When one compares the two (currently) relevant GoFundMe pages Defend Monica from Defamation by Stack Overflow and Lawsuit against Stack Exchange relicensing it is obvious that the first one attracts donations on a whole different scale.

I am wondering: is that difference a result of

  1. visibility (it seems that Monica's defamation suit creates much higher churn) or
  2. priority?

In other words: do you folks see the re-licensing much less of a problem to the community?

Edit: I am not at all asking about the legal aspect of relicensing.

  • 33
    For me it's the inhumane way she was treated and is being treated that's more important and so inconsistent with SE/SO's clearly professed values. Plus, I don't fully grok the other issue.
    – DK Bose
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:35
  • 35
    I didn't even know there was a lawsuit against the relicensing. Nov 12, 2019 at 10:50
  • 15
    One is personal, one isn't. That's the big difference. Nov 12, 2019 at 10:53
  • 11
    @TheWanderer I somehow think that was one of the hidden purposes of this question...
    – SPArcheon
    Nov 12, 2019 at 10:56
  • 15
    I know zero about how that licensing thing even works and if SE does anything wrong with it to begin with. I'm simply unable to judge. I am very well able to judge that SE has gone entirely off the rails in the other case, though, and I personally deem it a much bigger philosophical and moral issue than changing the license, possible legal issues of code use notwithstanding. Nov 12, 2019 at 10:57
  • 8
    I don't care about the licensing issue very much but if I did, I'd be hesitant to donate because I don't know who the person initiating it is (is it somebody very active here? Who? THis should go in the campaign description) and the text says the result of the proceedings will not become public (not entirely sure why? Can you enforce this through your Terms of Service?) although I'd be willing to accept the latter if I knew I can trust the initiator
    – Pekka
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:23
  • 2
    @PekkasupportsGoFundMonica See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333678/… ... I assume this is the same guy. But I agree, there could be more information on that second GoFundMe page.
    – GhostCat
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:29
  • 1
    @GhostCat indeed! Yeah, knowing that I'd donate if I cared enough about the issue.
    – Pekka
    Nov 12, 2019 at 11:40
  • 1
  • 5
    As long as they do not let you at least accept new ToS with a re-licensing clause, the new license should not actually hold for old posts, maybe not even for new ones. The only question is, if anyone feels strong enough about the license for code snippets, to sue StackExchange. The blanket license in the ToS is a problem anyway when you really want to enforce it, because many people cite gpl code and similar incompatible licensed content.
    – allo
    Nov 12, 2019 at 12:24
  • 1
    "Is the re-licensing situation perceived as much less important than Monica's defamation lawsuit?" - no, but Monica has a lot more visibility as an individual, hence the links to her suit are considerably more visible than the links to the licensing lawsuit. It's just an "advertisement" reach issue. Additionally, the license suit is new and hasn't gotten nearly as much attention (because innertia). Nov 12, 2019 at 17:34
  • 1
    Mods are actively removing all evidence of this problem. At best, that's a mod removal of a completely harmless and fun post that attracted lots of positive attention. I'm rather disappointed. Again. Nov 13, 2019 at 11:36
  • 1
    @LightnessRaceswithMonica Linking to a question that probably has some deleted answers ... wont work for most people here. Seriously, one part of posting these days is: to get to 10K, to have easier access to deleted Q&As . ;-(
    – GhostCat
    Nov 13, 2019 at 12:03
  • 2
    @GhostCatsaysReinstateMonica It's actually a link to a deleted answer. I realise only 10kers can see it but that's just how it is :( On the upside... you're almost there! Nov 13, 2019 at 12:03
  • 1
    Why is this post closed? Are we really going to punish the author for actions that others might take? Nov 29, 2019 at 23:14

8 Answers 8


Is the re-licensing situation perceived as much less important than Monica's defamation lawsuit?

To give a short answer, Monica's situation is a pretty well-structured story and easy to follow which is why it's doing better.

it has:

  • characters
  • setting
  • plot
  • conflict

What it doesn't have is a resolution, it's at a cliff-hanger. Everyone wants to see what happens; everyone wants to be a part of how the story is resolved. Why? Well, it's because it's great story-telling. The main protagonist is revered, and relatable; the antagonist is cold and calculating. The protagonist is an unlikely heroine that was punished under a rule that wasn't in place yet for speaking her mind, it strikes at human's intuition for fairness.

While re-licensing doesn't have a story, most people don't know what it is. I honestly couldn't tell you my opinion on the re-licensing, even though I've read it, it would take too long to explain and no one would care to hear about it (e.g. bad marketing).

People care more about Monica's situation over re-licensing because Monica is a figurehead with a story to tell about being treated unfairly by a system that says it cares about you. It's something we all can relate to.

  • 11
    Outstanding answer, thanks. Typos happen to everybody; no need to be embarrassed, and thanks for fixing. (Also, FYI.) Nov 12, 2019 at 17:02

I don't care enough about the licensing issue, which is why I donated to Monica's campaign but not the licensing one. I'd donate lots to the licensing one if I felt the change were really malicious (like moving away from CC-Wiki entirely) but as it stands, it looks benign enough. Although I can absolutely see why people would want to force them to be more by the book about this... and I'm pissed off enough about SE corporate in general to wish both campaigns well.

Here's what I'd suggest the initiator of the licensing campaign do to make the it do better at drumming up potential support:

  • add the link(s) to the Meta question(s) to the campaign text
  • add a link to your Meta user profile to the campaign text
  • maybe consider a more catchy campaign headline ("Help force Stack Exchange apply proper licensing to our content!" or whatever)
  • Add a prominent link to the gofundme in the your Meta profile (so it's clear it's you)
  • Perhaps add some personal info about you to the campaign text, ideally even a photo, perhaps more detail on whether there's already been contact with a lawyer etc., how you're going to pick the right one - generally, present the case and help us trust you, and whoever you hire to do the legal legwork, to be spearheading it.
  • Add a statement re what you're going to do with any money left over. Ideally give it to a charity; Creative Commons could be a fitting one for obvious reasons but there might be others serving more acute needs.

I can just answer with my opinion and feelings:

I donated to both, because I find both very important.

From a logical point of view, I find the licensing situation a lot more important. This endangers the whole knowledge we, as a community, created, and are creating. It could mean that no one except Stack Exchange is allowed to use the content we create. It could mean, that the promise that everything we create is open is void. There was always the sort of last resort -- that if they totally mess up, at least we can take the content we create and move somewhere else. This could be illegal now, and that's really really bad.

But on the other hand, Monica is an actual human being who is hurt by the actions of Stack Exchange. I can empathize with her. If I would be in her position, I'd be very hurt. I don't want her to be hurt. On an emotional level, that of course feels a lot more important. I can understand, that this is a cause where more feelings are involved and those in general attract more donations.

Also there is not one single person that's the center of the illegal licence change. Everyone of us is concerned by it. I feel some anger about the licence change and really want it to be clarified/solved in one way or another. But I don't feel hurt about it.

  • 2
    Re "It could mean that no one except Stack Exchange is allowed to use the content we create.": If that is the case, then Stack Exchange has turned evil (Joel Spolsky's own words (first podcast series)). The whole point of CC was to avoid it (IMDb was used as an example). Nov 12, 2019 at 13:01
  • 6
    @PeterMortensen Yes. And it could be the case that they turned evil but keep up the facade of being good and open. And to find out if that's the case, I see no other option than some sort of lawsuit. (Unless they turn 180° and openly talk to the community again) If the outcome is that we know the CC BY-SA 3.0 license was terminated when Stack Exchange changed it, at least we know they turned evil (intentionally or by mistake).
    – Josef
    Nov 12, 2019 at 13:06

do you folks the re-licensing much less of a problem to the community?

I give code samples and advice to everybody who can read it, freely and without any restrictions. Whether that means it's licensed under one license or another for legal purposes is interesting and I don't like the fact it changed without at least asking, but in the end, the result is the same. Give information freely to as many people as possible. That's what I came for.

I do not like people I trust being treated unfairly, dragged through the mud and abused by random strangers whose literally only positive mark is being employed by SE. Not only is that "wrong", that is not what I'm here for. That's not what I stand for, that's not what I will support or tolerate or even just forget about.

So yeah, the last one is getting a lot more support.

  • 3
    Problem is the result may well be it's now illegal for anyone to reuse any content, because SE invalidated the license on it.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 13, 2019 at 0:10
  • Nobody in their right mind should "reuse content" in a way that it concerns the copyright. If I read a book I break nobodies copyright. I only do if I copy it. Same with SE. No law is broken when I read and learn. And I'm not interested in what happens when I copy verbatim, because that is not something I do and it's not something anybody should do.
    – nvoigt
    Nov 13, 2019 at 6:32

I don't care about the re-licensing issue. The way that they did it was objectionable and probably illegal, but I don't find the new terms objectionable. If they had asked me, I would've just agreed.

