15

Suppose one day I woke up and decided "I'm gonna start a blog about Ubuntu" or "I'm gonna write a book about Ubuntu". Over time I've accumulated large amounts of answers, some of which could be combined into chapters/blog posts of their own. Now, I know the reuse of other people's answers has to come with attribution, and in fact a lot of my answers do rely on research from other sources. But what about my own answers? Can I republish them in another form? What are Stack Exchange policies on that?

20

IANAL but,

  • Material posted on Stack Exchange sites is owned by its author (you) and made available under the CC BY-SA Creative Commons license.
  • As the owner of the material, you are free to do anything you want with it elsewhere. You do not have to provide attribution to yourself or mention SE or the CC license when you republish this material. You are the licensor, and you own the Copyright. Licenses like CC and Copyleft which aim to make material more shareable and provide more rights to users all depend to some extent on the rights of the owner as established in Copyright law for their enforceability.

Note however that you cannot revoke the CC BY-SA license you have granted to Stack Exchange. That is, you cannot remove the material you have posted here under a CC license in order to make it available exclusively elsewhere (I know that's not what you asked, but it may be of interest to readers).

Technically, this means that you don't have the right to delete your own content here (although you'll have noticed that the UI allows you to do so), only the right to have your identity disassociated from it.

To put this as simply as I can, your posts are your work so you have a right to distribute their content. The license you have eternally granted to SE to use that content doesn't affect that right (but it gives many rights to others to use your work which they would not otherwise have).

Another point worth noting is that significant additions to a post by editors would, I believe, technically require attribution.

For more details see, for example

  • 2
  • Why can't you delete the posts? If I have a large amount of answers, can't I spend few days deleting them, then delete my profile, then after disappearing from SE databases, I publish a book? I'd assume deleting the vast majority of answers is simple, deleting a question is impossible if it got answers, but someone who wants to write a book is more interested in exporting his answers. Maybe deleting an accepted answer isn't possible? I don't know but I would assume that the accepted answers of a user aren't more than 40% on average, so 60% can be deleted right? – Lynob Jan 18 at 0:39
  • 3
    @Lynob self-deleting useful posts is frowned upon on SE as it can be seen as self-vandalism. Unless there's a really convincing reason to do it, moderators would probably just undelete the answers, lock them, and in the worst case, suspend the user for mass self-vandalism. Even if the user decides to delete the account, the answers will mostly just stay on SE. – Andrew T. Jan 18 at 2:55
  • @Lynob I suggest reading the TOS. Afaik by posting on SE you grant them an irrevocable license to use, share, adapt & reproduce your work (these rights are sticky, contagious - anyone using SE receives them) and you can only demand that they comply with the license that gives you the right of attribution and the right to disassociate yourself from the work. You can delete your posts (SE give you a delete button for convenience) but many self-deletions raise an automatic vandalism flag and as Andrew T suggests mods can undelete and lock your posts and you have no legal right to stop them. – Zanna Jan 18 at 6:49
  • @AndrewT. Indeed. FTR, in case folk are wondering, when a user's account is deleted, all their negatively scored posts are deleted, which is often bad, because they might include questions with good answers that get deleted with them, and deleted questions are really hard to find. I think a reason SE gives users (at 10k, or less on beta sites) the ability to see deleted posts is so that those users can check that good content hasn't been deleted and take action if we notice it has. – Zanna Jan 18 at 6:59
  • Protip: The proper name of the license is CC BY-SA. I can't suggest an edit because this is a meta site. – Dmitry Kudriavtsev Jan 22 at 0:17
  • @DmitryKudriavtsev thanks! Hopefully it is correct now – Zanna Jan 22 at 5:57
14

Yes. Content you create is yours.

There was briefly a clause in the Terms and Conditions that —by my reading— had the inadvertent impact of demanding attribution. I also occasionally write technical blog posts so I shared your concern. I pointed this out and the offending clause was promptly fixed.

So again, things you create and submit here remain yours. You can reuse them wherever you like without attribution or restriction.

However, the "you create" aspect is important. Posts get edited, sometimes extensively. If it contains substantive edits from other people (copyright law isn't black and white, I can't define substantive), there is an argument that the end result is not entirely yours. Even if it's heavily edited, you could use it under the CC-BY-SA license (see footer link), or use an earlier revision that was substantively yours.

And while it's not the focus of your question, it came up in the comments of Zanna's excellent answer but SE and its sites have an enduring license to use the content you submit. They don't own it, they just have a license, but it's irrevocable. This comes up when people rage-quit and try to take all their answers with them. We moderators tend to stop and undo that. Obviously this makes those people super-happy but we're really just exercising our rights to the content in the interest of the sites.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .