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Kaestur Hakarl keeps removing my offer to e-mail a copy of Emil Artin's Geometric Algebra to the OP of a question.

Revision list

What I did is not against the rules, and I ask Kaestur Hakarl to please stop removing the end of my post. Whether or not it will be allowed in the future is up for debate, and if the community decides that offering to e-mail books and papers is against the rules, then so be it. However, that is not yet the case.


So, could the post please be unlocked?

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    $\begingroup$ Yuck, it's really sad to see this edit warring, I hope this does not become a theme on the site. $\endgroup$ – anon Aug 9 '10 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Although I would like to add that I am not very keen on emailing of books and such because that is an impermanent resource - so for people in a few years time that come across these posts while searching for things it is completely useless. Regardless, the whole edit-warring thing upsets me to see. $\endgroup$ – anon Aug 9 '10 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ All links are impermanent resources, tbh. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ I realized that I neglected to annotate my rollbacks, so I've added a timeline of relevant events. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ @muad: That is why people should post on meta instead of reverting changes a moderator might have reverted for good reason $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 9 '10 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Casebash: A provisional moderator, although he has the same powers as an ordinary moderator, does not have the same rights to use those powers without community support. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ This does not belong on meta. The official word on complaints about moderator action is: If you feel I acted inappropriately, please contact team@stackoverflow.com (or rcartaino@stackoverflow.com). Anyone interested can also contact me privately. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: What you've just done is unconscionable. There is more to this question than your actions. It has to do with whether or not it is okay to make an offer like I did. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @97832123: That is worth its own meta question, where it can be discussed separately from this specific incident. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: It appears that most people here disagree with you, and I ask that you do not lock this question if the community decides to reopen it. You're not acting appropriately. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @97832123: I myself did not see anything wrong with discussing this on meta, as it is assuredly a meta topic. Nevertheless, the official channel for protesting moderator action is to email the stack exchange team. If the community votes to reopen, I will leave it to Robert Cartaino or someone else to close/lock/delete as appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: This is not a complaint about your conduct, it is a discussion about your conduct among members of the community. There is a not-so-subtle difference between those two things. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ I have cast a vote to reopen. This is admittedly a heated discussion, but it is also a productive one about the policy about this site, which has not been fully resolved. By nature it is subjective and argumentative; discussions on meta should be of this form. I have already had a chance to state my own views on this matter (namely, that I would prefer that the offer made in the post not have been removed), and have nothing further to add. However, I would like to hear what others think, so have cast my vote. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Aug 9 '10 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ See: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/42767/… $\endgroup$ – Mark Henderson Aug 10 '10 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ The prior link has nothing to do with the matter at hand. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque May 25 '16 at 16:09
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I think it would have been possible for 97832123 to phrase the original message in a way which would have been just as helpful to someone wanting to acquire a copy of Artin's book but without opening up himself and the site to worries about copyright violations.

Sample text: "I have a copy of Artin's Geometric Algebra. Please let me know if you are interested."

As written, perhaps 97832123 has a print copy of the book that he is willing to give, lend or sell to user X. There are other possible, and completely legal, interpretations. It is then none of our business what actually transpires between 97832123 and X.

