As can for example be read here and here, creators or webmasters of websites are responsible for the content of their website, even if the material leading to legal issues (for example disputes concerning copyrights, domain names, trademarks, defamations or obscenities) is not posted by themself but users of the site.

I am interested in learning about how MathOverflow deals (and dealt) with such potential legal issues today (and before joining the Stack Exchange network). Which (if any) preventive measures does (or did) MathOverflow take to avoid getting into trouble such as it might come up in the context of being responsible for the content of the site?

I read somewhere (in the context of joining the SE network) that a corresponding MathOverflow company was founded too. Is founding such a company advisable when setting up a public Q&A site, for example to avoid a single person to be responsible in case of upcoming legal disputes and issues? Does MathOverflow have the continuous support of a lawier who can step in if needed?

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure if this post is on topic here. Personally I am very interested in these issues, as I and a small group of people are setting up a higher-level physics site outside the SE network (to avoid having to fullfill externally prescribed activity criteria among other things). MathOverflow is our big shiny role model for how such an academic high-quality international online community can be successful. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Feb 3, 2014 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ I did not read those links, but as I understand the relevant law, as long as the website complies with certain rules (which only take effect in case of people making copyright claims against the site), then they have no responsibility to monitor user-provided content for copyright infringement or similar (this is all part of the DMCA). $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2014 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ I absolutely think this question is on topic here at meta. Not only that, but it has a well-defined known-to-experts answer! (One that I'm guessing reads "MathOverflow didn't do much in this regard", but I could be wrong.) I don't think at this time we should do anything in this direction, unless there's a pressing reason to, so I hope this question does veer into an off-topic discussion about whether setting up such protections is wise. $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2014 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ You haven't specified the type of problematic content you are talking about so it is hard to answer. Generally legal issues about content are taken care of by SE legal team, moderators and users are not legal experts on these issues and the burden is not on them to deal with these issues. If you want to host your own service and worried about such issues then I think you probably will need to have a legal expert. Alternatively host your site on a network that provide such legal services, in which case it would be like when you have a WordPress blog or a mailing lists on a university network. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Feb 4, 2014 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, it seems that both the links provided are the same, and also quite a bit out of date, as that blog post was written before the DMCA took proper effect (and before enough cases had had a chance to provide precedent on how it is used). $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2014 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Kaveh and others for your comments. Yes, I formulated my question in a general way as many different issues might come up. We are building up the site outside the SE network on purpose, it may be that it will not be recepted exclusively friendly, so looking for a legal expert that supports us might be a good idea indeed (our hosing service probably does not provide legal protection). This is why I am very interested in how people handled these issues before joining the SE network ... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Feb 7, 2014 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ @TobiasKildetoft do you have some more appropriate recent links in mind? $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Feb 7, 2014 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately not. It seems like the sort of thing that Ken White from Popehat would have written about at some point, but a quick search did not turn up anything. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2014 at 9:56


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