On the other hand, I do have a problem with Monica, a longtime volunteer who I like and respect, being fired unfairly. Not to mention the fact that a certain unnamed SE employee reacted to objections by repeatedly trying to gaslight us.


As far as I can tell, the intent and practical result of CC BY-SA 3.0 and CC BY-SA 4.0 are the same, so I'm not particularly upset by this.

Perhaps it would be more correct to note that material before a certain date is covered under 3.0, and subsequently covered under 4.0?

I would be happy if anybody could correct me on this.

  • 4
    Most likely for most of the content there is no valid license anymore and copying it is illegal!
    – Josef
    Nov 12, 2019 at 19:32

I don't care about the relicensing -- I've always given my contributions here freely and without strings, so the licence terms don't matter to me. Others obviously feel passionate.

The other issue is more nuanced -- I don't like the (lack of) documented process that was followed; except the process as documented at that time was followed -- hello -- goodbye and maybe thank you, which is the process I signed up to as a moderator long ago. And categorically I believe the the press statement should NOT have been made.

However, I don't feel I've seen enough of both sides of the story to make a judgement. Monica has eloquently documented her viewpoint, and some other moderators have put a counter-view that gives me pause for thought. And of course (probably because SE's lawyers are involved) we'll never hear SE's arguments unless and until it goes to law (and maybe not even then).

So frankly, on the Monica front, things are clear as mud.

In result, supporting neither fund-raising effort.

  • 2
    I've not seen any counterviews that state that Monica's de-modding was valid (even the CTO said it wasn't). At worst you could say that some of Monica's views, which she only discussed in mod-only space, were hurtful to some people. While I've seen a couple folks say they were glad this happened (rare but...), no one has shown that the process SE went through was legitimate in any way. It didn't match their process at the time (there wasn't much of one, but there was one for users in general). It was a screwup start to finish. SE basically admits this but won't fix it.
    – Cyn
    Nov 12, 2019 at 22:49
  • (Re "goes to law": Do you mean "goes to court"?) Nov 13, 2019 at 0:00
  • 1
    @PeterMortensen No, I mean "goes to law". Not everything sorted out between lawyers ends up in court.That's why there are such things as out of court settlements and NDAs. Nov 13, 2019 at 6:17
  • 1
    @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole As I said I didn't like the way it was done, but don't have enough information to make a judgement on whether it should have been done. Nov 13, 2019 at 6:19
  • @PeterMortensen didn't realise it was local to the UK -- learn something every day. But, as I said, here it also includes cases that never get to the actual court, just as far as the lawyers dancing around the handbags until the music stops. Nov 13, 2019 at 14:25
  • 1
    I have enough information. It should not have been done. A private discussion would have been reasonable. If the standard is anyone who doesn't like using singular "they" can't be a mod, then why allow mods who are actually anti-trans to continue? None of it makes any sense. I have looked into every angle here and I have a large amount of information and my conclusion is that, while some of M's views on the pronoun topic weren't great, they weren't boot-worthy, she didn't actually violate the CoC in force at the time she was booted, or the new one either, and SE wanted a scapegoat period.
    – Cyn
    Nov 13, 2019 at 15:48
  • Also, as a member of the Lavender community myself, I felt safe and supported when Monica was a mod in most of the communities I was most active in. And I do not feel safe now. What SE made things infinitely worse. I do not believe they actually care about Lavender users here.
    – Cyn
    Nov 13, 2019 at 15:49
  • @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole I'm happy that you have enough information. I don't. As an ordinary user, I don't have access to TL transcripts; and I have no experience of Monica as a moderator. My initial reaction to the information that was first made available was: nobody's pride in their writing skill should take precedence over the feelings of the people they're insulting. And then I realised I didn't have enough information to know what really happened, and suspended judgement -- which is where I still am. Also meta.stackexchange.com/a/338101/195988 Nov 13, 2019 at 15:54
  • 1
    @CynsaysmakeMonicawhole meta.stackexchange.com/legal/moderator-agreement is what moderators sign up to: "Stack Exchange Inc. reserves the right to terminate my privileges as a moderator at any time without warning." Not great, but flagged in advance and legal. The adverse publicity is another (indefensible) matter. Nov 13, 2019 at 16:58
  • 2
    @ColeValleyGirl I think it's safe to say that every moderator on the network realizes that it's all SE's stuff so ultimately SE gets to call the shots on who can be a moderator. I'm pretty sure nobody involved in the situation surrounding Monica has a problem with the passage from the moderator agreement that you quoted. Previous policy has always been that, in the few situations it's been needed, forced resignations have been handled privately and allowing for the moderator involved to step down gracefully. (Not all have embraced that option.) Nothing about Monica has been handled gracefully.
    – user
    Nov 13, 2019 at 18:18
  • 1
    @aCVn Agree about the lack of grace -- disgraceful. Nov 13, 2019 at 18:19

