (i.e. there could be billions of fake urls to click)

blahah commented Jun 23, 2016

@eshellman interesting points!

I have archived wget results for every trap URL - I'll check them tomorrow and verify the forwarding thing.

Many people have clicked the links and been banned - some people have only a session-based ban, while others are IP banned. Still a good point that new trap URLs could be generated for sessions they want to trace.


the trap url nonces might be used to track downloads by a "bot". The "punishment" might depend on the download history that the nonce is tracking. Just speculation, and not consistent with the lack of sophistication displayed otherwise by the traps.


@blahah what mechanism was used to hide the trap urls?


@eshellman "the trap url nonces might be used to track downloads by a "bot". "

Wiley denies that ("We also do not use these URLs to trap crawlers on Wiley Online Library.").

From the wording in that mail ("The URLs are a security measure") and their response to customers that click such a link, I suspect that they try to catch mass-downloads through compromised institutional accounts (or just by ToS - violating customers). The former aim is a good thing and could make the world a better place. For sysadmins, that is.

Everything we know about what they actually do is completely unrelated to this aim and might easily produce antagonistic results.

Is it conceivable that billion dollar company in the business of information handling is that incompetent?

peterjc commented Jun 24, 2016

Good to see the email made it to the moderated Liblicense list's archive:

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