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If some user wishes to share a reference/link to a book download site that does not appear to be a legit source, can he post such links on MSE?

If sharing such sources is not allowed then don't we have a filter for such references?

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    $\begingroup$ Since you singled out one user, I just want to say, that there are many more users who occasionally do something like that. (But I do not want to name names.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 22 '13 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak, so I guess MSE is not responsible for such behavior $\endgroup$ – Vikram Oct 22 '13 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ Well, there are two aspects. One of them is whether MSE is legally bound to do something about it. What I remember from older discussions is that this should be left to SE and basically the only things that is done is that if complaint by copyright owner is given links/posts violating copyright might be removed. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 22 '13 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ The other thing is what the MSE community thinks about it. In older discussions many users have said that they do not want to have such links here. I remember seeing one of the moderators making an edit to a post containing a problematic link, in which they removed that link. (I have tried to sum up older discussions about this problem the way I remember it; I hope that if I have somehow misinterpreted what has been said there, some other user will correct me.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 22 '13 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ One more comment: Perhaps it might be better to modify the post to ask about general problem rather than mentioning a particular user and particular instance of this; see for example here. It would also be good to know whether it is useful to flag such posts for moderators attention. (If I am not mistaken, mods cannot do much about this, so I don't think they should be flagged; but I might be wrong, so let us wait, whether some of the mods confirms this.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 22 '13 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think moderators have the right, but not the obligation, to remove this material if they so choose. You can see the rationale here and here. For the particular case mentioned above I think the comment, with the link, should be deleted. $\endgroup$ – dcaswell Oct 22 '13 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Whether the source is legit or not depends on where the MSE servers and what the domestic laws are. Frankly, I am not even sure whether a Google Books link to the content of a book is legit in all countries, even though Google had settled the issue in the US. $\endgroup$ – user1551 Oct 22 '13 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ Since MSE is based in the states, this is as far as I recall how the legality works: As part of the DMCA, if MSE receives a copyright claim by someone, they have to remove the offending material immediately (and then a potentially long and complicated process can happen if there is some sort of dispute about the correctness of the claim). However, the site is not responsible for monitoring that users do not post copyrighted content, as long as they react immediately to all claims. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Oct 23 '13 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ However, I would say that personally, I feel that we should not allow this, since I would not like to risk MSE becoming a place you go to find illegal copies of books. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kildetoft Oct 23 '13 at 9:11
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I'd like to take the stand that we should discourage posting links to illegal/copyrighted/for-pay materials. I don't want MSE to become "the place for all your textbooks" in addition to its growing status as "the place for all your homework/take-home-test answers." (If this keeps up, soon, we'll be the place online for lazy students... ;))

My viewpoint is:

  • If it is obvious the material is not legally obtained, we should remove the link and/or warn the user.

  • If it is plausible that the source is legal, then we should grant benefit of the doubt--after all, we are just users of a website, and not its admins.

Detailed tracking of all links posted here and their legal statuses would be an unreasonable request of us (that is, normal users). But, if it is blatant, we should take a stand to uphold the integrity of MSE.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree. While I would certainly disapprove questions whose aim is to circumvent copyright, I don't see why we should be policing about. "Warning" users for this is too much; I'd prefer a mere notice of the way we generally view such links on MSE. Context is king -- I won't object to a link to a book to help someone answer a question about it. I will object to links in reference request threads. (I should probably add that my country allows downloading copyrighted material for personal use.) $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Oct 24 '13 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ I just think it wise (maybe not necessary, but wise)... with things like SOPA from last year (even though it was prevented), US policy seems to be shifting towards more copyright restrictions online. I'm pretty sure SE servers are in the US, so it may be wise to take a stand that, in the case of a SOPA-esque law, we will do our best to uphold copyrights... $\endgroup$ – apnorton Oct 24 '13 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ Directly responding to your comment: perhaps "warning" is too strong of a word--I was thinking more of something along the lines of a "notice" that expresses displeasure. ;) $\endgroup$ – apnorton Oct 24 '13 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ You may be right that it's wise. I think I could comply with such a policy -- albeit "with objection". Basically, I'm not really willing to adjust my viewpoint on this to accommodate for the whims of a state that has no moral problem with hacking into my bank account data and other private affairs, just because I happen not to be <s>human</s> one of their citizens. $\endgroup$ – Lord_Farin Oct 24 '13 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @anorton, after reading user7530's answer's last line, I had prepared a one page reply which I thought of appending to my original question, but got discouraged to do so after seeing so many upvotes to his answer, your answer is the gist of what I wanted to say, nice answer! $\endgroup$ – Vikram Oct 25 '13 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ It is worth noting that you can sometimes copy excerpts from copyrighted material under fair use. See here copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/fair-use/what-is-fair-use and here copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/files/2009/10/… $\endgroup$ – Baby Dragon Oct 25 '13 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ I don’t think that we should do anything that could possibly be interpreted as support for tighter restrictions. I’m as unwilling to adjust my viewpoint as @Lord_Farin, and it’s my state. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Oct 27 '13 at 3:01
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I don't think we (the MSE user community) has any duty or obligation to try to unravel the very complex tangle that is copyright law.

Posting a .torrent link to a PDF of a textbook published last year? Probably illegal. What about a link to a .pdf of an old book that is in the public domain of some countries, but not others? A link to a preprint of an academic paper that the author is hosting on her own website, perhaps, or perhaps not, in contravention of her contract with that paper's publisher? Who knows??

If a PDF is available as a "naked" URL (no need to torrent or download anything to access it), I consider it fair game for linking. But even though I won't post more dubious links myself, I won't complain or flags others who do.

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    $\begingroup$ I think if the author or publisher puts the material on the web, we can probably assume it's legit until proven otherwise. I would prefer a link to an index page when possible, rather than a bare PDF. $\endgroup$ – dfeuer Oct 24 '13 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ There is of course a big difference between the author posting a copy and an arbitrary "naked URL": I'm sure many are aware of a particular website (with many mirrors) that hosts more books than one can find on most torrent search engines, and which makes them available as direct HTTP downloads. $\endgroup$ – Anthony Carapetis Oct 24 '13 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ I'd, too, prefer a link to an index page instead of a .pdf--Past PDF exploits make me hesitant to open a PDF from a unknown address. $\endgroup$ – apnorton Oct 24 '13 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ The last sentence pretty much sums up my own approach. An intermediate approach that I’ve seen is to imply very clearly (or even state outright) that (probably illegitimate) copies can be found on-line if one searches, leaving the decision up to the reader. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Oct 27 '13 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Anthony: The first rule of that web site is never mention that web site. :) $\endgroup$ – nomen Oct 27 '13 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianM.Scott : That's what I do. I sometimes tell people that one can find almost any math book for free on the Web, but I would never post the actual link on MSE , because it's probably illegal. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Smith Nov 3 '13 at 17:39

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