See this question (or rather, this revision): https://stackoverflow.com/revisions/14404211/1. There, the user claimed:

Please read the terms and Conditions of this post before replying or responding: **


Due to constant vandalism (directly due to policy by S.O.) the following addendum is posted: all this copy is my own.

** Terms and Conditions: Permission is NOT granted for "Stack Overflow" or any users other than the actual author (me) to re-author / edit / alter / re publish / claim ownership, or, in anyway shape or form alter the content of this (or successive) posts. Such actions infringe on actual authorship as declared (my own), moreover comments directly outside of the scope of the question are doubly NOT allowed. I assert the right to be known un-altered as the author and only to be involved in discussions that are gainfully conducive to a corporate answer that benefits all.

Should I flag the question? Or something else? I really don't know how to react...

  • 7
    Not the first time that it happened to me, +1 as I'd like to know how to proceed next time as well. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:19
  • 4
    That is quite bizarre, and a little confusing. What kind of "edit vandalism" is he referring to that would have driven him to post that disclaimer? Edits are (more often than not) done to fix/clean up a post. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:45
  • 1
    @MantisToboggan The scenario which I usually see is: an user posts a terrible question, then a passer-by contributor comes and lends him a hand (formatting the question and trying to make the almost-unsalvageable question into something "answerable") but the question clearly has no salvation and ends up receiving multiple downvotes afterwards. In the questioner's view, his/her question was perfectly fine until some editor came by and ruined it. Note: I do not mean to say that this is the only cause, I've seen bad edits go through but these are rather rare as you've commented. Jan 18, 2013 at 20:22
  • 2
    @FabrícioMatté I know a lot of people tend to get pissed when removing "thanks", "hello", signatures, etc. And I have run across people who refused to allow any edits to their post and would roll back any edit, no matter how much it improved the post, because they felt it was "their" content and nobody else had a right to change it.
    – Servy
    Jan 18, 2013 at 21:06
  • @Servy Agreed, I've seen the same behavior as well. I usually link to this FAQ when editing solely to remove the thanks/signature, even though I've been mostly overlooking those lately to keep my edits substantial. I know those should be removed as they're not part of the question and I do remove them when there is anything else to be fixed in the question (grammar, formatting), but solely removing these seem to be too minor and are usually rejected on review queue (even though my edits don't go through review I tend to keep my edits substantial). Jan 18, 2013 at 21:24
  • 1
    @FabrícioMatté I wasn't referring to just removing "thanks" greetings, etc. I was referring to including those removals within the context of a larger substantial edit.
    – Servy
    Jan 18, 2013 at 21:28
  • @Servy Yes I understood that, sorry I have a tendency to go extensively off-topic sometimes. Jan 18, 2013 at 21:29
  • 1
    Terms and conditions lol
    – Pekka
    Jan 18, 2013 at 21:57
  • @Stormblessed You're...not, like, going to do this on 5 million 10-year old questions now, are you? ;-) Mar 22, 2020 at 17:53
  • @ChrissaysReinstateMonica nah I just do it sometimes on old questions. I'm not actively looking for them, so the site won't get very flooded with them. Mar 22, 2020 at 18:29

6 Answers 6


When a user acts in that manner, there are two things that should be done (possibly three):

  • The question should be edited to remove anything that's not actually a part of the question. (This is true for all questions -- but it bears repeating here, since the 'terms of reading' is not a part of the question)
  • You could direct the user to read the FAQ, reminding them that by posting on Stack Overflow, they've already given permission for people to use their content under the Creative Commons license.
  • Flag the question with an 'other', and let a diamond moderator know what's going on. Even if the moderator doesn't do anything visible, they'll be keeping an eye on the question to make sure it doesn't get out of hand (like your example did).
  • 8
    +1, posting on the site requires adherence to the T&C's, which trump any pseudo-legal mumbo jumbo you decide to include in your post.
    – slugster
    Jan 19, 2013 at 1:33

There's a bit of confusion in some of the answers here. This is what I told the user responsible for that notice:

As noted in the FAQ,

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

In order to post or participate on Stack Overflow, you must agree to the terms of service here, specifically:

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. Subscriber warrants, represents and agrees Subscriber has the right to grant Stack Exchange and the Network the rights set forth above.

