Today I got the following message from Robert Harvey


I'm writing in reference to your Stack Overflow account:


Copying and pasting other people's work, without crediting the original author, is not considered acceptable behavior here.

I am suspending your account for 7 days.

Regards, Robert Harvey Stack Overflow moderator

I was including link in my answers. I got some negative votes with comments like "you should not post links in your answers, it's good practice to capture relevant information without needing to click on links".

Here are some examples:

Now what should I do?

  • 6
    Just so you know, your rep is only displayed as being 1. When your status is restored, you will retain the rep you originally had. Dec 13, 2011 at 5:19
  • should i include link into my answer or not? Dec 13, 2011 at 5:21
  • I agree , yesterday i copied stackoverflow.com/a/1327824/944634 answer. Now that answer is also deleted. Dec 13, 2011 at 5:36
  • Can you post in this question what your answer looked like, unless you don't have access to it? Dec 13, 2011 at 6:20
  • Wait seven days.
    – Benjol
    Dec 13, 2011 at 7:50
  • Seems like its been restored kudos to the mods.
    – Mob
    Dec 13, 2011 at 8:16
  • @AndrewGrimm this is stackoverflow.com/a/8470333/944634 link for my answer. Dec 13, 2011 at 9:08
  • Suspended for 7 days because of this? Wow...that is a bit harsh.
    – JonH
    Dec 13, 2011 at 14:04
  • 2
    +1 for coming here and asking for guidance instead of ragequitting. Or, even worse, stubbornly continuing.
    – Pops
    Dec 13, 2011 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


Here is a template for proper citation, first for attributing content copied from Stack Overflow:

In [link to answer]This answer[/link], [link to user profile]Author name[/link] said:

... Quote the relevant parts as needed ...

Quoting an external reference is pretty much the same, except that you only need to provide a link to the resource:

According to [link to resource]this information[/link]

... Quote the relevant parts as needed ...

Note, quote is the operative word. If you find yourself just copying an entire external page, or someone else's answer without adding anything to it, you're probably better off leaving a link in a comment. Or, in some cases it might be better to flag and alert us of a possible duplicate question. You should be the author of the majority of the content that you contribute.

Sure, there are times when the correct answer is probably going to be extremely terse, such as when quoting a standard that speaks for itself. Most of the time, however, content that needs attribution should just be supporting content that you wrote yourself.


It seems to me, after looking through your history (and the context of this question) that you were just confused regarding the guidelines of answering. I'm lifting your suspension, just keep the advice you received here in mind for future reference. I can see why the moderator that suspended you made the call that he did, but I'm quite sure your intent was benign.

  • He still lost 52 reputation points and can't see any downvotes here - is this because of deleted answers? Dec 13, 2011 at 7:57
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard - Reputation is recalculated on the lifting of a suspension so if there were any deleted questions/answers that would explain the difference.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Dec 13, 2011 at 9:00
  • 1
    @ShadowWizard Probably. Unfortunately there's no way to avoid a re-calc after a suspension, as the re-calc itself is what determines your reputation (the old value is history, by that point).
    – Tim Post
    Dec 13, 2011 at 9:01
  • Sure, I totally agree just wondered. @Scrooge thanks as well. :) Dec 13, 2011 at 9:12

You should include links, but if the licensing on the material you are linking to does not allow you to copy and paste it, then summarize the material.

All the content on Stack Overflow is periodically released under the Creative Commons Share-Alike license:


When you copy content onto the Stack, you must make sure that the content you copy in may be licensed in this fashion. That means -- you must attribute all content that is not explicitly in the public domain and you must make sure all content you copy in was shared in the spirit of the Share-Alike license. (Maybe even the exact legal mechanism of the Share-Alike license -- I know I've copied in a fair amount of content from the Linux man-pages project under the feeling that any Linux distribution is going to have the same content and I'm not pretending I wrote it in any way, so the authors won't be too upset with their content copied and referenced on this site.)

The easiest ways others can verify that content is here legally is by attributing the copy.

Seven days suspension may seem like a harsh penalty; but this is not a ban, you are just given an opportunity to cool down and consider the actions and potential consequences in quiet peace. The consequences for plagiarism can be severe and humiliating elsewhere in the world.


You seem to be describing the false dichotomy of either:

  • posting just a link to someone else's content (bad as an answer, generally ok as a comment)
  • posting someone else's content (worse)

when in fact there are other options:

  • provide a summary of an external link (in the context of how the external content relates to the question), along with the link for further information (and "summary" does not mean "see here for info: [link]") - this still has the problem of link-rot, but at least has some meaningful value, even without the link
  • writing your own content

Suspending immediately for that seems a little ... harsh, perhaps, but I don't know the full context / history. Your reputation is not lost though - that will come back at the end of the suspension.

  • 1
    From the context of his question, and looking at the history I'm inclined to think he was just a bit confused.
    – Tim Post
    Dec 13, 2011 at 6:42

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