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I am a postgrad PhD student. I occasionally participate in answering academic questions a Q & A site when I hit a block with getting on with my thesis.

I often cite a particular large and well-known academic source in my answers. I have my own copy of this book. It costs between £180 and £240 and is therefore beyond the reach of anyone who isn't a very serious enthusiast or a serious academic. It is a very important resource in my field of study.

Recently, I found that this resource is available online in pdf form at a not-for-profit website called Archive dot org. I have done some cursory research into that organisation. It has an entry on Wikipedia. I can't find any substantial criticism of it.

I am wondering whether it would be academically unethical of me to link directly to this resource in my answers, given the unknown copyright status of some of the content on archive.org. On a related note, I'm also worried whether it could get me into trouble academically to do so. Any insights would be appreciated!

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If you're asking about posting answers on a Stack Exchange site, I don't see how this is a question of academic ethics. The rules of academia don't apply on SE. You should check the rules of that site, perhaps by asking on their meta site. – David Z Mar 11 at 15:17
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archive.org isn't an "institution", it's a website which stores data that's been previously published on the Internet. But just to check, are you sure you are not talking about arxiv.org (which is pronounced the same)? – Nate Eldredge Mar 11 at 15:19
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archive.org is not in a "questionable copyright status"; some of its user-submitted content is, but policing your sources for possible breach of copyright is neither mandated nor even encouraged by academical ethics (which is about honesty rather than legality). It is another question whether the link is practical (e.g., it may become a dead link, or editors might remove it in the publication process -- though the latter issue is not an issue with a thesis), but it cannot possibly pose an ethical problem. – darij grinberg Mar 11 at 17:50
    
I asked about this in general terms in regards to AC.SE. meta.academia.stackexchange.com/questions/752/… – StrongBad Mar 11 at 23:33

Achive.org operates in a grey area with respect to printed works that are still under copyright. In some areas it is completely fine. For instance, in software it is legal in the US to link to anything on archive.org, as they have an exemption from the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that allows them to host copyrighted material. From the wikipedia article

The project advocated for an exemption from the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act to permit them to bypass copy protection, which was approved in 2003 for a period of three years. The Archive does not offer the software for download, as the exemption is solely "for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive." The exemption was renewed in 2006, and in 2009 was indefinitely extended pending further rulemakings. The Library reiterated the exemption, as a "Final Rule" with no expiration date, in 2010.

However, this exemption does not extend to other media. I believe some authors have strongly objected to having their work hosted there. (Harlan Ellison, I believe, successfully got all of his material removed.)

My inclination would be that it is fine in academia. There is a process by which authors or publishers can have their copyrighted material removed from the internet archive. If they have chosen not to exercise that right, then I don't see that linking to it is problematic, legally or ethically. Your links may rot in the future if you do this since Archive.org might be required to remove the copyrighted material at some point in the future.

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I occasionally participate in answering academic questions in online forums when I hit a block with getting on with my thesis.

No worries, we all procrastinate (ehm... cough cough).

I often cite a particular large and well-known academic source in my answers. I have my own copy of this book.

You really don't need to own a copy of a book to cite it: many, if not most, academics borrow the books needed for their work from the libraries. Moreover, its cost is irrelevant to your question.

I am wondering whether it would be academically unethical of me to link directly to this resource in my answers, given the questionable copyright status of archive.org.

If the archived copy is legal (e.g., the publisher might have released the copyright because they no longer print it), it is certainly ethical to link it. However, I'd avoid referring to the copy if it's legality cannot be reasonably established. In addition, should the copy be removed due to copyright infringement, you would end up with a series of broken links.

It is worth noting that links to books are seldom seen on academic papers, unless a book is exclusively available online. Therefore, the issue is more related to whether or not posting the link online.

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