If you cannot, or are not willing to license your work in such a manner, to allow others to create derived works by editing it, and to allow it to remain publicly displayed on Stack Overflow for the benefit of others, then you should refrain from using the site.

Now, we do ask that when editing something someone else wrote, you do your best to respect the author:

The vast majority of edits I see, I am fine with. But in the case where the original poster is unwilling to accept the edits and actively rejects them — please do not force the issue. It just leads to heartache. When in doubt, move on. There’s no shortage of editing opportunities, in fact, more are being written every minute. There are thousands of users who would appreciate reasonable edits that improve their post. Do not fight an edit war over a crumb of bread — there’s nothing there worth fighting for! It’s easier to just move on and get work done than create pain all out of proportion to the importance of the individual edit.

Generally, if you're polite when editing and when correcting their misconceptions surrounding it, folks will accept that. But if someone decides to make a big stink about editing in general, particularly if they're polluting posts and comment threads with it, flag for moderator attention and move on.

  • 2
    And the result of that was ... ? Taking marbles and going home? The editing out of the notice?
    – Rosinante
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:57
  • 7
    The result at present can be seen on the question linked in the question here. But the only two allowable options are to accept the license, or go somewhere else. We don't support custom licenses on posts.
    – Shog9
    Jan 18, 2013 at 21:05

When you see things like that, edit them out, they are obviously not part of the question. If the user rolls-back, you could re-edit posting a comment asking the OP to avoid rolling back again, but this might cause the situation to degenerate, so preferably, flag it for Moderator Attention to err on the safer side.

Second, when you register yourself to the SE sites, you sign/approve/give consent to an agreement that explicitly tells you what happens to the content so I doubt that notice has any effect whatsoever.

Note: you don't lose ownership, but once you post, the content is under CC license.

  • 3
    I would add that if "edited" user appears to be going into edit-war, one would better flag the post for mod attention pointing to this issue
    – gnat
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:23
  • 1
    @gnat Correct, I'll add it.
    – Alenanno
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:24
  • 3
    +1 - You retain copyright to what you've written, but by posting on Stack Exchange sites you have agreed to license your works (questions, answers, comments) under specific terms (CC-Wiki). Using Stack Exchange sites is consent to that license - You cannot unilaterally impose additional restrictions that violate the license you have agreed to. (Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, but I have written (and license out) a bunch of stuff in my life. Once while staying at a Holiday Inn Express even.)
    – voretaq7
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:27
  • 2
    If a user rolls back your edit, and they are the OP, you should not edit again, even once. The only time you should consider it is if you feel it was an issue with concurrent edit proposals in which they accidentally overwrote your edit. If they roll it back intentionally even once, either leave it, or if it clearly needs to go (like in this case) flag for a mod.
    – Servy
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:53
  • @Servy I included that in the answer, I was actually thinking of that when I was writing it. :P
    – Alenanno
    Jan 18, 2013 at 21:53

Tell people like these to scroll way down to the bottom of the page and have a look at the very last line.

enter image description here


This totally reminds me of that bogus ****book privacy statement status update that went around a while back. At the end of the day, just by declaring something it doesn't make it true. Observe -

I have more reputation that John Skeet and more privileges than Joel Spolsky!

See? Doesn't make it true :P

The correct action would simply be to remove the "noise" and possibly make a neutral comment outlining why such copyright statements won't work on this site.

Even if the user doesn't remember agreeing to the CC licence of content on the site, they did sign up and they did agree.

