A user is copying verbatim exercises from my textbook, e.g., Local Feature Size, Describe Conv(A U B), Flip graph of point set, Expected number on the convex hull, etc. Is the MSE convention that he should identify the questions as homework, and perhaps even identify the source when copying verbatim?

I am not a regular reader of MSE meta, so my apologies if this has been well-hashed earlier.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a somewhat contentious issue, but generally the homework tag is treated as an honor system, i.e. it should not be added unless the user says the question is homework. For example, the user could be self-studying. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexBecker: Good point that the user could be self-studying; that didn't occur to me. Nevertheless, I found it a bit jarring to see my own words posted in problems without attribution. I would classify it as a form a plagiarism. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex: It seems to me slightly different from an honor system. The question is whether or not when copying a question verbatim from a book, should one give a citation or not? I believe that one should at least mention the book's name (not only for full disclosure, but also to help the answerers understand what the OP knows, or doesn't, about the question). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JosephO'Rourke. I agree. If it were a question from one of my books, I'd feel the same way. From a copyright point one might argue that it falls under fair use, though the lack of citation would almost certainly be actionable under the copyright holder's right of attribution. This is likely a moot point, though, unless you, rather than the publisher, held the copyright. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Will Jagy: "If people would include the source of a given problem as part of the process of posting a question, life would be a little easier." I don't care much about the homework tag, but I do wish sources would be included for copied (or paraphrased) problems. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ It may be a good idea to have, as part of the instructions for site use, a request for acknowledgement of sources. That request will probably end up being widely ignored, and I would not be in favour of stringent enforcement. However, a statement of standards has value. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ It would certainly be helpful to identify the source, and most would, I think, regard it as good manners, but the idea that quoting textbook exercises here without attribution is plagiarism strikes me as absurd. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott Which features of plagiarism are lacking from the case at hand, which make that you do not see it as such? $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Did: I don’t see that the question even arises. The people who post such questions are obviously not claiming authorship. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ Three points. First, I personally do not care much about copyright, so even if there is a violation, that's not an issue to me. Second, plagiarism is "taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." When we upvote someone's rep for a question, we are in some sense congratulating the OP for the clarity of the question, its mathematical content, its potential usefulness to others. The OP is "passing off" the question as their own and accruing rep for "someone else's work." Third, I feel personally violated, which I take as a sign that it is a form of plagiarism. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ When I upvote a question, I am congratulating the poster for her good taste. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 12:43
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    $\begingroup$ @zyx: Good point! I will try to let flattery outweigh insult. :-) Still, never, ever would I quote someone verbatim without quotes and a reference. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Joseph: I’m not disputing your feelings, but I really don’t see any legitimate reason for you to feel violated. The interpretation that the OP is passing off your work for his or her own strikes me as implausible in the extreme, and upvotes on questions have all sorts of different meanings depending on the voter. I, for example, rarely upvote for any of the reasons that you mention, but rather for commentary of various sorts added to the basic question. If anything, it seems to me that you should be pleased that someone is using a book of yours! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ ... whether an exercise posted to MSE as a question is quoted verbatim or not, the poster is obviously not claiming any sort of intellectual property rights or making any claim to originality. The situation is not in the least comparable to quoting one paper in another, or one answer here in another. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2013 at 1:21


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