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    • CommentAuthorBen Webster
    • CommentTimeJul 26th 2010 edited

    We've gotten a couple of moderator flags on this post about the link to Halmos's book. In all previous intra-moderator discussions on this subject, our position has always been that we won't worry about what people are linking to (as long as its on-topic) until we got a take-down notice (which we never have), but this is in part due to our own ideological opinions on copyright (the original of Naive Set Theory was written in 1960; if the copyright law in force then had not been changed, it would be in the public domain in a couple of years). Do other people feel differently?

    Emphatic no here. It's not MO admin's or community's job to try and enforce copyright law.

    Also, we've been here before.

    I was one who flagged this post. That I flagged it, rather than editing the post or raising it here should actually be viewed as a measure of how much of a non-issue I thought this was - flagging being the quietest way to bring this to the moderators' attention.

    What made me flag the post were the words "(freely available)" attached to the link. That could be read as meaning legally freely available, particularly since it has been emphasised (simply including the words is a form of emphasis, the parentheses do not remove that emphasis). When clicking through to the site, I could not see any information telling me whether or not this download was legal or not. As this is a rather contentious issue, I feel that links to such material should at the least not be ambiguous and I felt that this one was.

    I don't mean by that that each link should carry precise information as to whether or not the download is legal, and how illegal if so. Rather that such links are neutral in tone. Simply removing the words "(freely available)" would be enough for me.


    I agree that "freely available" gave the wrong impression (e.g. to me, when I quickly looked over the question before and didn't stop to click on the link) so I have edited the question so as to remove this phrase.


    Anytime you infringe copyright, make sure you're very coy about it on MO.


    A slightly different issue: Halmos's book doesn't seem to be crucial to Solomon's question.


    In several of my answers to MO questions, I have hesitated to include a similar link (especially when Google Books does not have the book in question) for fear that MO might somehow get in trouble. Is the view of the community that such links are OK, to be taken down if/when asked to do so?

    I am opposed to such links for three reasons.

    1. They might cause trouble with (potential) government funding agencies.

    2. The links' targets often get taken down pretty quickly, so after a couple of months most of the links will be dead.

    3. It is pretty trivial to find scanned math books using eg google, so I don't think they add much to an answer.
    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeJul 26th 2010

    +1 Andy Putman

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 26th 2010 edited

    The links' targets often get taken down pretty quickly, so after a couple of months most of the links will be dead.

    Not with, interestingly enough.


    I disagree with points 1. and 3. of Andy's opposition. I don't have much experience finding scanned math books using google, so for me it might well be helpful to have such a link. I'd like to see real evidence of 1. before we weight it seriously against the benefits, especially as at present there are no plans to ask for funding from any government funding agencies.

    @Scott : Here's your lesson on finding scanned math books on google : do a search containing 1. the author's last name, 2. a portion of the title, and 3. either "djvu" or "rar" (the first is the format most of the scans are in, while the second is a common compression format). You'll probably find a list of sketchy websites and weird links (and often the appropriate book).

    In any case, I thought that there were plans to use various peoples' NSF grants to fund MO, especially if we end up leaving SE. I suspect that the presence of large number of links to copyright violations would make the NSF skittish about providing said funding.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 26th 2010 edited

    I'm just saying, Scott, check out I've done some scans, and they're really only available there. (as in, you can't find them on google even given a few hours of searching). It's good for those late nights when you can't get the book you need from the library, or when the book you need is checked out. (Although I wish someone would do a scan of Bourbaki's book on Lie Groups and Lie algebras in english, since it's always either checked out or on hold by a professor).

    "It's good for those late nights when you can't get the book you need from the library". Dude, the library here at Michigan is open from 9 AM to 5 AM! How often do you need a book during that 4 hour interval? (To be fair, during the summer they close at 2 AM.)
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJul 27th 2010 edited

    To be fair, during the summer they close at 2 AM.

    This summer was the first time I ever used the library! That's awesome though (the 5AM thing)!