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    $\begingroup$ I would be fine with this. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 10 '10 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Great. Then please try something like this in the future. My point (here as well as elsewhere) is that copyright is not a joke. If you continue thumbing your nose at it, you will probably get away with it 9 times out of 10, but the tenth time could have dire consequences, and not just for you. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 10 '10 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ Pete, the recipient of 978's original offer would be exempt under Fair Use anyway. (Whether 978's electronic copy of the book is legal is a different question.) The discussion concerned 2-3 pages of the book, in an educational context. Had a private email exchange occurred where 978, instead of bothering to excerpt those pages, sent the whole file with the words "delete when done pursuant to Copyright Act" or "OBEY (copyright)!" that should be enough. Legal enforcement of the DMCA requires the rights owner to determine if Fair Use occurred and math.SE should not assume that it wouldn't. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 10 '10 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ Even more pedantically, 978 could state during the exchange that "if I don't hear from you in the next week that you've deleted the file, I will delete my copy". $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 10 '10 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ If it were originally posted like this, probably nothing would have happened. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 10 '10 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, the original text "Shoot me an e-mail and I can send you a copy" has perfectly legal interpretations too (maybe it's a print copy, etc.), the same as the ones here. $\endgroup$ – ShreevatsaR Aug 11 '10 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ @ShreevatsaR: yes, that sentence seems fine. It is the previous two sentences which make a joke out of piracy and copyright laws which were probably found to be objectionable. At T.: isn't it easier for 978 and others simply to be more discreet? $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 11 '10 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that the suggestions for discretion have amounted to suggestions for (needless) self-censorship, by changing the meaning of the offer. Hinting that "I have a copy" is different from spelling out "I can and will procure you a copy of the relevant pages should you desire", or even the latter followed by the words "from my PDF copy of the book". We should not be cowering in fear of things that are NOT violations of the law, or (as the moderator did in this case) working hard to invent pseudo-violations where none exist. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ To put it simply: if two math.SE users, due to a public offer by one to the other in a math.SE posting, enter into email contact, it is up to them, jointly and individually, to determine whether any transactions occur and whether they comply with the law. It is not for overzealous moderators to decide pre-emptively that legal violations will occur, and if discussion is closed based on such fears, it will limit the possibilities for friendly (and entirely legal) discussion on math.SE more than it limits SE's liability. Actually, sites that police content are more liable. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ One final comment: I at least read 978's original message as an offer to provide an electronic copy of the whole book, not just to copy the relevant pages. I think there is no question that this is illegal, whether 978 owns the book or not. It may or may not be unethical -- Randy Cohen has a nice article about this -- but that's a different question. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 11 '10 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, one more comment: to be clear, I have no reason to believe that such activity opens up this site to any legal liability whatsoever, and I have not said that moderators should remove users' allusions to what seem to be their own private possibly illegal activities. Rather, I am encouraging users to think a bit when posting things like this, for their sake and for the sake of the mathematical and academic community. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 11 '10 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ Pete, I've lost track of the (large) number of complete PDF copies of papers, copyrighted and sold by journal publishers, that are available on professors' web sites as class material, some of it several years after the class. Other people who are not students, Fair Use exemptees or journal subscribers, download those files through web searches. The academics who do this haven't been sued or censured, nor did they always request permission from the article owners. I haven't heard of any career or tenure consequences from such conduct; have you? $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ re 978's offer, again, it might become illegal if he and his counterparty were to conduct the transaction in one way and not another. I see no reason why SE should presume or prevent illegality in behavior that doesn't directly involve SE or critically rely upon it. If 978 had posted search keywords guaranteed to deliver the "secret volcano" of pirated books, or an offer to present such by email, would that make any difference? Policing our own personal compliance with the law is enough; there are enough examples of what life is like in monitored, informant-saturated societies. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ (above I'm not even counting the hundreds or thousands of papers that well-regarded authors distribute through their personal web pages, after the journal version has appeared, and copyright passed to the publisher.) $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: Please contact me privately if you wish to continue this conversation. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 11 '10 at 13:17
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The timeline of events was roughly:

  • 97832123 posts his original answer.
  • Many people comment about copyright stuff
  • 97832123's answer gets flagged
  • I edit out the answer to remove the offer to email the book
  • Discussion of copyright law continues, including some confusion over people seeing different revisions of the answer
  • 97832123 reverts his answer
  • Discussion of copyright law continues, including more confusion over people seeing different revisions of the answer
  • Another moderator suspends 97832123 over an unrelated issue (delaying this event until today)
  • I notice 97832123's rollback, and edit out the last piece again. I lock it, but then realize that this would preclude him from adding a summary of the referenced material, so unlock it.
  • I clean up the copyright law discussion (pieces of which had already disappeared)
  • 97832123's suspension expires and he rolls back his answer again.
  • I revert his edit and lock the answer.
  • 97832123 posts this question on meta.