  • I wouldn't even bother with the "neutral comment" honestly - it's not relevant. If they OP has a question they can take it up with SE or ask about it on meta...
    – voretaq7
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:28
  • 2
    @vor - The comment is not a must, but there is no harm in dulling the blow... After all, the community just completely disregarded something that user clearly felt strongly about...
    – Lix
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:31
  • Leaving a neutral comment seems like proper behavior to me. Many times, people who get to the heights of including such a long terms & conditions in their posts would be confused or even think that one has removed said terms just to annoy them. They would generally roll-back it for that reason. Making the CC license clear to them would be the best course of action IMO as if they roll-back it then we can flag it for diamond Mod attention to solve the content dispute. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:32
  • I might note the reason in the edit message, but leaving a public comment seems like it would be inviting a comment war. That's just how I look at it though - your users may be more rational than ours :-)
    – voretaq7
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:58
  • @vor, If a comment invites a comment war then it's probably not a neutral comment :-P
    – Lix
    Jan 18, 2013 at 19:11
  • 1
    @voretaq7 et al. Leave a comment, and if it starts to get out of hand, open a meta question and direct the person here (as happened in this case).
    – Laura
    Jan 18, 2013 at 19:30
  • @Laura I usually preempt comment wars by saying "If you want to discuss this further go to Meta" in my comments. (I find most people don't go)
    – voretaq7
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:18

He has the perfect right to claim ownership on his copyrighted code, but he has no right to disallow comments.

What's sad is that people voted to close as NARQ just because they didn't like his statement, not because of the question which is obviously legitimate.

I edited his statement down to

** Terms and Conditions: Permission is NOT granted for "Stack Overflow" or any users other than the actual author (me) to republish / claim ownership of the content of this post.

which is legitimate based on his ownership of his code. (It was then rolled back by a moderator who doesn't believe in copyright protection).

It all gets back to "being in someone elses shoes". Do you want your copyrights infringed?

  • 14
    i.imgur.com/oxaiI.png in our FAQ it outlines that all contributions are CC lic and can be edited by the community.
    – rlemon
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:21
  • 2
    Query: If he actively pastes code in the box and hits submit, can he claim copyright? Now, if he hosted on github, and merely linked to the code here, then I could see retention of ownership. But to submit the code here, regardless of disclaimer, is to invite the CC application, per the TOS, no?
    – jcolebrand
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:22
  • @rlemon, SO rules don't trump law. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:22
  • 25
    Nobody loses copyright or ownership of their code (or other content) by posting on Stack Overflow. The CC license doesn't take any of that away.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:22
  • 15
    I think you guys are conflating copyright and licensure. You always own your own content, but when you post here, other people can use it to generate new stuff (i.e. edits).
    – Pops
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:24
  • No he has not. Absolutely not. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:25
  • 1
    I am not confused, hence my comment. Regardless his 'terms' were invalid.
    – rlemon
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:25
  • 8
    Apart from the code ownership itself, asking for others to not edit a post submitted to a site under the Creative Commons license goes against the outlined rules, doesn't it? Jan 18, 2013 at 18:26
  • I agree that he can't stop editing, see my edit to his question (which I'll edit into my answer). Jan 18, 2013 at 18:29
  • 4
    @LanceRoberts editing the question is republishing the code, by it's very nature. I have submitted the code for publication on the website. I assure you a lawyer would argue in that direction, if prosecuting.
    – jcolebrand
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:33
  • 11
    No, I closed it because it was a really crappy question.
    – casperOne
    Jan 18, 2013 at 18:35
  • 1
    @SomeHelpfulCommenter some comments were deleted by by CasperOne and myself; in all cases they were comments that were detrimental to the conversation. Jan 18, 2013 at 18:42
  • 8
    @LanceRoberts: The TOS is law, if you accept it. He owned code. By posting on this site, he accepted the TOS (IIRC, you are asked to accept the TOS at some point, but even if you aren't, it still holds). By accepting the TOS, he gave SO some rights over the content he posted. He does not have the right to revoke those rights. Saying that "it is legitimate based on his ownership of the code" doesn't make sense. He no longer is the sole owner of the code (well, he is, but the post is licensed to SE which is close to ownership). Jan 18, 2013 at 20:00
  • 8
    And more importantly making a binding alteration to the terms like that without the consent of both parties is just nuts. Don't like the terms? Don't post. Either that or email and request alternative terms, but still don't post until that has been agreed.
    – Flexo
    Jan 18, 2013 at 20:02
  • 1
    @Flexo: Exactly what I was about to post. He should have asked beforehand. And this is another "someone else's shoes" thing -- how would you like it if someone modified the terms of a contract you were part of without your consent? The "someone else's shoes" argument usually works both ways in such legal issues. Jan 18, 2013 at 20:05

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