oldmathpapers.org, version 0

A while ago we discussed the idea of “oldmathpapers.org”, a public repository for maths papers that aren’t readily available online. Many people quickly pointed out that this was a dangerous idea, getting very quickly into the deep waters of copyright violation.

Nevertheless, here’s version 0, ready for your consumption! It neatly sidesteps the whole copyright issue by not keeping copies (or even looking at) actual versions of the paper — it’s simply intended to keep track of links to old maths papers, hosted elsewhere. That elsewhere, of course, is meant to be your and my web pages!

Functionality is extremely limited; you can add a paper, you can list everything there so far, but there’s no searching, no sorting, no deleting, no correcting. On the other hand, I think that won’t be too too hard to add. The most important thing to note about the design of “oldmathpapers.org” is that it relies on MathSciNet identifiers to keep track of things. These exist for pretty much every published maths paper, and they’re a ready source of high quality metadata — and it’s this that will hopefully make the searching and sorting easy.

Below, I’ll walk you through adding a paper: “Canonical bases in tensor products and graphical calculus for U_q(sl_2)”, by I. Frenkel and M. Khovanov. After that, please take a moment to contribute some old math papers!

First of all, we need to know about a copy of the paper, somewhere out there on the internet. That’s easy — a few years ago I scanned it in, and it’s sitting there at this rather long URL. So now head over to http://arxivwiki.org/oldmathpapers/ (no, I haven’t bought the oldmathpapers.org domain name…), where you’ll see a very unwelcoming page, saying you can add, list, or dump.

Let’s start by adding the paper. Following the add link, we’re presented with a form that prompts us to “Look up a citation” or “enter a mathscinet identifier directly”. Let’s try looking up the following somewhat sloppy citation:

I Frenkel and M Khovanov, Canonical Bases IN TENSOR PRODUCTS AND
GRAPHICAL CALCULUS FOR, DUke Mathematical Journal 1997, vol 87, no 3,

Now click “Search Mathscinet”, and hey, look at that, it tells us that the mathscinet identifier is MR1446615, and displays some nicely cleaned up metadata, reassuring us it’s found the right article!

All that’s left to do is fill in the URL of the online copy we know about, and click submit. A moment later, we’re redirected to http://arxivwiki.org/oldmathpapers/list, where we can see the fruits of our labour!

You’ll notice, actually, that this paper is available from the Duke Mathematical Journal’s website; although not available to me, as it says “Access denied”. Oh well.

If anyone is interested in making this do all the things it really should, let me know! It’s all built in Java, using Maven, openrdf.org’s Sesame, Apache Velocity, and a servlet container. You can get the sources via Subversion from http://katlas.org/svn/arxivwiki/trunk/oldmathpapers/ and http://katlas.org/svn/arxivwiki/trunk/mathscinet/. Run “mvn install” in the mathscinet directory, then “mvn jetty:run” in the oldmathpapers directory, and you’ll have a local copy running on port 7777.

9 thoughts on “oldmathpapers.org, version 0

  1. So you’ve decided that being a fence for stolen intellectual property is better than doing the actual stealing? Although in the case of the Frenkel/Khovanov paper it appears that you’ve done the stealing as well, since it appears to be housed on your own site. And you’re not a terribly competent fence, since clicking on that paper brings up a login window demanding a password rather than the paper itself.

  2. Ah, everybody’s favorite C.S. Lewis-biting flamer. How are you, Nat? Did you ask for Mr. Lewis’ permission before appropriating his pseudonym?

    I, for one, support Scott’s efforts, and I know that neither Frenkel nor Khovanov mind the wider dissemination of their work.

  3. You should be cautious about your claim that this process sidesteps the copyright issue, since US law has a concept of contributory infringement, and this regime is precisely how the RIAA disembowled Napster in the late 90s, without Napster hosting any music files on their servers at all.

  4. Corrections: It was A+M records, not the RIAA itself, and the suit involved two additional claims, one of which was vicarious liability. Since you’re not materially benefiting from this, I guess that’s not an issue.

    Also, it seems there are several safe harbors in the DMCA for e.g., service providers (see points 20 and 21 in the analysis here).
    It seems to require some careful footwork, though.

    You can also find more recent cases mentioned in the wikipedia article on Kazaa.

  5. And now for something completely different:

    Some kind people have put up torrents containing algebra texts, and I have found this to be rather useful. For example, many texts such as Borel’s Algebraic D-modules, Cassels+Frohlich, and Mumford’s Abelian Varieties are almost impossible to find through normal channels, even if I try to give people money.

    Do you think there should be a place for torrent listings on this site?

  6. Did you ask for Mr. Lewis’ permission before appropriating his pseudonym?

    Hmm, let me check my records. From that IP address? No, I don’t think I remember lending out the Nat Whilk name to anyone in Provo. But I’ve been dead a while, I guess he’s welcome to it.

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