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Does Stack Exchange own the content that I post?

What do I do if I want all of my posts and my user account deleted?

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46

Under the terms of the CC license we (apparently!) grant on posts, you can't demand it be removed as the license is irrevocable, but you can ask for your attribution to be removed. The post is then no longer associated with your identity.

For more information, see the legal code of the license. Clause 3(a)(3) has this to say regarding removing information:

If requested by the Licensor, You must remove any of the information required by Section 3(a)(1)(A) to the extent reasonably practicable.

  • What if the CC license is violated by Stack Exchange Inc? I think it allows the author to request the deletion of the whole posts due to license violation. – andreymal Oct 2 '19 at 19:04
  • Deleting content DOES NOT revoke the license. You are 100% allowed to delete content that you own according to CC. – user630541 Dec 5 '19 at 4:33
  • @jgn A CC license offers no such ability to request a licensor deletes content. It is explictly irrevocable. All you can do is request attribution be removed. Of course, as the copyright owner, you're free to do what you like with your own copies of any content you've created. But if a licensee is complying with the CC terms you granted them, you cannot revoke that license. – Paul Dixon Dec 5 '19 at 9:26
  • @PaulDixon Deleting your own content and revoking a license are two different things. SE has only a copy of your content. – user630541 Dec 5 '19 at 9:29
  • @jgn I was more responding to the statement "You are 100% allowed to delete content that you own according to CC" which is not true. A licensee is under no obligation to remove content if they complying with the license. The SE 'delete' feature operates outside of the CC license. Indeed, you might be allowed delete a post, and as you say, the license is not revoked. The post still exists as it is soft deleted, and anyone else who has a copy and is complying with the licence terms is not bound to delete it. So I think we're on the same page :) – Paul Dixon Dec 5 '19 at 17:10
  • @PaulDixon It is true, you are allowed to delete content you own. If I make a document, license it with CC, then delete it, that is totally fine. Deletion is not revocation. – user630541 Dec 5 '19 at 23:51
  • We're talking about different things. You're talking about deleting your own copy, which of course you're free to do. What you can't do is insist other people delete their copies as long as they comply with the license terms. So you can't compel SE to delete something they've licensed. But if you've retained a copy of your SE posts, you're free to delete or relicense those in any way you see fit. – Paul Dixon Dec 6 '19 at 10:51
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You own the content you post here, but you've also agreed to release it under a Creative Commons license. You can see the logo and link at the bottom right of every page.

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I am not a lawyer; I have too much common sense ;-)

Common sense says that if I ask a question and someone answers it, the collective thread is a collective work. But if I answer a question and then delete my answer, that is not a collective work, it is an individual contribution, which I have now revoked. If someone had commented on the answer before it was deleted, then it is a collective work.

We could argue these points in circles forever. Common sense says that if I delete something I posted, I don't want it to be seen any more.

  • The fact that google may have cached it is irrelevant.
  • The new fact that other people can see it and un-delete is the problem.

It's not so much a matter of privacy as it is a matter of comfort. The delete button makes it okay to make mistakes. That comfort factor is now gone.

  • 3
    An excellent point. If you delete something of your own, only you should be allowed to undelete. – ctacke Dec 31 '08 at 15:59
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    If deletion is important to you, then the CC licence is incompatible with your desires, and you must not post, due to the irrevocable nature of the licence. – Paul Dixon Dec 31 '08 at 16:17
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    @[Paul Dixon]: no, this does not mean that I must not post, it means that I must not make any mistakes in what I post. Given that I am human (as opposed to, say, Jon Skeet), this makes me uncomfortable, as in "not relaxed and happy about contributing". – Steven A. Lowe Dec 31 '08 at 16:20
  • Sorry, I was focussing more on what the licence allows SO to do, rather than the new undelete moderation features. FWIW, I agree, if you give the user the chance to delete their CC licenced content, it should stay deleted. – Paul Dixon Dec 31 '08 at 16:24
  • I've had people answer my questions, engage in comments with me on their answer, then delete their answer. I'm annoyed that people can delete my comments like that, and I want them back. I like your definitions, although I'm fine with stuff being undeletable or infinitely restorable. – skiphoppy Dec 31 '08 at 16:38
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There could be a legit reason for this. Off the top of my head he could have been discussing some technologies or practices at his employer and they may have policies against that - especially if it is a DoD contractor, etc. his mistake in that case obviously.

There are of course other reasons. This may not be just someone who wants to take his ball and go home.

If there is a legit reason that Jeff or the other owners are suitably impressed by perhaps they will delete all your content from SO. You are SOL with external caches though unless you can get court orders...

  • an excellent point – Steven A. Lowe Dec 31 '08 at 15:54
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    I think this is a very important post. Any content that is inadvertently released on the site that the poster doesn't own the right to publish it under the CC license should be immediately and irrevocably removed. – Chris Marisic Aug 27 '09 at 17:21

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