This is based on memory, not timestamps, so things are the order I saw them rather than the order they actually happened. Someone with a clearer picture can clear up any inaccuracy.

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    $\begingroup$ Why the downvote? Isn't this accurate? $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 9 '10 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ I was suspended for this issue (see the mathoverflow meta because my comments here have been deleted). tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/583/snob/#Item_27 $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 15:29
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No one should regard 97832123's offer as immoral: Artin has been dead for nearly sixty years, his wife a few years ago, and the copyright renewal occured more than thirty years after his death. Rather, the issue is that the offer is an offer to infringe the law, and at best, puts the site in some slight legal risk.

Wouldn't it be better if 97832123 changed his text to say that he has emailed the PDF in the past, and there's a dispute about his past offer, with a link to this meta qn? Any intelligent person can infer that the offer is likely still to be open, but the offer is no longer advertised on this site. The legal risk to the site becomes negligible, provided this doesn't become a frequently used cipher.

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  • $\begingroup$ If my tone implied any kind of moral judgment, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I did not mean to say that it was immoral for 97832123 to make such an offer, but that it would be immoral of me to leave it up when made aware of it by another user. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ I think your solution is certainly more safe and if this were what he originally posted, I would have done nothing, but I don't think the goal should be to gradually slide closer and closer to the correct side of the law until we are just over it. Especially when the easy answer of "check your university library" lives clearly on the right side. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ some have held (e.g. Socrates) that breaking the law is itself immoral. Not to say that I myself necessarily endorse this position, but it's not quite as clearcut as you make it out to be. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Aug 9 '10 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Pete: "should regard ... as immoral" contains more than one modality - I am aware that not everyone does agree with my assertion. Socrates' attitude to wrongful law involved drinking hemlock, as I recall... $\endgroup$ – Charles Stewart Aug 9 '10 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ These comments assume (incorrectly) that there is a potential violation of the law by the site. If the users want to talk about possible legal violations that they engaged in or plan to engage in, I see no issue for math.SE about that. I suppose if the site became a major operational planning center for, let's say, the mass digitization and free distribution of the top 5000 university math books, there could be a problem. Otherwise, discussing hypothetical actions that might or might not be legal violations and happen off-site is already on the correct side of the law. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 10 '10 at 17:56
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from MO meta-comment by one of the founders:

"I think the consensus among moderators was that we had no interest in enforcing DMCA proactively. We certainly won't take any action in the absence of a takedown notice from the owner of the material, and I think even then the sense was that that was an issue from whoever was hosting the material, not MathOverflow as a site."

http://tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/313/when-a-paper-is-behind-a-paywall/

