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I ran into this post that contains links to copyright material. As suggested here, I flagged it for moderator attention. The reply I got was the automated response: " declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it".

Several of the links are the actual standards, not drafts. Perhaps our moderators aren't expected to know how to read ISO standards, but then on the first page on the pdf it is written in plain English:

These materials are subject to copyright claims of International Standardization Organization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). Not for resale. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, including an electronic retrieval system, without the prior written permission of ITI. All requests pertaining to this standard should be submitted to ITI, 1250 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.

This is something that certainly could get the hosting server in trouble (and possibly Stack Overflow as well?). Shouldn't copyright flags be reviewed a tad bit more carefully? I believe that this particular post still needs moderator attention.

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closed as not constructive by Pëkka, Time Traveling Bobby, kiamlaluno, hims056, ChrisF Mar 12 '13 at 20:19

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On what planet can't you link to copyrighted material? Linking is always okay. Copy & pasting might not be. –  Pëkka Mar 12 '13 at 14:57
For clarification, this is a download of an ISO standard document, a document that you must pay money to ISO for owning. It is essentially the same as posting a link to a mp3 music file or a video game download, where the downloader does not own the original item. –  Lundin Mar 12 '13 at 15:00
ah, okay, that's a different ballgame. Still, I've never heard of a standard to be protected like this. Isn't the point of standards to be accessible to everyone? Also, this is going to be tough to enforce - while the case may be clear for obvious warez, SO mods can hardly know whether a document describing a standard is copyright protected or not. That's what the DMCA takedown notice is there for IMO. –  Pëkka Mar 12 '13 at 15:01
@Pekka웃 "Isn't the point of standards to be accessible to everyone?"*...against a good sum of money, sure. ;) –  Bart Mar 12 '13 at 15:04
@Pekka웃 In a perfect world, they would be. Alas, ISO has a very strict "pay up" policy for all international standards. And they certainly have the financial muscle to pull a law suit on anyone sharing their standards, they have done so on countless occasions. If someone would forward that link to New York University to ISO, I bet it wouldn't take them many days to come knocking with an army of lawyers. –  Lundin Mar 12 '13 at 15:05
Oh, wow. I see. ------- –  Pëkka Mar 12 '13 at 15:49
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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Why would linking to copyrighted materials be illegal or not allowed? It is not copied here is it? Copyright is intended to regulate who can replicate the content, not who can point to it or read it.

If we cannot link to copyrighted materials, how could we ever link to any documentation ever created?

Most of all, it is not up to Stack Overflow / Stack Exchange to police copyright. If someone else is sharing copyrighted materials and distributing those materials without the right to do so, then that is their problem, not ours. The moderators are not equipped to verify that downloading those links is indeed in violation of a copyright law somewhere in the world.

Stack Exchange would remove the links if the ISO organization were to issue a DMCA takedown notice on that specific post. Moderators may still take down links at their discretion, but they are not required to do so. See What should I do when I see copyright violations posted on Stack Overflow? for how moderators are expected to deal with copyright infringements.

You are not the copyright owner of the linked content, nor is it clear-cut for moderators to verify that the hoster of those materials has no right to redistribute the materials, so I personally do not see why a moderator should remove the links in this case.

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Well, we don't allow links to everything. We don't allow links to bittorrents for pirated programming books or software. This is specifically stated in stackexchange.com/legal, where "subscribers" agree that they don't post anything that "infringes any intellectual property right of another or the privacy or publicity rights of another." –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 14:59
@RobertHarvey: Interesting. Why not? What if I linked to a file that turned out to be a bittorrent link on wednesdays only? This is a slippery slope. What if the torrent was advertised as being a Linux distribution (OSS, freely distributable) but it was really an ISO of Windows instead. Or vice-versa. Are SO moderators going to verify that each and every time? –  Martijn Pieters Mar 12 '13 at 14:59
@RobertHarvey: And "posting" is not the same as "linking". Sorry, the examples don't flow so easily, let me find you an example of a work that is illegal to distribute in some countries, but legal in others. –  Martijn Pieters Mar 12 '13 at 15:01
@RobertHarvey This is completely equivalent to posting a link to a pirated programming book. –  Lundin Mar 12 '13 at 15:02
Eh, it doesn't matter. We don't want people trading pirate links; it's "undesirable material." Use your common sense, folks; if there's a link to material that's clearly an attempt to download something for free that you should be buying at Amazon, it's going to be taken down. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:02
@Lundin: I don't know what you mean. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:03
@RobertHarvey: I am quite aware that the current US legal climate has made it untenable to post links to pirated material; it's a pity that the standards in the US (and elsewhere) have gone down that far, and I'll try not to rant about that here. :-) And as such, SE probably has made the choice not to fight that fight here and remove priated material links. –  Martijn Pieters Mar 12 '13 at 15:05
@RobertHarvey: So, is there then an official statement somewhere as to what extend moderators are expected to remove links to pirated materials? Is there a policy on what constitutes 'inducing copyright infringement'? And is merely flagging a post enough, or is a DMCA request required? –  Martijn Pieters Mar 12 '13 at 15:07
@RobertHarvey It means that the only legal way to come by an ISO standard is through this site, or from a national standard institute paying ISO in turn. They own the publication. –  Lundin Mar 12 '13 at 15:08
@RobertHarvey: Because from other posts here on Meta I was under the impression the mods are expected to take a hands-off-we-don't-verify-infringement approach. –  Martijn Pieters Mar 12 '13 at 15:08
To be clear, the ISO organization is perfectly within their right to make a DMCA claim on that link; SE's response would almost certainly be to remove the link. Although moderators are not equipped to deal with DMCA claims, they may remove such links at their discretion. More info here: meta.stackexchange.com/q/114919 –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:10
@Lundin: So what? I don't like that any more than you do, but it is their choice. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:13
@Lundin meta.stackexchange.com/a/141775/214043: "... you are not employees of Stack Exchange. In essence, you are free to moderate the site for content how you see fit. If you are ever notified about copyrighted material, and feel like taking it down, that’s cool... but you are not required to do so. You are not DMCA agents ..." (from April 2012 moderator newsletter) –  Aaron Blenkush Mar 12 '13 at 15:23
@MartijnPieters: It looks fine to me. Note, however, that it's not difficult to see when material is pirated. It's not this highly-intricate judgement call that you make it out to be; it is usually patently obvious. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:25
Put it this way: you've probably seen all of the edge cases here on Meta. :) The overwhelming majority of links that we delete are just people trying to promote their product or service. The number of pirate links we look at is surprisingly small; most people already know that we are not a warez trading site, and that such links are considered inappropriate here. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:37
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I would like to respond to the specific link posed in this question.

It links to a copy of the ISO C99 standard. It is unclear why NYU would be hosting this document publicly, other than the obvious benefit to their students. As the accepted answer on the SO question points out, ISO withdraws a specification when a new one becomes available; it's entirely possible that ISO has given NYU express permission to host the (now obsolete) document, but has retained the copyright notice.

In any case, the link to the document is an integral part of the question; remove the link, and it breaks the question. If ISO doesn't want their document publicly hosted in this fashion, the correct course of action is for ISO to ask NYU to take it down.

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Personally I think it is more likely that NYU has a permission to share this on their own LAN only, but somehow it has leaked out into the public internet by mistake. –  Lundin Mar 12 '13 at 15:57
That would be my guess as well. –  Robert Harvey Mar 12 '13 at 15:58
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