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With some misgivings I posted an excerpt from MathSciNet to answer a user's question, but I wonder if there is some policy about the appropriateness of this? Obviously if this became common, one could see it as a way to get around MathSciNet's paywall.

To be clear, I'm not asking if the OP's question was appropriate, but rather my answer.

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    $\begingroup$ You may want to include the Review number, no? $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2012 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ I think the question has to be directed to MathSciNet (or to the American Mathematical Society), not to this website. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2012 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson: good point. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ It would be slightly ironic if MathSciNet had a problem with it being quoted! $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this be addressed in MathSciNet's terms of use? $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ @J.M. Okay, I looked, and this usage appears to be forbidden. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ @JimConant That is preposterous! Scientifical findings aren't of private ownership! $\endgroup$
    – Pedro Mod
    Apr 20, 2012 at 2:21

2 Answers 2

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I think it is clear that MathSciNet's terms of use were written by the AMS's lawyers, and not by anyone with any sense of how the database is used in real life. By the letter of the rules, they would also appear to forbid using MathSciNet results to produce citations for a paper which is published or otherwise shared; but this is probably the most useful feature of the database. (Indeed, why else would they have an option to generate BibTeX?)

It would seem to me (though I am not a lawyer) that quoting a brief passage from a review would certainly be permitted by "fair use" exceptions in copyright law (in the U.S., for instance). AMS shouldn't be able to go after you on copyright grounds. They might be able to go after you for violating the terms of the contract, but it's hard to see how they'd argue any damages, though they could still revoke your subscription to the database. However, I can't imagine them actually doing such a thing, and if they did, it would undoubtedly provoke a major outcry from the academic community (which after all makes up AMS's membership).

In short, the terms of use as they currently stand are absurd and should be changed. As an AMS member, I think I shall write to the leadership and tell them so. I'd encourage other AMS members to do the same.

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  • $\begingroup$ May I ask if you have indeed written to them, and if so, whether you've got any interesting reply? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Bach
    Aug 22, 2015 at 13:44
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MathSciNet's terms of use can be found here, and appear to forbid the electronic distribution of any search results to third parties. So I guess my answer does technically violate their terms of use. I think I will modify the answer to not be a direct quote.

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    $\begingroup$ If you search the web you will find that many mathematicians occasionally quote a few MR and Zbl reviews. I have never heard of any issues regarding such. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose that there's a difference between the letter of law and what is actually enforced. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ I don't read the terms of use as forbidding electronic distribution of search results (disclaimer: I am not a lawyer). I read, "You may not...make MathSciNet available to any third party, whether by telephone link, password sharing, permitting access through your computer, or by other similar or dissimilar means or arrangements" as saying you can't let someone else access the entire database through your subscription. Continued next comment. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ Continued from previous comment. I also read, "Any use not expressly permitted above may be made only with specific written permission from the AMS; inquiries should be addressed to Executive Editor, Mathematical Reviews, [email protected]." So I think the thing to do is to write to that address to ask whether it's OK to post a particular excerpt to a particular thread. I'm guessing they'll say, sure, go ahead, and the 7th or 8th time this happens they'll say, stop bothering us, just go ahead and post excerpts as you see fit. But I stress that I'm only guessing. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson +1; Wonderful way to get them let us post small bits; I think we are just after all helping out someone... $\endgroup$
    – user21436
    Apr 20, 2012 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson: I was looking at the second half of the third point of number 1 in the link: "such data may not be made available to any third party." $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ Jim, you may be right. I was interpreting "search results" to mean long lists of articles that come up when you type in some search terms, but I suppose it could refer to individual reviews or even bits of reviews. Well, I did admit that I'm not a lawyer. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2012 at 12:45

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