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    $\begingroup$ MO is a different legal entity from Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – Charles Stewart Aug 9 '10 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Be that as it may, the posting above entirely validates 978's comments (the ones that K.H. is disputing) about what is and is not fair game at MO, and about information sharing in academia more generally. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ @T.. - I'm sorry, I hadn't realised the intent of your post. The difference is to the point, however: MO is funded by a few individual mathematicians, SX has venture capital funding. Deeper pockets. $\endgroup$ – Charles Stewart Aug 9 '10 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the link, @T... What 97832123 did is clearly seems to fall under what would be considered acceptable behavior at mathoverflow. I still disagree that it is acceptable here. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Your personal opinion doesn't (and shouldn't) dictate what is and isn't acceptable here. It's your job to find that out. I need only note that if the votes in this thread reflect community opinion, it's clear that my post should be unlocked and my ability to edit it be reinstated. If you'd like to find out in a real poll of community opinion, then you should do so on meta. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @97832123: I agree with your first statement. I did not edit your answer because I personally objected to it. I edited it because it was an offer to violate copyright law. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: That is not against the rules! Therefore you personally objected to an offer to violate copyright law (an action that you believe should be prohibited but is not, at least according to the rules)! I feel like a broken record. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ Not against MathOverflow's rules, agreed. It is disallowed on StackOverflow. In general, which set of rules takes precedence in case of conflict is an open question for community discussion. In the specific case of removing offers to violate the law vs not removing them, I did not think it was necessary to discuss. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Nowhere in that link does it say that offers to e-mail copyrighted resources is not allowed. Please stop trying to mislead the audience. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, one crucial difference is that posting a link places math.SE in the "action path" of a legal violation (the downloader normally clicks on it through math.SE) while posting an offer to engage in such a violation if contacted by other channels, does not. Until and unless there is legal advice that the latter activity jeopardizes SE's operations, or math.SE becomes a major piracy enabler on the radar of DMCA lawyers, shutting down such postings is gratuitous volunteer policing: self-censorship. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @T..: I have asked the stackoverflow team about the legal details. For now, I have acted on their recommendation to close this topic, as meta is not the appropriate channel to protest moderator actions. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't "protested" anything. I commented on the issues raised (absolutely correctly) in this question and its comment threads. Premature topic closing is a bad idea when there is a laissez-faire solution of opening a meta-thread soliciting legal opinions or whatever. Nobody is forced to read or participate in this topic and I see no reason why it should be closed. If anything, it was just starting to get interesting. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ @T..: I have opened a meta question about the issue of copyright. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, but I note with some sadness that opening the meta-question to get legal (or other) opinion was not accompanied by the other half of the laissez-faire solution, i.e., you re-opening this discussion thread after having closed it. The re-opening was done through a vote of 5 non-moderators. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 11 '10 at 4:02
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This is more of a comment than an answer, but my guess is that this will be less of an issue on this website than on MO, because while a lot of technical material in mathematics is basically available only as (usually copyrighted) books, most of the material discussed here is canonical enough to be available (legally) on the internet (if a reference is necessary).

For what it's worth, though, MO is fairly liberal in allowing links to copyrighted material. I would not call for their deletion on this website either, in the small number of cases where they do occur. The main problem I saw was that the comment thread was turning into an argument of the merits of copyright law.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Akhil: There are many types of copyright licenses that restrict the rights of different people in different ways. Can you provide details? $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Details on what? I'm not sufficiently well-versed in the fine points of copyright law to be of much use there. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Aug 9 '10 at 2:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Your comment seems like a non-sequitur, could you explain the relevance of that comment? $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Akhil, @97832123: Sorry, that was re: Akhil's remark "MO is fairly liberal in allowing links to copyrighted material." I was asking for examples of such links. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: On MO, we allow straight up rapidshare/megaupload/ifile.it links. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ @97832123: A google search for "rapidshare -meta site:mathoverflow.net" gave me this as the sole result, and replacing rapidshare in that query with the other sites you mentioned returned 0 hits. The rapidshare link is for a paper, not currently in print. Not really the same as what you offered to email. Perhaps someone more familiar with mathoverflow could find a more relevant example? $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ The rapidshare link is for a 1980, copyrighted paper that the publisher continues to sell (for USD 31.50) here: sciencedirect.com/… $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ from MO meta: "I think the consensus among moderators was that we had no interest in enforcing DMCA proactively. We certainly won't take any action in the absence of a takedown notice from the owner of the material, and i think even then the sense was that that was an issue from whoever was hosting the material, not MathOverflow as a site." (and there were several postings of material at ifile.it, contrary to your google search results.) tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/313/… $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ @T..: Thanks for the references. See my comment on your answer. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:05
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If there is no clear community consent on something being allowed, moderators are well within their rights to restrict it from appearing. If we don't trust them with this power, then we shouldn't elect them as moderators. If there is a controversy about the moderators decision, they are well within their rights to restrict it until the controversy is resolved. If no clear community consent is formed, then the moderators should form their own consent on which policy is the best default at least until the time that community figures out the issue. Moderators need these powers in order to probably protect our community.

I think of my position as conservative - moderators should have powers unless the community think that they shouldn't have that power, but also, moderators shouldn't use those powers unless they have to use those powers.

