Fork me on GitHub
Math for the people, by the people.

User login

On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

Synonym: 
OEIS, Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences
Type of Math Object: 
Definition
Major Section: 
Reference

Mathematics Subject Classification

00A20 no label found

Comments

Since free math is a big issue around here, what are the terms of use
for this online work? For example, would it be possible to take
material from there and reuse it here without having to obtain
explicit permission (and, if so, whose permission would one have
to ask)?

> For example, would it be possible to take
> material from there and reuse it here without having to obtain
> explicit permission (and, if so, whose permission would one
> have
> to ask)?

N. J. A. Sloane is the maintainer of the database and holds
the copyright, so he would be the person to ask.

> N. J. A. Sloane is the maintainer of the database and holds
> the copyright, so he would be the person to ask.

Wrong. I had a look at the website, the copyright owner is
AT&T and they impose disgustingly unfree terms of use:

http://www.att.com/terms/

In fact, these terms are so antithetical to anything PM stands
for that I wonder if it even a good idea to have an entry like this.
It might, but then, I beg that the author add to it a clear statement
to the effect that this is a decidedly unfree resource. I worry that
otherwise someone might naively make use of material contained there
in wriritng for PM and get us in trouble. Even if someone isn't quite
that naive, they might ask the author permission, not realizing that
the author cannot grant this permission. (Things like this have
already happened here in the past and there is no reason to assume
that some well-meaning individual would not do someting like this
in the future.)

> Wrong. I had a look at the website, the copyright owner is
> AT&T and they impose disgustingly unfree terms of use:

This claim conflicts with the OEIS copyright notice, which
is available at the URL:

http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/Seis.html#COPYRIGHT

I suspect that AT&T's copyright is on the webpages.

I will email N. J. A. Sloane and request clarification.

Please e-mail AT&T as well.

Done. The text of the message to AT&T is:

-----
I would like clarification of the terms of use for the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, available online at:
http://www.research.att.com/~njas/sequences/

The front page for OEIS states:

Copyright Notice. This database and its associated files are
copyright 1996-2006 by N. J. A. Sloane.

However, every page on the website associated with the database contains a link to

http://www.att.com/terms/

which appears to assert that the content is owned by AT&T. Can you
clarify this? Who holds the copyright to the database, and who holds
the copyright to the associated website?

Thank you for your time.
-----

The message I sent to N. J. A. Sloane was similar.

Thanks for doing this.

I thought that as long as you properly gave credit to your sources everything was cool. Look at how much Mathworld and Wikipedia reference the OEIS. The use of the "Sloane's A012345" notation is so prevalent in Mathworld entries that it's understood what is being referred to, but even so at the bottom of the page there is a bibliographic citation (in American Mathematics Journal citation style would be my guess). The standard template in Wikipedia provides both an external link to the relevant sequence and a link to the Wikipedia article about the OEIS.

The issue here is not scholarly standards of citing references, but
about the legal issue of infringement. These issues are quite
different.

As for your entry, that ought to be fine --- you are only writing
about Sloane's book and describing his notation. That is not all that
different from writing a book review or something similar.

Likewise, there is no problem if someone uses ideas from some math
book. As long as one re-expresses those ideas in one's own words,
there is no legal issue, although scholarly practise demands that one
cite the source of those idea.

The problem would arise should someone decide to add material in
integer sequences derived from Sloane's book as opposed to rewritten
in their own words. Then the owner of the copyright to that work
could sue PM or the author of those entries or both for infringement.

It was this last possibility which concerned me --- this would be
natural material to add to our collection and someone who didn't know
better might naively think that it wak OK to copy material from the
integer sequence website, reformat it, and post it here. Whether or
not one adds references, this would be illegal and I think it
important for people to realize this. Mistakes like this have
happened in the past and, while we have been able to catch them in
time and correct them before they got anywhere close to the lawsuit
stage, people need to be aware of when such practises are legal and
when they are not. In particular, while it is alright (from the legal
as opposed to the scholarly viewpoint) to adapt material from
Wikipedia to make PM entries (since they have given consent to do this
in their license), it is _not_ alright to do the same with material
from OEIS since they have not granted any such permission. To do so,
you would need specific permission from the copyright holder.

This business of copyright law is really quite counterintuitive and
confusing. After putting a good amount of time into reading up on
copyright law over the course of the last year, I have some idea of
how things go, but it's not like I'm remotely close to being and
expert on the subject (I'm not even a lawyer, so don't rely on any of
this as legal advice). Because of the high stakes involved (a
copyright lawsuit could easily shut PM down) we all need to inform
ourselves about this as we can and be careful in this regard.

> I thought that as long as you properly gave credit to your
> sources everything was cool. Look at how much Mathworld and
> Wikipedia reference the OEIS. The use of the "Sloane's
> A012345" notation is so prevalent in Mathworld entries that
> it's understood what is being referred to, but even so at

Maybe MathWorld has asked for permission to use Sloane's
sequences on their site. A search on MathWorld for "Sloane's"
yields 1230 results.

N. J. A. Sloane has responded to my copyright question. His
reply follows.

-----
the OEIS was started by me in the mid 1960's (when it was
on file cards), and it has gone through many versions
- punched cards, magnetic tape, two books, etc., -
and now it exists as a database on the internet.
It represents over 40 years of my work.
So I believe I own the copyright!
Regards

Neil Sloane
.
-----

I have not yet received a reply from AT&T (not even a form
response, which concerns me).

That's consistent with what I've read of the history of the OEIS. AT & T hosts but doesn't own the OEIS in the same way that Geocities hosts but doesn't own PrimeFan's Listing of Esoteric Integer Sequences. I'd like to think AT & T has more common sense than Microsoft.

So this is why my ears were itching!

But the analogy is flawed. The GeoCities Terms of Service say that I grant them a non-exclusive license. I don't work for GeoCities. Neil Sloane does work for AT & T, and I suspect some bigwigs at AT & T have assessed the value of the OEIS to the company. I seriously doubt GeoCities cares to assess the value of what I post as long as I don't break their rules about pornography, hate speech, software piracy, things of that nature.

That's my two cents.

Subscribe to Comments for "On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences"