I just found Am I allowed to make a Stack Overflow clone? which answers most of my question below (yes, look & feel (or method of operation) is not copyrightable).

However, I don't know where the line would be drawn for text. Obviously, large blocks of text like the Terms of Service, Code of Conduct, etc. are copyright and can't be reused. But what about labels such as "Ask a question" or "Suggest improvement"? There are only so many way of saying these.

What portions of the Stack Exchange network's text can be reused by non-SE sites and what can't?

Note: what I want is a customised version of Stack Exchange, so Enterprise and Teams wouldn't work for me anyway, aside from the cost.

Original question - ignore, for background information only

I saw this question: Is Stack Exchange / Stack Overflow available for private or internal use? and the link seems to indicate only Enterprise is an option, with price available on demand via the sales team.

I have a future project in mind where I would like to use a customised version of the Stack Exchange model (or something very similar), i.e. any member of the public can create an account and participate in order to ask questions and get high quality answers.

Area 51 is not appropriate because it is for a project that doesn't yet exist, and might not qualify if I ever launch anyway. If Enterprise is out of my price range (I suspect it is: I don't have a company so I need solutions that are free or affordable long-term for an individual), how much am I allowed to replicate of the Stack Exchange model? I imagine code (including JavaScript and HTML) and graphics can't be reused, or can they with attribution? What about SE's Q&A format, user privileges, moderation, badges, etc.? (This is the part I already found an answer for: yes, look & feel (or method of operation) is not copyrightable).

Note: I have tagged this question with , not , because I need a concrete answer, and not discussion. I am also not looking for recommendations for pre-existing clone software because I have already seen Stack Exchange clones.

  • 1
    Have you looked at Teams? It's currently priced at $10 per months for the first ten users. The Q&A there isn't public though (the same as Enterprise, I think).
    – Laurel
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 2:43
  • @Laurel No way can I afford that for thousands of users!
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 2:50
  • Confused about all the downvotes. 1 in 5 people who read the question downvote it. Why? I did my research, the existing answers didn't answer my question so I asked another. I think it's clear what I'm asking about. Is it because people think SE clones are bad per se, so nobody should do them? Did I ask on the wrong site? Is my question off-topic? Is asking questions frowned upon? Did everyone get out of bed on the wrong side today? Did I not mention enough cats?
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 5:51
  • I won't rule out that voters meant to say Nothing with their down vote based on your title How much of Stack Exchange can be replicated by other sites? and the gist of your question. It looks like the whole question (and its sub questions) seeks out to legitimize plagiarism. It is also doubtful if this question and their answer(s) is useful for anyone else except you.
    – rene
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:08
  • @rene As Adam Lear already answered, "we didn't even invent the concept or anything" so SE has already plagiarised if anyone has. I.e. Anything SE has copied from elsewhere without plagiarising can be copied from them. It's kind of odd, it's like saying IBM makes computers, am I allowed to as well? Can I use the same keyboard layout as them? Can I make a phone which is computer-like? Can I put part of a computer into a car or a microwave to enhance it? Or does IBM have total copyright on all computer-like things?
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:15
  • 1
    I can only guess why voters vote as they did. I thought my comment would be helpful by offering some possible explanations. That is all, really.
    – rene
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:31

1 Answer 1


We don't currently offer hosting or customization for public Q&A sites outside of our network. If you're looking to set up a public Q&A site, clones or other forum/Q&A solutions are likely your best bet.

I'm not a lawyer, so I can't give you a definitive answer on some of the questions you asked on behalf of Stack Overflow the Company, but... personally, I'd say that if you're at the point of trying to figure out which images you can take from us or what copy you can reuse, you're already going down the wrong path.

Honestly, the odds are that your biggest hurdle to getting high quality answers to questions isn't going to be the software in and of itself, but rather how much attention you can put towards growing your community of users. Grab one of the clones in the thread you linked to, or set up a Discourse (or your favorite forum), and go from there if/when you have specific problems in your existing community that you want to address.

  • I'm not trying to screw SE. I don't want to compete with SE. I don't want to look like SE. I think it's a fantastic model for the most part. I want to do something that SE can't do, and wouldn't want to do. This is not a misguided Area 51 request. I want to do the things that SE gets right and almost everyone else gets wrong, and add things that don't fit into SE's model, but fit in mine. If I was out to infringe copyright, I certainly wouldn't post a question here first! Quite frankly, you really missed the point of the question.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 6:50
  • 1
    @CoolFool I didn't think you were trying to do any of those things, no worries. My thinking is that "what can be reused" is not a question anyone can completely answer, given our whole setup and how many people are involved (nevermind the company itself), so I was trying to address your core issue - trying to set up a site where people can get good answers. The solution to "I want a customized version of SE for a public site" at the moment is "use a clone and customize it to suit your needs".
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 6:57
  • 2
    FWIW I'd be very surprised if we came down on anyone for using phrases like "ask a question" or "suggest improvement". Plenty of sites out there right now already do it, and we didn't even invent the concept or anything. I appreciate that you wanted to check, but those are just commonly used phrases and like you said, there aren't that many other ways to phrase the same thing. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:03
  • Yeah, that's the irony. I'm basically asking "Is what I want to do OK?" and apparently getting blasted for it. Maybe next time I shouldn't ask if what I'm doing is right but just do it anyway! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I was trying to show respect for SE by asking my question, but no-one seems to get that.
    – Cool Fool
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:08
  • 2
    Next time you should contact a lawyer if you want to avoid risk. Respect is nice and all, but legal questions should be addressed to those who are able to handle them.
    – Bart
    Commented Aug 4, 2018 at 7:47

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