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There are many questions on stackoverflow where a response will (accidentally or deliberately) link to pirated books. This is usually detected and corrected in short order. However, the edit history dutifully preserves the links to the pirated material for all to see (and click). Indeed, a google search for pirated books will bring up many offenders.

Is this a problem? Is stackoverflow still responsible for linking to the pirated materials, even though the link only appears in an edit history? Is there a process to expunge such links more thoroughly?

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This is one of the unfortunate things about user ran websites. You always have a few bad apples. Mods do a decent job of keeping questions in order and correct. I don't think anyone can edit the history of any question though besides the originators of the site. I might be wrong though. Maybe leave the history of a question or answer, but just disable the actual link. If a change like this was made, it would be nice to indicate that a bad link was posted and removed.

And a user that did this multiple times might need to be taken out back and banned.

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Another aspect is illegal under what laws? If some country has an abnormally long copyright, should that then automatically limit all other counties where some material for instance might be considered public domain?

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abnormally long? Most of the links in question are to books that are only recently in print (or even not yet in print). I'm sure that copyright should extend at least as far as publication... – Marc Gravell Aug 12 '09 at 20:28
Yes, most likely. But just because the problem scenario is unlikely, it does not mean it should be ignored. Some times, even very old books are relevant,… – hlovdal Aug 13 '09 at 1:27

Actually, in contrast to what Gortok is saying, I believe if it get into court, SO will argue it is a service provider, and hence protected under DMCA Safe Harbor. As long as it take reasonable action to remove these contents when made aware of, SO will not be liable for it. The post is "your" and not "owned" by SO. Any material posted by an author is copyrighted that author, and used under the CC-BY-SA license.

(IANAL and all that)

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Again consider that the site's own policies point out that Community Wiki answers belong to the 'community'. That could cause grey area legally. That's specifically why sites (like Slashdot) specifically say that ALL Content is owned by whoever posted it. Stack Overflow is one of the only sites I know of that specifically states otherwise. – George Stocker Aug 12 '09 at 20:40
Sigh If you want to play down voting each other answers.... – KTC Aug 12 '09 at 20:48

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