As far as I know according to CC BY-SA 3.0 if someone edits any question/answer of a user then proper attribution is given that someone edited such and such content at say 12 P.M 1 January 2015. The CC BY-SA 3.0 license is for any kind of contribution from any user. I've recently noticed that if a moderator changes the text of someone's comment then no proper attribution is given, that is its not mentioned that text is not modified by the OP but by the moderator.

So my question is, isn't it a violation of CC BY-SA 3.0?

  • Because comments are only temporary, I'm not sure they are included in this. I'm checking the Data Dump, and if they are not there I guess they are not included.
    – Tim
    Feb 14, 2015 at 10:18
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    @Tim At the bottom of every page this line is written: "user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required" The word contribution means any kind of text contributed by the user. The Stack Exchange must provide proper attribution to every contribution of every user.
    – user31782
    Feb 14, 2015 at 10:23
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    My point is that I'm not sure comments count as contributions, in the same way that I'm not sure chat messages do.
    – Tim
    Feb 14, 2015 at 10:24
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    @Tim My point is that comments has to be counted as contribution. It is not something related to the policies of this site. On the chat website there is nothing mentioned about which license is being used there.
    – user31782
    Feb 14, 2015 at 10:29
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    I'm not a lawyer but assuming the mods follow the guidance given by Shog9 are they technically contributing? Let's assume the spelling mistakes are corrected by a spelling-checker at submit, is the spelling-checker contributing?
    – rene
    Feb 14, 2015 at 12:26
  • My question has nothing to do with shog9's advice. Nor with some spell checker software.
    – user31782
    Feb 14, 2015 at 12:38
  • FYI rene most likely never saw your comment, we need to use @ to notify other users. Feb 14, 2015 at 23:17
  • @ShadowWizard The comment is not for user-rene but for every one.
    – user31782
    Feb 15, 2015 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


In most jurisdictions (and to my knowledge in the US as well), there must be a certain level of originality to the work to be able to claim copyright on it.

This means that purely mechanical works can't be copyrighted, and neither can purely mechanical or very minor changes.
If the changes made by the moderators are very minor or mechanical, then there is nothing for them to copyright and thus also no violation of the CC license if the changes by the moderator aren't attributed.

  • What is a mechanical work or mechanical change? how much change is considered minor, e.g. upto 5 character? Could you give me some references which explicitly say that minors changes are allowed on copyright material.
    – user31782
    Feb 15, 2015 at 5:05
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    @user31782: A mechanical work or change is something that involved no human intelligence to create. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threshold_of_originality. Where the limit is for a minor change is something that must be ruled by a judge, possibly on a case-by-case basis. Feb 16, 2015 at 10:10

There are very few cases where mods edit comments, in almost all cases deletion is the better option. And if a mod edits a comment, they typically only remove parts of it or replace offensive terms with less problematic ones. Those kind of edits don't really need any protection by the CC license, I wouldn't count them as a proper contribution.

From the Creative Commons FAQ:

In order for an adaptation to be protected by copyright, most national laws require the creator of the adaptation to add original expression to the pre-existing work.

The section on when modifications must be indicated:

In the 3.0 suite, the obligation to indicate if modifications have been made applies if they result in the creation of an adaptation (when allowed by the license).

A moderator should only correct small mistakes or remove content from a comment, they should never add anything substantial. For that reason it is extremely unlikely that a moderator edit would meet the threshold of originality to be considered an adaptation of the original CC-licenced comment.

We moderators also know that our edits won't be attributed to us, so if we had a problem with that we could just stop editing comments.

  • 4
    All very fair, but in principle the OP has a point. If you edit a comment it ends up being solely attributed to him, where it was not what he originally stated. It all gets a big "meh" from me, but the TOS doesn't really seem to separate comments out of contributed content and would most likely therefore require equal treatment.
    – Bart
    Feb 14, 2015 at 14:55
  • I've downvoted your answer because I do not agree with the statement Those kind of edits don't really need any protection by the CC license. According to cc by-sa 3.0 SE has to give proper attribution. Also I do not want to know why or when mods edit comments. My question is straight forward, isn't it a violation of cc by-sa 3.0? if no then how?
    – user31782
    Feb 14, 2015 at 17:12
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    @user31782 I added some information from the Creative Commons FAQ to support my point that this kind of insubstantial edit doesn't necessarily have to be attributed. Feb 16, 2015 at 9:05
  • Just to note, another case is when the comment is considered valuable and the user asks the moderator to edit the comment. In that case, it's again the user's text, the moderator is just an agent.
    – yo'
    Feb 16, 2015 at 14:10

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