"Lending" online access to subscription sites

I’ve just read an article online at the economist.com, which is a site that I subscribe to. Is it illegal for me to pass the access codes to the site to a friend so that he/she can read the article?

Is it illegal for me to copy and paste the article into another file and send to the friend?

Is it illegal for me to give access codes to anyone else at all?

Do you pay for access to the site? If so, by passing your subscription access onto someone else, you’re depriving the site of income, and while it might not be illegal, it’s probably not very ethical. Check your user agreement, I’ll bet there’s a clause in there about not providing someone else with your access codes.

I’m not even sure that it wouldn’t constitute some kind of theft (and hence illegal), since the content belongs to the magazine, and you are providing access to someone else who hasn’t paid for the right to access it.

As to the copy and paste question … it might be illegal, depending on what copyright statement is attached to the content. Unless the site or content explicity states that they own the content and give permission to reproduce or distribute the material, then doing so is a breach of copyright and hence illegal.

Blackhobyah I agree that it seems unethical but I also think it is a little ridiculous to expect someone to pay the full yearly rate for the Economist to be able to view one article.

Most sites do give an ‘email article’ option but I am really wondering what the law is governing giving access codes to third parties to read specific articles.

To respond to your specific point about the morality of doing so, however, I suppose that one could, by the same argument, say that giving someone a copy of a newspaper/magazine that you had previously read is unethical?


Does your local lending library have back issues of The Economist? If not, do you know anyone in university who could get the article through their school’s library?

I don’t think it’s a matter of legality but instead is a contract question. You agreed to follow certain terms and conditions when accepting access to the website. Does the agreement permit you to give access to others? I doubt it as none of the sites at which I registered allowed this. I’m fairly certain that the SDMB does not, for example.

Ethically, I do it by saving the HTML page and emailing it to a friend instead of giving them the code. After all, I also subscribe to the paper version of the magazine and think nothing of letting a friend read an article from that. I don’t see why the electronic version would be any different.

It would seem that the recommendation to read the user agreement has given a factual answer to this GQ.

So that frees me to post an opinion: publishing on the Web makes it simple for the material to be copied and propagated, and the publisher in this day and age must be aware of that. See also the comment on lending a paper copy to a friend.

So IMHO copying one article and including the source URL and copywright attribution is probably not a serious problem, as this kind of thing often works as good publicity and a potential source of new subscribers for the publisher.

Altering the material, other than sending an excerpt specified as an excerpt, would strike me as unethical, BTW.

This is not true (and rather insulting). People decide to ‘buy’ things using many factor, one such factor is the price, another factor in the inconvinenece factor. By providing something for free and making the process easy you are making it very more likely that someone will use that ‘product’ then if you charge and have to fill out a subscription form first.

I would say that the amount of income that you are depriving them of is about the same as a nickle less 5 cents.

I was severly beaten about the head and neck for mentioning this site in another thread. The word “banned” was used very freely. May I suggest contacting a mod to modify your link.

Really? What thread was that? I’ve seen it mentioned before, with no repercussions…it doesn’t allow postings for paid sites anyway.

Here’s your posting of that site. No fireworks there, that I can find.

Who used the word “banned?”

I think the link is to a site that is unethical to use. Not illegal. But that’s only my opinion. The SCOTUS didn’t do this one this year. :smiley:

I also think that the site that require registration info that is then sold and causes you spam…they can burn in Hell. Oops! Did I say that here? In GQ? I promiss to delete this soon.

Has that thread been “disappeared” or is it just me?

Nope, us mere mortals’ll have to take his word for it.

It was in the emails I received from Tubadiva, the ATMB mod. In fact, I can’t even access the link in this post, I get a message that I am banned from that thread. And despite the claims that that site does not accept submissions from pay sites, I found at least 4 submissions for this forum alone. I was given a reprieve but my ears are still red. Perhaps Tubadiva should come in a make the call.

If the site offers free online registration, then whether this is an OK thing to do depends on the user agreement. I subscribe to The Age online, a free subscription, and they provide me with the option to email a link to an article to someone else. In effect, they are giving implicit permission for that to happen.

However, I am still not free to reproduce that article and publish it somewhere else unless I receive explicit permission.

But the reason I asked if the OP pays for a subscription is because this changes the case.

If you buy access to an online site (for example, any number of online databases, or information repositories, or reference material, such as the OED online), then what you pay for your subscription is income generation for that site. If access codes are distributed to other people who don’t, therefore, have to pay for subscriptions, the loss of income might well have a substantial effect on the site’s ability to continue.

One of my current projects is a site which currently offers free access to all our content, but our intention is to move to a subscription-based model in order to make the project sustainable. Should people decide to simply pass the access codes around, we will not be able to sustain the site and its services.

Most sites do give an ‘email article’ option but…QUOTE]

Wouldn’t that work? You can use the Economist’s “E-mail this” link and it’ll send them the full text of the article, even if they’re not a subscriber.

Or are you looking for something more than that?

If sending it to a friend is unethical, what would the stance be on inviting friends round to your house to read it?

Sorry about that link. It WAS removed to our sekrit Mod board, which I didn’t notice.

I don’t know the circumstances surrounding it. Perhaps emailing tuba about this will get an answer. Not likely she’ll read this thread.

Yesterday, I linked to the faq of bugmenot, in hopes people would read the feelings of people, who, like me, had when people say “Registration” required. As all the passwords on the site are from free registration sites, I thought it was not a great ethical dilemma. I see that my link has been erased, then later, brought back again. What does this say about the mods on this board?

It says that they a group of people with wildly varying opinions, same as any other group. Nothing else.