Actually, on further reflection, I don't think this is OK at all.
I'm all for re-use of the Creative Commons content that I post on this site, including commercial use if people can find ways to monetize it that are compatible with its licensing conditions. However, I'm not OK with reuse of that content in ways which infringe the attribution requirements (i.e. providing electronic copies without hyperlinks to the source post and author profile, and making clear on the text which website the content came from) or the licensing requirements (details below).
Generally speaking, it is very easy to get immediately incensed when you see your content used in ways you didn't anticipate, particularly if those ways include money changing hands. In those situations, say, when somebody says "somebody is printing Wikipedia and selling it for a profit", I often find it useful to append "... and it's being used to tremendous effect in schools in [insert developing country] where internet access is [insert suitable restriction]", and see if that changes how I feel about it. However, that is not the case with this book series.
Rob Jeffries is quite right in his initial statement
you can go to google books and read these Q+A without being aware that the content has been stripped from elsewhere, with no obvious indication of the CC-BY-SA license and with no proper links to the original source of the material.
and although the details vary depending on the precise presentation at issue, most of the ways in which the material is available are problematic enough to be infringing in way way or another.
And frankly: Rob is right, it's time someone took the time to write some sharp lines to that effect. So, I've written a pretty curt email (much longer than I intended, partly to leave no room for wriggling and partly because I didn't have time to make it shorter) to Duckett which
I intend to send shortly I've just sent. I will update this answer as and when I get any news from that.
Before I do, though, I'm posting it here so I can get some community feedback in case my interpretation of the license is off in some way I'm not seeing right now.
Dear Mr. Duckett,
I am writing to you about your book series "Questions and Answers", collected from the Stack Exchange network of sites, as available through the Amazon and Google Books sites. This email requires action on your part.
As you know, user-provided content on the Stack Exchange network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode) that allows you to build upon that content and indeed to use it commercially so long as the license conditions are met: that the work be correctly attributed, that it be licensed under a compatible license that is clearly and unambiguously marked, and that no additional technological or legal restrictions be applied to the content.
As regards attribution, the requirements for reusing Stack Exchange content are clearly spelled out in the Stack Exchange blog (https://stackoverflow.blog/2009/06/25/attribution-required/) and they essentially follow the basic common-sense requirement that any reproduction of the work in electronic means must contain a hyperlink to the location of the original work as well as a hyperlink to the author's profile.
As regards the license, you are required to license your derivative work only under the terms of the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; moreover, as the license makes it clear in section 4.a,
You must include a copy of, or the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) for, this License with every copy of the Work You Distribute or Publicly Perform.
Similarly, as noted in that same section of the license,
You may not impose any effective technological measures on the Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License.
Finally, as regards the license, I draw your attention to section 7, which clarifies that redistribution of the work in breach of the license's terms will cause its termination, at which point you lose the right to use the work as originally licensed.
This email concerns content whose copyright rests with me, which was made available on the website Physics Stack Exchange (https://physics.stackexchange.com/) as well as other sites of the Stack Exchange network, and which you have redistributed as part of several collections of your 'Questions and Answers' series, which are available
- as Kindle ebooks on Amazon.com, currently in print and for sale whose profits (ostensibly) benefit you directly;
- as out-of-print paperback hardcopies from Amazon.com;
- as samples of the paperback hardcopies, displayed as electronic copies and attributed to you, on Google Books;
- as eBook samples, displayed as electronic copies and attributed to you, on Google Books;
as well as a variety of other outlets (https://www.google.com/search?q=Duckett+"Questions+and+Answers"+-site:amazon.*+-site:books.google.com).
You can find a selection of the books in your series which contain content under my copyright using the Google Books search feature (https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=inauthor%3A%22George+A+Duckett%22+emilio-pisanty). These include your books on Physics, Thermodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Energy in Physics, Electrostatics, Particle Physics, Fluid Dynamics, Physics Exercises, Optics, and Mathematica.
