The Shutdown of MathWorld and the Fall of Publishing

MathWorld—a division of Wolfram Research, the creators of Mathematica—was temporarily shutdown in late 2000 due to a copyright dispute over a book based on the website.

Eric Weisstein’s commentary on the shutdown reveals a lot not just about being on the receiving side of an unfounded lawsuit, but also about publishing and its apparent change from a book-lovers’ business, to one run by people “unashamed to treat information as a commodity”.

It is no secret that one consequence of the explosion in the popularity of the internet and related electronic technologies is that many battles will be fought over how information is created, stored, and accessed. It is equally clear that we all have a stake in how these battles are decided.