For example, in this revision to a question in U&L, I edited a question to remove a hotlink to a complete copy of a book which appeared not to be as far as I could tell in the Public Domain. I know I'm sort of asking for forgiveness rather than permission, but is this generally an accepted practice?

  • 1
    Still new here, so I can't say if it's an "accepted practice" on U&L, or SE in general with any clout. I can, however, concur with your choice, and how you handled it. It does seem to be ill advised to post a hot link like that, and it's not needed for the question at all. The endpoint of that link could become the target of DMCA take-down and become a dead link here, which makes even the title of the book unavailable in the question. My take is that it was a good call.
    – Chindraba
    Mar 11, 2017 at 1:51
  • FWIW, I agree with your action. Sometimes I link to safaribooksonline.com/home for individual books, since technical books are often available on there (though not free), and if you do have an account (or if you sign up for a free trial), you can see the book directly and legally. But the book in this case is not published on that site.
    – Wildcard
    Mar 24, 2017 at 2:32

1 Answer 1


It's generally advisable to search for questions such as this on the main meta.stackexchange.com site given this issue is more broad than simply U&L. Looking for "copyright" and "links" reveals these Q&A's.

Also the FAQ can be helpful: FAQ for Stack Exchange sites


This 4th link is interesting, the answer is shog whose actually an employee of SE.

For what it's worth, the relevant help page doesn't say anything about copyright because there's no "safe" way to copy - if someone wants to be an ass about it, they can go after you for copying a paragraph as easily as a page. Doesn't mean they'll win, but you can be pretty sure that everyone loses time and money waiting for a fair use ruling.

And that's ignoring the differences in copyright laws world-wide. And DMCA. Y'all aren't lawyers and neither am I - so frankly, the less said about copyright the better.

What we should focus on is plagiarism: this is not a legal issue, but a matter of etiquette, and one that I think is pretty easy to apply: we ask for attribution from folks copying stuff posted here, so we should extend the same courtesy to stuff copied to here. Some communities are more strict about this than others when it comes to the amount of text being copied, but at minimum you should always require that the original author is credited for his work. It's just good manners.

Now, for the link-only delete reason... It's pretty close already; maybe:

This link may answer the question, but answers that depend entirely on an external site can become invalid if the linked page changes. It is better to include the essential parts of the answer here (with credit given to the original author) and provide the link for reference.

So given the above I'd recommend calling it out if it's a link-only-answer as such and by addressing it as a link-only-answer, some portion of the link would need to be moved into U&L to make it more complete and tolerant to the link going away in the future.

By moving it in, if the material is not meant to be here due to copyright restrictions, it should be deleted/closed.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer, but I don't think that the fourth link upon which you expounded was particularly pertinent, because it was not a link-only answer that I was talking about. Rather, in someone else's question, they simply hotlinked to a complete PDF copy of a book. Not even to make a citation, but simply by way of reference to what the questioner happened to be reading at the time. There wasn't a copyright violation in the question per se, but rather a seemingly non-apropos link to such a violation that will in time likely be a dead link, and wasn't integral to the quiestion
    – DopeGhoti
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:09
  • @DopeGhoti - I think that it does apply since we'd use the same litmus test as to whether enough of the referenced material was pulled into the answer to make it tolerant to the sources going away. If it's tolerant than perhaps we can look for an alternative, if it needs to have more pulled in, depending on how it's pulled into the answer would have some say as to whether it's violating CR or not. If it's just a link as a reference then I'd either find an alternative that isn't a copyright violation or leave it as is.
    – slm Mod
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:12
  • But literally nothing from the linked book (other than its title) were included in the question. Which all leads back to my original question: was I right in my edit to remove the link to the book as I did in my linked edit, or should I leave such links if I see them in the future, notwithstanding other factors?
    – DopeGhoti
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:15
  • @DopeGhoti - I would've handled exactly like you did as well. This is how I approach it for the reason that it's a potential source that will likely go away, better to link to more permanent and potentially legal source when you can or drop it completely.
    – slm Mod
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:17
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    I see. Thanks kindly for the feedback and confirmation that we're on more or less the same page. If you'll forgive the pun.
    – DopeGhoti
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:17
  • @DopeGhoti - rimm shot 8-)
    – slm Mod
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:18

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