Your redistribution of the work is in infringement of the CC BY-SA 3.0 in (at least) the following ways:
- The Google Books samples, as provided by default, do not contain any hyperlinks to either the source of each work nor the profile of the author.
- The Google Books samples, as provided by default, do not contain any indication of the origin of the work as globally contained in the collection: they have an 'About this book' page which does not reference the website from which the book's content originated.
- The Google Books samples, as provided by default, often contain no indication of the licensing conditions of the work, as the final page (containing the scant copyright and licensing information) is not provided.
- Where the Google Books samples, as provided by default, do contain licensing information, they still do not contain suitable indication of the CC BY-SA license: where the final licensing page is present, the information provided, "All questions and content within this book are licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required" is insufficient. To clarify this point further:
- The name "cc-wiki" is essentially meaningless and it was clearly deprecated by both Creative Commons and Stack Exchange as early as June 2009 (https://stackoverflow.blog/2009/06/04/stack-overflow-creative-commons-data-dump/). The correct name of the license is CC BY-SA 3.0, including the license version (which does matter).
- The collection does not contain either a copy of the license text or the URI of the license, as required by §4.a of the license.
- The Google Books samples, in their eBook version, contain no indication of the licensing conditions of the work, as the final page (containing the scant copyright and licensing information) is not provided.
- The Kindle ebook versions as provided in samples by Amazon.com do not contain any indication of the CC BY-SA license, nor do they contain the license text as required.
- The Kindle ebook versions contain technological measures (generally known as Digital Rights Management) that prevent their users from redistributing the work, a restriction that is explicitly forbidden by the license.
- The paperback copies (as depicted in the Amazon.com "Look Inside" feature) do not feature any indication of the website from which the work originates, as their 'About this book' page does not reference the Stack Exchange website from which the book's content originated.
As indicated above, the infringement of the license terms causes the license to expire.
More generally, the core problem is that readers can see the content, both on Google Books as well as on the paperback copies, without having any idea as to where the content came from.
I should also note that several others have found your approach problematic, as discussed on the Physics Meta site (Somebody scraped our answers and sold them as a book), (as well as a previous discussion at Are these eBooks that copy from SE illegal?); indeed they may contact you independently. If you wish to address these issues in good faith directly with the Physics Stack Exchange community, I would ask that you do so at that thread.
In the final page of each book you include a statement ("If you have or know of copyrighted content included in this book and want it to be removed please let me know at email@example.com") that indicates that you intend to do right by the license terms. Given the fact that the books are already published and that several of your mistakes cannot be undone without altering the record, your options are quite limited, but if you want to retain the license to the work, you do need to fix the problems.
To be clear, I am not requiring you to remove the content under my copyright from your collections: instead, I am requiring you to stick to the CC BY-SA license's terms as stipulated above. This means that you must:
- Ensure that all electronic copies of the work, as provided by both Google Books and Amazon.com, contain appropriate attribution, including hyperlinks to the source post and its author's profile page.
- Ensure that all electronic copies of the work, as provided by both Google Books and Amazon.com, contain appropriate licensing information, including the correct name of the license and its full text or the URI of a complete copy of the license.
This will likely require you to ensure that the hyperlink-less copies are removed from Google Books and that the eBook sample is made available without cutting any attributions and without removing the license statement (i.e. likely to make the eBook sample available in full), and ensure that the full and correct license information is available from the landing page.
Similarly, this will require you to ensure that the Kindle eBooks (currently still on sale) are amended to include the correct license and a URI of a complete copy, and to ensure that the DRM is removed from all copies of the work, as well as ensuring that the full licensing information is available 'above the fold' on the Amazon.com landing pages.
If you are unwilling or unable to fix these problems, or if you do not respond to this communication, my next steps will be, at my convenience, to initiate Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown proceedings against the infringing copies of your books on both Google Books and Amazon.com.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding your planned actions on resolving the infringing aspects of your published collections.
Oh, and finally: I'm releasing this post under CC0, in case you want to, say, privately distribute slightly-modified copies of this text by email.