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Posts on Stack Exchange sites have a Creative Commons license applied. However, on Writers, people will post snippets of their own writing for critique purposes. Does that mean that if I post a critique question, it CC's the selection of work I post?

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The same question probably applies to the code shown in a post. –  kiamlaluno Feb 25 '12 at 17:37
    
Almost certainly. Also to audio excerpts on AVP and Music. –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 18:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Just to add to Fabian's correct answer: as he says, you remain the owner of the snippet, but by posting on a SE site, you grant the community the irrevocable right to use the snippet under the CC-Wiki license.

Note however that anybody re-using CC-Wiki content has to explicitly attribute both Stack Overflow and the author of the snippet. That greatly reduces the snippets' usefulness to copycats. I'm not a lawyer and know little about IP, but I can't see posting a snippet on writing.SE posing a problem for the author (except that they maybe should inform any future publishers that parts of the work are published under a CC license - if only to avoid inadvertently violating the "no previous publication" clause you mention.)

I created a scientific infographic on the issue once and added some more specific information:

enter image description here

However, the situation where you put something onto writing.SE, people suggest corrections, and you use them in your work, is different. Technically, if you copy & paste another user's work, that demands attribution no matter how small the snippet is. The only way to avoid that is for the user to grant you the permission to use it without attribution, which they can because they're the content's owner. I have no idea how to do that in a legally binding way though, you'd have to ask a lawyer.

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That's helpful, but still leaves one question: Say I put one paragraph of my novel in a critique question on Writers, then later publish a book. Do I have to then attribute Stack Overflow in the book? (And, more importantly, would this violate the "not previously published" clause in many writer-publisher contracts?) –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 18:50
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@Neil I just added a line about informing the publisher - it might be a good idea to inform them that portions of the text are available under a CC license, because technically, I guess it could be interpreted as previous publishing. Informing them beforehand could be the safe thing to do in case there's trouble afterwards. Re attributing Stack Overflow, no, not at all. When you publish a book, you go on the right hand side of the infographic, which has nothing to do with SO at all. You remain the owner of the snippet –  Pëkka Feb 25 '12 at 18:52
    
On the one hand, it sounds like one would have to indicate on, say, a copyright page "Copyright [FOO], sections previously published on Stack Exchange...". However, on the other hand, using sections for critique and improvement purposes is hardly unusual. I think we'd eventually want a lawyerly ruling on this to protect (and reassure) writers and other creators. –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 18:59
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+17 for the diagram. Unfortunately, all the votes but one were reversed by the vote fraud algo. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 25 '12 at 18:59
    
@Neil I don't see the general need for indicating previous publication in the printed final book. You may need to indicate it to your publisher so you don't violate your contract with them when selling them your work, but otherwise, mentioning SO/SE when you're the original author sounds rather weird. But of course, for binding info, absolutely consult an IP lawyer, yeah –  Pëkka Feb 25 '12 at 19:03
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@Neil: worth noting that, because of how copyright law is written, it's likely impossible to answer that in a general sense. Asking for help with a small snippet of text, where the answers don't end up constituting a significant portion of your final work, is vastly different from, say, compiling a book from all the questions and answers you've participated in. If you end up in the situation where you're effectively asking the folks on Writers.SE to help you compose a chapter, that would definitely demand attribution; getting advice on introducing a character, not so much. –  Shog9 Feb 25 '12 at 19:11
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@Neil ah, I get it now, you mean the situation where you put something onto writing.SE, people suggest corrections, and you use them in your work. Technically, if you copy & paste another user's work, that demands attribution no matter how small the snippet is. The only way to avoid that is for the user to grant you the permission to use it without attribution, which they can because they're the content's owner. I have no idea how to do that in a legally binding way though, you'd have to ask a lawyer –  Pëkka Feb 25 '12 at 19:17
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+1 for highlighting words in bold, even if they are hand-written (or mouse-written?). –  kiamlaluno Feb 25 '12 at 19:40

This is documented in the Terms of Service in Section 3: Subscriber Content

You agree that all Subscriber Content that You contribute to the Network is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Exchange under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. You grant Stack Exchange the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so in any medium now known or hereinafter developed (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by You.

[...]

In the event that You post or otherwise use Subscriber Content outside of the Network or Services, whether such Subscriber Content was created by You or others, You agree that You will follow the attribution rules of the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license as follows

[...]

Now, you're asking two different questions here, so to clarify:

Additionally, all answers, revisions, and suggestions posted in response to your question are also copyright by their respective authors, and licensed for use with attribution.

For more gritty details, refer to the full text of the license and the terms of service.

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Everything you post will be licensed under the Creative Commons license, that doesn't mean you give up your copyright (which you're not even able to in some jurisdictions). It means that others can use those snippets you post under the terms of the CC license, but you still retain ownership of that content. You can of course release that snippet under a different license later, though that won't stop people from using it under the CC license.

What you need to be absolutely careful with is posting content you don't own here.

I'm not a laywer so don't rely on this post for anything important.

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"I'm not a laywer so don't rely on this post for anything important." Standard disclaimer, I know, but this is, unfortunately, a question of importance to writers. –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 18:07
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@neil True, but if Fabian's answer doesn't help, what you need is a lawyer. –  Andrew's a Unitato Feb 25 '12 at 18:58
    
Clearly. But if Stack Exchange is being unclear about this, it will prevent professional writers and creators from posting excerpt here, including myself. –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 19:00
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@NeilFein I don't think SE is being unclear here, by posting on SE sites you're licensing your content under the CC license, period. I'm confident in that part, but I don't know enough to tell you all the possible consequences of that. There might even be jurisdictions where the CC license is not valid, it gets extremely complicated very quickly in that area. –  Mad Scientist Feb 25 '12 at 19:04
    
Allow me to rephrase: From a content creator's point of view, subsequent publication issue can be unclear. –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 19:05
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@Neil I guess Stack Exchange can't be clearer about this because they themselves don't know more than us - the legal consequences of publishing something under CC may even vary depending on where the writer is based. This might be something to ask an agent or even a publisher maybe? –  Pëkka Feb 25 '12 at 19:05
    
Clearly, yes. :) –  Neil Fein Feb 25 '12 at 19:06
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@NeilFein Subsequent publication issues depend entirely on the requirements of your publisher. If they require you to have never licensed the content to anyone else before, you have a problem. But that is really far outside the influence of SE. I know that there are scientific journals that take it very badly if you publish your results before your paper is published in their journal, but that is really something up to them, SE can't know of all the possible consequences publishing under a CC license can have. –  Mad Scientist Feb 25 '12 at 19:09

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