Will we be able to use code snippets from Wikipedia after this proposal is implemented?

Of course, we don't use code snippets from Wikipedia that often. I was just wondering.

  • What do you mean by "use"? Of course you could still use it elsewhere. If you mean posting it here then you need to be specific. Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can, under fair use. According to 17 US Code § 107, you can use a copyrighted work for some purposes without first seeking permission of the copyright holder:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

I would argue that most of the content on the Stack Exchange network could be considered criticism, comment, teaching, or research. However, this burden is on the poster of the content that they are using the content appropriately.

Again, note that code can only be copyrighted and licensed if it meets the threshold of originality. In the US, the threshold of originality simply requires a minimal degree of creativity.

Since the posts are currently all licensed CC BY-SA, I think the Creative Commons guidance is most appropriate:

May I apply a CC license to my work if it incorporates material used under fair use or another exception or limitation to copyright?

Yes, but it is important to prominently mark any third party material you incorporate into your work so reusers do not think the CC license applies to that material. The CC license only applies to the rights you have in the work. For example, if your CC-licensed slide deck includes a Flickr image you are using pursuant to fair use, make sure to identify that image as not being subject to the CC license. For more information about incorporating work owned by others, see our page about marking third party content. Read more considerations for licensors here.

If you are using something under fair use, you can't apply a any license to it since you don't own it. You would need to mark the work appropriately to indicate to readers that it is not available under whatever license the content would otherwise be available under.

  • I think it would be hard to argue its under fair use, since it is likely to be used in software products. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:03
  • 1
    The bigger issue though is you still can't place it under the MIT license. "Permission is hereby granted ... to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software". Even if your use is fair-use, you can't give the permissions required by the MIT license to anyone. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:05
  • "You would need to mark the work appropriately to indicate to readers that it is not available under whatever license the content would otherwise be available under." Than you can't post it to Stack Exchange, since that would violate the terms of service. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:06
  • @PyRulez You are right in that you likely can't incorporate it into a software product. However, you can put it in a question or answer posted to a Stack Exchange site. As far as placing it under the MIT License, again correct. But by indicating that it is used under fair use, you aren't placing it under the license. I scanned the relevant sections of the terms of service and could not find anything preventing this from happening. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:07
  • "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." This would be changed to MIT for code. "Subscriber warrants, represents and agrees Subscriber has the right to grant Stack Exchange and the Network the rights set forth above." Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:10
  • @PyRulez I don't see how that precludes fair use. The larger work that I'm licensing to Stack Exchange is licensed under CC BY-SA. It's up to people who use that content to ensure that they continue to respect the fair use of those aspects. If they continue to use my question or answers, I suspect it will continue to fall under comment or teaching. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:18
  • "Subscriber warrants, represents and agrees Subscriber has the right to grant Stack Exchange and the Network the rights set forth above." You don't get to impose extra conditions. You must license it to them, no strings attached. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:20
  • @PyRulez That's not how it works. This is how it works. (1) I write a post. Before I click post, it's copyright me, all rights reserved. I can incorporate fair use content to write that post. (2) I click post. I license the post as a complete work to Stack Exchange and users CC BY-SA. Per Creative Commons, I can include fair use (or other licensed content) in my CC licensed work. (3) I'm done - no problems. My complete work is available CC BY-SA. Individual sections (those used under fair use) may not be separable from the larger work, but I can indeed license the complete work. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:26
  • 1
    When you license the complete work under CC, you have violated fair use, by giving others the right to use the work in a ton of ways. They don't have that right, so you can't give it to them, so you can't license under CC. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:30
  • Really, we're getting no where. I'll post this question of fair use on the Law site. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:30
  • 1
    Here, we'll see what the legal enthuisists say (if they approve, I'll change my -1 to a +1). Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:36
  • @PyRulez I'm going to post my answer there, citing what Creative Commons says in their docs. I'd like some Law reputation. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 1:37

No (unless you wrote it or get permission)

Things licensed under creative commons share alike (such as wikipedian content) will not be licensable under MIT without permission from the author (all of the authors actually). See "Will we be able to reference code from before the license change in new posts?"

You must log in to answer this question.

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