The question is essentially asking for the reason the defamation fundraiser is relatively successful, while the relicensing fundraiser is not. I don't believe it is a matter of priority, visibility, or level of concern. It's a matter of the likelihood that a donation would help solve the problem.

With Monica, it's clear my donation will be put to good use. The harm and potential remedies are clear, and she has retained an attorney.

With the relicensing, it is not clear that donations would be put to good use. Is the relicensing concerning? Yes. I'm very concerned about the relicensing. It is part of a pattern of behavior that shows me that I can't trust Stack Exchange. But I haven't been harmed and I have no evidence that anyone else has been harmed. It seems highly unlikely that an attorney would take this case, let alone be successful. As I would expect, there is no mention on the relicensing GoFundMe of any discussion with an attorney who would take the case.

  • 6
    It seems highly unlikely that an attorney would take this case I'm not so sure about that - it does seem like a blatant breach of the license that should be a slam dunk if there is any value to any of this stuff at all. Whether a preliminary injunction is at all realistic I don't know, and you're right the question of damages is out the window because you can't prove actual harm, but it should be possible to at least have a court force them to do this properly for the user who's suing. And at that point they might just as well do it properly for everyone. But I'm not a lawyer, of course
    – Pekka
    Nov 12, 2019 at 20:38
  • 1
    I'm not a lawyer, but it does appear to be breach of contract given that an actual exchange of value took place. Nov 12, 2019 at 21:14
  • @PekkasupportsGoFundMonica a preliminary injunction? I'm sorry, I just don't see the irreparable harm. But if there is a licensed attorney who as agreed to take the case, then it should say so in the fundraiser. Right now it looks like Jacob is doing this by himself ("i've reached out to Stack Exchange", "I recently sent a formal DMCA notice")
    – De Novo
    Nov 12, 2019 at 22:09
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    @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica possibly. To be clear, I do not believe SE is allowed to relicense content owned by the users without their permission, but to take this to court you need to show harm. That's why I don't think any donation to the relicensing fundraiser will help solve the problem. It might pay for Jacob to get some experience filing forms -- a good experience for him, but not something I want to donate to.
    – De Novo
    Nov 12, 2019 at 22:16
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    Isn't there some other organisation that would be doing this, like the FSF when the GPL is violated (example: D-Link, 2006)? Nov 12, 2019 at 22:17
  • 2
    @Pekka With a little script to register every question, answer, and comment separately with the copyright office the statutory damages could rack up very quickly. Nov 12, 2019 at 22:50
  • @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica the relicensing fundraiser isn't suing for copyright infringement and acknowledges SE has the right to use the content. Are you suggesting a copyright claim against someone else?
    – De Novo
    Nov 12, 2019 at 23:04
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    @DeNovosupportsGoFundMonica There's a colorable claim that since they are breaching section 4(c) of CC-BY-SA 3.0, SE's rights are terminated by section 7 of the same license. Nevertheless, SE has secondary liability for copyright infringement by their users under certain conditions (see link), and if I remember correctly, the circuit SE is located in has ruled that it does not have to be proven in court that any of their users have infringed copyright for secondary liability to attach. Nov 13, 2019 at 6:56
  • @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica I'm sorry, I don't see any clear precedent that supports this interpretation. Again, if Jacob does have an attorney that will take the case, I'd suggest including it in the fundraiser information. Until that happens, I think it's a bad idea to support the fundraiser with the expectation it will be anything more than a pro se filing.
    – De Novo
    Nov 13, 2019 at 17:15

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