Question : Is it considered ОК to copy-paste someone else's answer to an earlier question as your own, as long as you provide a link back to the original answer?

Background : A question has been posted this morning that happened to be a duplicate of an older question with a rather detailed code in the accepted answer.

Within minutes, two answers (answer 1 and answer 2) showed up, containing the exact copy of the code from the answer to the old question. The only difference between the two answers has been that the first one linked the source question, while the second one copy-pasted someone else's answer with no further explanations.

I flagged both answers for moderator's attention. The "plain" copy-paste flag got accepted, but the flag for the answer with the link got rejected. The only difference between the accepted and rejected flags was a link back to the copied original, prompting my question about the fair use.


2 Answers 2


All posts on the Stack Exchange sites are "licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required", as you can see in the footer of all sites.

The important distinction between the two posts is in that last bit - attribution required.

The accepted flag was on an answer with no attribution.

The rejected flag was on an answer with attribution.

It is considered "bad manners" in the network to copy code without at least a link to the origin.

  • I should note that I have a slightly different standard for copied code vs. copied text. If you copy text without quoting it and without very clearly indicating those are not your words, nine times out of ten I will remove your answer for plagiarism. For code, sometimes there's only one really good way to do something, but there's always a way to rephrase an English statement. Sep 6, 2012 at 15:58

It is frowned upon to copy answers from duplicates, one should instead flag or vote to close the question as duplicate.

But sometimes there are cases where an answer answers another question that is not necessarily a duplicate, so copying answers while providing the source link is not necessarily bad in all cases.

And as Oded said, the flag was accepted because he didn't left attribution (which is required by the cc-wiki), and not because it was a blatant copy-paste or something like that.

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