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    $\begingroup$ -1 Kaestur is a provisional moderator. That means that his obligation to get community consent is that much greater. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @97832123: I don't agree that @Kaestur is obliged to "get" consent (however that is done) - the whole point of appointing moderators is that we choose people who we expect will be conscientious and exercise generally good judgement. There is an issue: I don't think this issue is very time sensitive and so the manner in which Kaestur has gone about things looks high-handed. I'd like to see Kaestur show that he does consider alternative ways of dealing with this problem, rather than immediately wield the heaviest cosh to hand. $\endgroup$ – Charles Stewart Aug 9 '10 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Charles: There exist many deleted comments on the answer that made it clear 97832123 would not change his mind about rephrasing his offer into a more legally safe one. Since those are gone now, it certainly looks as you said. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ This link I dug up to a related question is a similar example of the same phenomenon: it looks like the original asker changed his title spontaneously, because my comment suggesting he do so was deleted afterwards. People looking now are not seeing the full picture; even I didn't see the entire conversation on the disputed answer when I first responded to the user flag, because some comments had already been deleted. As you say, some amount of trust that other people are acting in good faith is needed. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Charles: I think that Kaestur acted without getting the opinion of the community on the issue. We have a kind of "working model" for the FAQ (something like a fusion of SO and MO), and as long as a post is not prohibited on one of those sites, it should at least be brought before this community to decide what to do. Kaestur did not undertake any of this necessary preliminary work, which is why his approach was heavy-handed. Don't be fooled by @Kaestur's remarks about comments, which are irrelevant to the core issue here. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ I am not trying to fool anyone. I never claimed that those comments reflected any kind of community opinion, only that they made it clear that @97832123 would refuse to edit the answer himself. That is why I felt the only way to make sure the offer stayed removed was to edit the answer myself, and his subsequent rollbacks compelled me to lock it. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ As for the claim that as long as a post would not be prohibited on either StackOverflow or MathOverlow, it should be allowed here, I agree. @97832123's behavior is specifically disallowed on SO. My reading is: "not prohibited either place => allowed" means "prohibited either place => not allowed." $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Again, you're deliberately trying to mislead. First of all, the link you've given does not prohibit my offer. Second of all, you're mischaracterizing my comment, which said that if the offer is not prohibited on one of those sites (in this case it is not prohibited on either site), it should be discussed here on meta before moderator action. Since it's clear what my intention was, why would you give "your reading" of my comment precedence? $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Surely more time has now been spent arguing about this than that required to provide a better answer in the first place? $\endgroup$ – James Aug 13 '10 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: I think you need to review logic... that doesn't follow at all. $\endgroup$ – SamB Oct 21 '10 at 0:54
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Offering to email books or papers in the public domain or any that you have legal right to distribute (e.g. you are the author) is perfectly fine. This is not the case for the book in question. Please see this brief reference on US copyright.

Artin's Geometric Algebra was originally copyrighted in 1957 (registration number A00000271595) and was renewed in 1985 (registration number RE0000275074). As such, it will take until 2052 before distribution of this book without permission of Emil Artin's publishers or heirs will be legal here.

While the above refers only to US copyright law, the user who originally flagged the post mentioned that the same would apply in Germany (and I'm sure, in a few other countries as well). I will also note that while the legal policy of math.stackexchange does not obligate moderators to remove such an offer from the site, I can not in good conscience leave up any illegal material I am made aware of.

Copyright aside, offering to email a copy of a book adds no value to the site. Offering the name of the book and page number is fine, but summarizing the content and putting it here would be even better. We want the site to be as self-contained as possible. That's why I felt that my edit removed nothing of value.

I had reason to believe from this user's comments on the answer about his stance on copyright law and piracy that leaving a comment asking him to change his post would have no effect. Thus I edited the post myself, and when he attempted to revert it, locked it.

