The footer on every page (except chat) says:

site design / logo © 2021 Stack Exchange Inc; user contributions licensed under cc by-sa. rev 2021.5.28.39383

Does this mean only the site design and logo are copyright Stack Exchange Inc?

Or is it asserting copyright over the adaptation of the original contribution(s) as presented on the page?

The Public Network Terms of Service says:

The Network is protected by copyright as a collective work and/or compilation, pursuant to U.S. copyright laws, international covenants, and other copyright laws.

which appears to answer that in the affirmative.

Is there anywhere that explicitly states users retain copyright of their licenced contributions?

Or is that assumed to be general knowledge of how Creative Commons licencing works?

Related: Why does it say 'site design / logo' before the copyright symbol at the bottom of every page?


3 Answers 3


We only claim ownership of the site design and logo, or otherwise the appearance of the network as a whole.

We do not ever claim ownership of any user contributions, nor would we ever want to claim ownership of them (because that could remove some of our legal protections such as DMCA liability). Subscriber content is explicitly excepted from that of network content in the terms:

… (other than Network Content posted by individual “Subscriber Content”) …

  • Thanks. I guess that's as explicit as it gets then. Is there a missing 's' on "individual" there?
    – Paul White
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:59
  • 7
    Is it worth fixing that so it is an actual sentence? I assume this is supposed to mean "other than Network Content posted by individual users (“Subscriber Content”)" right? I guess we can infer that, but for what it's worth, as it stands that reads as though the only exception is "Network Content posted by Subscriber Content".
    – terdon
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:04

There is no need to explicitly state that a user retains copyright.

When I write something (like this post, for example), I automatically have the copyright of the content I created -- at least, under US copyright law. It's immediate and requires no action on my part to have my work copyrighted. I would have to take an action to give it away or waive it instead.

Because the Terms of Service state only that I give SE a license to use the content, specifically under CC-BY-SA 4.0, and it does not make any mention of me transferring/waiving/losing copyright, I still have it.

  • 2
    I tend to agree, but as you know even experienced network moderators were less than clear on this point, so it seemed worth clarifying in a meta Q & A.
    – Paul White
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:03
  • @PaulWhite I hadn't caught up on my morning reading... sorry if I was repeating!
    – tpg2114
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:04

Is there anywhere that explicitly states users retain copyright of their licenced contributions?

I also found, in $site/legal/trademark-guidance:

Trademark and Copyright

Our logo images and site names are copyrighted. Any content on the Stack Exchange Network not contributed by users is copyrighted.

(emphasis in the original)

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