I have seen several times people editing a post to add a link to an article under restricted access/behind a paywall. By this I mean that the article is on some site requiring a login/payment before access/downloading.

In that situation, I am likely to reject the edit. Am I right in doing so?

A rejected edit needs an explanation. None of the default one seems to cover this case. Can we add another defaut reason, in the spirit of "The edit contains a problematic link (broken or with access restricted to an institution or location etc)"

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    $\begingroup$ Even if it is behind a paywall, the reference will be clear, and therefore useful. $\endgroup$ – Lucia Apr 1 '17 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia. Not necessarily. See the first link in the post mathoverflow.net/questions/266109 Here is the link. pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/iii/cas/… Is it useful? $\endgroup$ – coudy Apr 1 '17 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ Clearly that edit should not have gotten through. I fixed it based on the information provided by Jim Humphreys. But (1) this type of improper linking is pretty rare, and (2) I wouldn't call that a paywall exactly. I understand "paywall" as referring to a vendor, typically an academic publisher such as a journal -- not an academic institution that has institutional access to the journal. So I think Asaf's answer is the right answer for the paywall question. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Apr 1 '17 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Trimble Paywall was perhaps not the best choice of words. Let me edit the title of my question. $\endgroup$ – coudy Apr 1 '17 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ Here is another example of a problematic link springerlink.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/content/… from the answer mathoverflow.net/a/25111/6129 $\endgroup$ – coudy Apr 2 '17 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ coudy, yes, that's true. But that was from almost 7 years ago (and no telling when that poster will reappear). Problems like this from long ago need to be addressed case by case. If you spot such problems, please flag for moderator attention (and thanks for your attention). $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Apr 3 '17 at 4:44

There is a good reason for linking to a paywalled link. It is usually the official journal link. It is likely to contain the accurate citation information, it is likely to stay on the web for longer (as opposed to self-hosted paper by the authors), and it is ultimately the official version.

Of course, if the link is just to a library link, then this is not remotely as helpful, and in all likelihood, going to end up at the original published link anyway.

It is helpful to add an arXiv link, and if nothing else, then an author-copy in a comment.

In the specific case linked in the comments to your question here, I would have improved the edit by giving the correct link to the cited paper. Rejecting or accepting makes a difference when this is a registered user, and not an anonymous suggestion.

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    $\begingroup$ With due respect, it is better to provide the accurate citation information in the post than to link to a website which may contain accurate citation information for a few selected registered users. Note also that my question is about links with restricted access, not arxiv. $\endgroup$ – coudy Apr 1 '17 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ I have never seen a journal website which required you to pay in order to even see what is that paper you are trying to open. Do you have any examples of paywalled journals that do not have free access to the title and information, as well as the abstract? (Yes, having the full citation is not a bad idea, this is why we have the citation helper installed. I'm not arguing against that.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 1 '17 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ Let me agree that journal websites with paid content may also provide free content of interesting value. That's not really my point here. I am asking about linked content that can only be accessed under some specific condition (typically a paid registration, e.g. the full abstract on mathscinet). $\endgroup$ – coudy Apr 1 '17 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ I should add: wherever possible, use a doi link, in case the journal changes publisher (eg London Mathematical Society moved everything to Wiley recently) $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Apr 2 '17 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: A lot of people link to PDFs instead of landing pages; such links can be completely useless without access (they won't even tell you the title). $\endgroup$ – darij grinberg Apr 4 '17 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ @darij: Direct link to a .pdf is not ideal anyway. That's not the issue here. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 4 '17 at 20:24

On my opinion, links with restricted access are legitimate and desirable when there is no free link to a particular book/paper.

After all, this is a site for professional mathematicians, and majority of professional mathematicians have access to some math library which subscribes electronic books and journals. Moreover, in many countries university libraries have access to all mainstream journals and books via Interlibrary Loan.

Of course a free link, when available is preferable.

  • $\begingroup$ I take exception to the assertion "this is a site for professional mathematicians". The statement to me seems unnecessarily exclusionary. I will agree that a lot of people who use this site are professional mathematicians and others who do have the type of access you mention. However, the community now and in the future (and likely in the past) includes many outside such a circle. I won't champion the cause of all links being to unrestricted access material, but I think there is a better way to make your point. Gerhard "We Are The Twenty Percent" Paseman, 2017.04.12. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Apr 13 '17 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ If you need an alternative phrasing, "MathOverflow is primarily for questions and answers about professional mathematics", and does not exclude anyone who wishes to support the primary mission of this forum. Gerhard "Even And Especially The Non-Mathematicians" Paseman, 2017.04.12. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Apr 13 '17 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerhard Paseman: On top of your window, click "help" and then "tour". I paste and copy: "MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites." $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Apr 13 '17 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you. I took exception to that too when it was raised. (Unrestricted access to that post forthcoming.) The rationale then was that the scheme set up by Stack exchange needed a blank filled in by the name of a group of people, not by a purpose. If you want to quote the boilerplate, go ahead. I still think your point can be made without it. Gerhard "Time To Change Boilerplate, Maybe?" Paseman, 2017.04.12. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Apr 13 '17 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerhard Paseman: There is another site MathSE, for broader audience. Of course both sites are open for all who is willing to join. But for me it is important that this site is run by and designed for professional mathematicians. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Apr 13 '17 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ meta.mathoverflow.net/q/2371 , especially (former user) quid's answer and my comment. I do not care to challenge the opinion of your post. I think the characterization of whom the forum serves is wrong. Gerhard "Or Do You Support It?" Paseman, 2017.04.12. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Apr 13 '17 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerhard Paseman: So we disagree. This characterization "for professional mathematicians" is frequently used to close certain kind of questions or to move them to MathSE. If we change this, there will be more such questions. So this description plays a useful role. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Apr 13 '17 at 4:06

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