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All user content on Stack Exchange is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike, which means anyone can reproduce the content as long as proper attribution is given and it is also distributed under the same CC BY-SA license.

The Stack Exchange Network Terms of Service says:

In the event that You post or otherwise use Subscriber Content outside of the Network or Services, with the exception of content entirely created by You, You agree that You will follow the attribution rules of the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license as follows:

a. You will ensure that any such use of Subscriber Content visually displays or otherwise indicates the source of the Subscriber Content as coming from the Stack Exchange Network. This requirement is satisfied with a discreet text blurb, or some other unobtrusive but clear visual indication.

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.


Let's say I'm going to compile an old fashioned dead-tree book of Stack Exchange Q&As. A few things aren't entirely clear to me from the TOS...

  • Point "b." and "d." both begin with "You will ensure that any such Internet use...", implying those points don't apply to non-internet usage; which — to me — means there is no need to provide URLs if reproducing that content in print. Is that really the case?

  • It's not clear to me if the text indicating Stack Exchange as the source required by point "a." would need to be included for every post reproduced or if a single statement — say, at the beginning of the book — would be sufficient?

Not including any URLs seems like not enough attribution to me, and re-stating Stack Exchange as the general source again and again seems like overkill.

Would the following be sufficient?;

  • Indicating Stack Exchange as the source of content along with a license statement (including a URL to the license) at the beginning of the book

  • Attributing Q&As with user names in the main text

  • Including an index of posts and author user names, both with URLs at the end of the book (although from my interpretation this isn't actually needed)

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    For reference, when Mi Yodeya produces its publications, which we post as PDFs and are intended to be printed, we include an index of user names with profile URLs in the back, and the URL of the question for each Q&A. It's not intrusive or difficult to do, and even if it's more than we technically need to do now, we feel it's the right thing to do. (I think it was more clear that we needed to when we started.) – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '16 at 1:48
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Yes, 3b and 3d only apply to Internet use (as they give requirements that are more onerous and less useful in print or especially other media).

Pseudonyms and real names have long been the standard for attribution, despite neither of them being unique, and despite the ability to change either of them. I don't know why you don't think they'd be adequate here to satisfy the requirements. Certainly no one would stop you from putting profile URLs, and it would be a good idea, but it's not legally required, as far as I can tell, nor should be.

One example of a "subtle visual indication" might be putting a small SE logo next to questions or answers taken from an SE site, and noting somewhere what that means. This appears to be permitted under SE's Trademark Guidance:

Do feel free to use names or logos for the purpose of labeling our sites within your product, as long as use of such logos could not be confused with the branding or endorsement of the product itself.

Another example would be using unique formatting/typesetting that's clearly established as indicating SE content — perhaps a specific style of box, or something similar, along with a note in the forward. As long as the reader can easily distinguish SE stuff from everything else (assuming there is anything else), it shouldn't be a problem. If there's nothing else, then simply reading a book or whatever that says "This is a compilation of material from Stack Exchange etc etc etc" is not very ambiguous.

  • Of course, user names can change, so including the user URL somewhere (probably in an appendix, similar to the comment from Monica Cellio) would be useful. In general, without URLs you cannot guarantee the original source can be located. – Mark Hurd Dec 22 '16 at 2:33
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    Well usernames and content can change and usernames aren't unique so attribution seems completely pointless to me without some link to the source. – Cai Dec 22 '16 at 7:33
  • With regards to the visual indication, my point was if the entire book is SE content, do I really need the indicator next the every Q&A, which seems completely redundant? Also worth noting that you can't just use the SE logo without permission. – Cai Dec 22 '16 at 7:33
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    @Cai: Clarified more with citations that you can in fact use the SE logo for this purpose without special arrangement. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 22 '16 at 7:40
  • Ah great, thanks! I think that counts as permission :) – Cai Dec 22 '16 at 7:42

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