Does Subscriber Content include a referenced text/image?

You agree that any and all content, including without limitation any and all text, graphics, logos, tools, photographs, images, illustrations, software or source code, audio and video, animations, and product feedback (collectively, “Content”) that you provide to the public Network (collectively, “Subscriber Content”), is perpetually (...) [emphasis added]

My understanding of "you provide": original content only, which does not include a quotation or image that was referenced/linked (i.e. not plagiarized). In other words, referenced material can be used, but I'm not licensing said material to SE (how can I?).

Is that correct?

This stems from a discussion that took place in the comments section of an answer on whether a photo (referenced) can be uploaded to imgur via SE (in this case, for educational purposes, but let's not discuss fair usage here and focus on the "you provide").

My understanding is based on the existence of the referencing section on all(?) sites: <site>.stackexchange.com/help/referencing

For illustration purposes:


Source: example.com

Is example.com's "Poem" now licensed to SE? And if someone found it here, they would [incorrectly] attribute it to SE?

Topics I checked before asking:

1 Answer 1


The problem is bigger than you think. It isn't limited to images. Even if someone writes a piece of code on Stack Overflow, there's absolutely no guarantee that it's actually covered by CC-BY-SA. It may have been copied from some other place licensed very differently, it may be stolen, it may be covered by patents etc.

And you'll never know.

From what I've heard, it's often forbidden in big corporations to copy any code from anywhere, especially from Stack Overflow and other websites with vague licensing. Using third-party code means that the legal department in your company needs to make sure that every single line of the code and all code in all its dependencies is compatible with the license of the company's product and all licensing requirements are satisfied to the last letter.

IANAL, but the general principle is that you should never copy any content from Stack Overflow and expect that it's actually licensed the way it's declared in the footer. This is a lie just to satisfy devs caring about licensing (but not understanding it), to be safe from a number of legal problems and to have the legal rights to fight websites ripping SO content.

IANAL again, but if you don't have rights to the content you share, SO can't declare that its license is somehow CC-BY-SA now. Whether you posting it on SO is legal or not, I don't know, but almost nobody will ever care, so feel free to post whatever you've been posting previously.

The only thing that actually matters about this whole licensing thing, is that if you do have rights to the content you share and have the rights to change its license, it does become CC-BY-SA. And if you want to pretend that you care about licenses of 3-line code pieces on SO, feel free to reference the license in you code when you copy it.

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