StackExchange terms of service section 3 currently reads:

b. You will ensure that any such Internet use of Subscriber Content includes a hyperlink directly*** to the original question on the source site on the Network (e.g., https://stackoverflow.com/questions/12345)

c.You will ensure that any such use of Subscriber Content visually display or otherwise clearly indicate the author names for every question and answer so used.

d.You will ensure that any such Internet use of Subscriber Content Hyperlink each author name directly back to his or her user profile page on the source site on the Network (e.g., https://stackoverflow.com/users/12345/username), directly to the Stack Exchange domain, in standard HTML (i.e. not through a Tinyurl or other such indirect hyperlink, form of obfuscation or redirection), without any “nofollow” command or any other such means of avoiding detection by search engines, and visible even with JavaScript disabled.

Note that the requirement to not use link shorteners is only present in item d (for linking to the user profiles) but items b and c never mention that requirements, they only say "directly" which can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Meanwhile here's what Jeff said on the blog

we require that you:

Visually indicate that the content is from Stack Overflow, Meta Stack Overflow, Server Fault, or Super User in some way. It doesn’t have to be obnoxious; a discreet text blurb is fine.

Hyperlink directly to the original question on the source site (e.g., https://stackoverflow.com/questions/12345)

Show the author names for every question and answer

Hyperlink each author name directly back to their user profile page on the source site (e.g., https://stackoverflow.com/users/12345/username)

By “directly”, I mean each hyperlink must point directly to our domain in standard HTML visible even with JavaScript disabled, and not use a tinyurl or any other form of obfuscation or redirection. Furthermore, the links must not be nofollowed.

so Jeff first used "directly" everywhere and then separately clarified what "directly" meant and so the prohibition of link shorteners, nofollow and JS are explicitly applied to answers, questions and user profiles.

The current ToS only explicitly prohibits those for users profiles and not for questions and answers.

I' sure the ToS should be revised.

  • 1
    To condense your question: the instruction for linking questions uses "directly" ambiguously, while the instruction for linking authors provides clarification for what is meant by "directly". That clarification should be worded so it unambiguously applies to all uses of "directly" in Section 3. Correct?
    – apsillers
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:17
  • @apsillers: Yeap, exactly. Just as Jeff says "and by directly I mean" at the end the ToS should say something with the same affect.
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


Every page on the site contains the following banner:

enter image description here

The link for attribution required links to the blog post you quoted, which specifies the no "nofollow", etc.

This ensures that the requirement is applied to all site content, and that all users of the site are notified of that requirement, even if it's not in the ToS.

  • Which will the court prefer as proof - the ToS document or a blob post?
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:47
  • 1
    Are you doing something that makes you suspect you're going to get dragged into court for violating the ToS?
    – Wooble
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:48
  • @sharptooth Had there just been a blog post, it would be an issue; when it's specifically linked on every single page as the listed "attribution required" explanation, I think it's rather clear that it's their attribution policy. You'd have a pretty darn hard time arguing against it.
    – Servy
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:49
  • 1
    @Wooble: Nope, but what's the purpose of ToS if it even fails to state the attribution requirements properly? Some content farm can easily use this hole.
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:53
  • 2
    There is no hole. All of the content is copyrighted. If you use it without following the details in the license, you're breaking federal law; SE's ToS are completely irrelevant, since SE doesn't have the power to grant the content farm a license they weren't themselves granted. (I am not your lawyer)\
    – Wooble
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:55
  • @Wooble: Well, the legalese version of the license is barely readable but the "human friendly' version says You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor which means it's up to StackExchange to state the attribution requirements.
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 14:59
  • 1
    Which they do, with a link on the bottom of every page.
    – Wooble
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:00
  • I see your point, but still think that if the attribution requirements are included into the ToS then they should be complete. It's nice there's a link to some blog post, but the ToS is the agreement between the two parties (StackExchange and the user) and the blob post is just a blog post.
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:14
  • @sharptooth No, the blog post is not just a blog post. It's the stated "attribution requirements" for the site, and very prominently stated as such on every single page.
    – Servy
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:16
  • @Servy: Okay, the blog post starts as follows: All the content contributed to Stack Overflow, Stack Overflow Meta, Server Fault, and Super User is cc-wiki (aka cc-by-sa) licensed, intended to be shared and remixed. It's rather old and so mentions only the earliest sites, not all sites on the network. So technically it doesn't even cover the other sites.
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:22
  • @sharptooth So? All of the other sites still link to it as the definition of "attribution required". That the blog doesn't mention those other sites doesn't matter; it's still clear when looking at any of those other sites that the linked post applies to them.
    – Servy
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:23
  • @Servy: The linked post explicitly lists several sites and mentions no other sites. How is it clear that it applies to those other sites I wonder?
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:27
  • @sharptooth Because those other sites link to it and state that it is their definition of attribution required.
    – Servy
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:37
  • 1
    @Servy: Maybe you're right, but I strongly believe that the purpose of ToS is that a similar argument does not happen in court because if there's a chance for such argument in court then it's called "a lawsuit waiting to happen".
    – sharptooth
    Aug 19, 2013 at 15:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .