I recently came across this question which had a portion of Chromium code in it. At the bottom they put the license for the code(which is BSD style). Is this actually required? How is the snipplet of code actually licensed since they put it on SO which demands CC? Is it legal to even post such code?

1 Answer 1


I am not a lawyer, but...

The posting of the text of the original license is not required; the OP could have just mentioned that it was a BSD license. If the source of a snippet is mentioned, it's straightforward to go find out what the license is, and anyone who wants to use code (regardless of source) should do this, and abide by the original license terms.

The cc license cannot, and does not, override the terms of an existing license.

It goes without saying that, if the license does not permit you to post snippets of code (i.e. a proprietary license), you should not post it on SO.

  • 3
    Does the fair use doctorine apply to code?
    – Casebash
    Commented May 27, 2010 at 1:48
  • @Casebash: If you are referring to the ability to reuse code in another application, most licenses require you to follow the terms of the license to do that, even if it's a relatively small part of the code. In general, you can publish small parts of open-source code on forums like SO, unless the license specifically prohibits it.
    – user102937
    Commented May 27, 2010 at 3:53
  • Well I don't plan on seeing someone attack SO for allowing open source code to be put on here without the appropriate license so..
    – Earlz
    Commented May 27, 2010 at 5:57
  • "Fair use" is the exception to copyright protection for fragments of protected works in a critical or academic context; in parody; and a few other situations. Ask a lawyer for certainty and for a discussion of the limits of fair use, but I would imagine that it applies. Commented May 27, 2010 at 6:36
  • @Robert: As dmckee said, the fair use doctorine is an exemption from copyright. So copyright laws generally can't be used to enforce terms of a license that would prevent fair use, but contract laws on the other hand can. So snippets of some proprietary code may be allowed depending on whether the license is protected by copyright laws or contract laws. As always, the law is complex and depends on jurisdiction, so talking to a lawyer is the only way to know for certain.
    – Casebash
    Commented May 28, 2010 at 0:15
  • @Casebash, See here: cyberlaw.stanford.edu/packets002733.shtml
    – user102937
    Commented May 28, 2010 at 5:00
  • @Robert: Interesting. SO copyright law may sometime preempt contract law, but whether it will seems unclear.
    – Casebash
    Commented May 30, 2010 at 3:14

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