As for whether I made a mistake in not making a meta thread first, that's certainly possible. It simply never occurred to me that removing an offer to distribute an illegal copy of another mathematician's copyrighted work would be controversial enough (beyond 97832123 himself, whose attitudes towards copyright law and piracy were clearly given in the comments on that answer, then deleted by someone other than me) to warrant a meta topic. However, that meta topic has now been created. Further discussion of general policy towards copyright infringement should go there.

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    $\begingroup$ By offering it, I am not committing a crime. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 8 '10 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ That is, your argument is spurious. If I was providing a link here, then I would be violating the rules (read them closely), but by offering to mail someone the book, I am not breaking the rules. Since you are not obligated by the legal policy of stackexchange to remove such links, then you are acting out of order with respect specifically to the math stackexchange FAQ. It is up to the community to decide these rules. Futher, you identify my post as "illegal material", but this is simply not the case. If I offer to break into a house, I can't be arrested simply for making the offer. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 8 '10 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur's deleted comment: I am saying that you, the provisional moderator, overstepped your bounds in doing so without first discussing it on meta. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 8 '10 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur's edit: That's why it's inappropriate for a non-mathematician (or non-math-student/non-participant in the mathematical community) to be a moderator here. Basically, everyone does this sort of thing, and it's acceptable as long as it's done very coyly. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's good practice to repeatedly revert someones reverts, maybe there should be a guideline which says "try not to revert an edit repeatedly since it will only cause arguments". If you have a problem with his post the sensible thing to do would be discuss it until he changes his mind or you do. $\endgroup$ – anon Aug 9 '10 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @97832123: You could possibly be arrested for conspiracy to break into a house. @Kaestur: There is no need to start a meta thread first. You are well within your bounds to delete it. If a user starts an edit war, locking the post is an appropriate response. It is 97832123's responsibility to justify his right to post it, not the other way round $\endgroup$ – Casebash Aug 9 '10 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ "Anything vaguely resembling prohibitable material is prohibited" is a much worse policy. As 978 indicated, research academia operates informally where copyright is concerned, in part because they are the creators of the content --- and this means more expert moderators (actual mathematicians) are needed to run the show at math.SE. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ "and this means more expert moderators (actual mathematicians) are needed to run the show at math.SE" — definitely! $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Aug 9 '10 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: I agree, and I have no desire to see something like that either. I acted on the much more narrow "any explicit offer to commit illegal activity is prohibited." I am quite aware of the more informal treatment of copyright within research academia (I'm technically still part of it), but math.stackexchange is not part of academia and its goal is not research. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ Who the specific individuals are right now or in three weeks doesn't matter. What I (and apparently Grigory, and Harry) am getting at is that if you want math.SE / MathUnderflow to be a site where the answers reflect what is known in mathematics rather than what, for example, programmers with a math hobby think is correct in math, then having people with the math-researcher "knowledge package" running the show is important. Harry is fighting the good fight on this and I am happy he has continued calling attention to the issue. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ In other words, although nomination of specific moderators will have an effect on math.SE, there is also a need for a broader understanding among the "chief users" of the value of having mathematically sophisticated management of a math site. e.g., imagine the equivalent situation of a Q & A site for mathematical software that had mathematicians but not many programmers running it: it would be a flop, as one would need to understand computers really well to exercise management functions intelligently. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ Also, other math forums have failed or hit a ceiling because of this problem. $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ Giving knowledgeable people a measure of 'control' over the site is what the reputation system achieves automatically. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Aug 9 '10 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ @KH: The rep system does NOT automatically give control to the knowledgeable. It gives reputation to the activist users, which is different. On math.SE you can see this difference extremely clearly, because knowledge is not necessary to answer many of the questions. Some of the users with reputation at moderator levels are getting into stunningly clueless disagreements (about particular mathematical points, or whether questions are correct mathematics, etc) with those who actually understand. Would you want an art Q&A site dominated by people who aren't art-makers, but interested amateurs? $\endgroup$ – T.. Aug 9 '10 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaestur: Doesn't that demolish your entire argument? $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Aug 9 '10 at 22:02

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