Due to our broad scope we often have overlap with other sites on the network, in some cases it could be seen as useful to be able to close questions as duplicates of those on another site. This will not happen.

We have the answer of let the communities grow themselves and the general inference is that we answer questions as they come in and hope we get that one great canonical answer here. This is what I would prefer to happen.

Lacking that there is the option of copying content from other sites within the SE network, which I find slightly disturbing as it needs to be done very carefully to avoid plagiarism.

So, my question is this: do we accept copying content from other Stack Exchange sites for canonical Q&As or not? Or do we wander the middle line and allow it, but force the Q&As to be Community Wiki?

This was sparked due to this question copied from Server Fault with the following disclaimer:

In the last few years I have pointed quite a few questions about subnetting to this question one Serverfault. It is their canonical question on IPv4 and subnetting.

Sadly I cannot VTC many questions on Superuser as a duplicate of that answer since it is technically another site.

As an [interim] solution I am coping that question/answer here, hoping it will become the canonical answer on SuperUser.

If you can improve on it, please it post an answer or leave comments.

  • Are you asking only with respect to other sites in the Stack Exchange Network, or are you asking about outside Q&A sites as well, like TechNet or Experts Exchange? Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 15:02
  • @DanHenderson I was assuming from within the network. Technically SE is granted a perpetual licence to share or copy content posted by people to sites within the network so copyright is less of an issue and attribution should almost certainly still be provided, but I'm pretty sure it still counts as plagiarism in a moral if not legal sense. Copying from any other internet site would be "kill on sight" plagiarism and content theft IMO. What I'm asking here is whether we should copy content from another site.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 16:02
  • In that case, you might want to replace one or two instances of the word "site" in your question with "Stack Exchange site" to eliminate that ambiguity. After reading your post a couple of times over, I figured that that was probably what you meant, but a less diligent reader could easily make the other interpretation. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 17:16

4 Answers 4


There's nothing legally wrong with copying an answer wholesale, provided there's clear attribution. Content creators agreed to those guidelines when they posted on a Stack Exchange site. That said, I'm not sure that copying in other sites' answers is the best thing to do.

If a certain topic is acceptable at multiple Stack Exchange sites, there's a good chance the sites will approach it differently. In this specific instance, the part of the copied answer involving multiple routers and static routes seems entirely reasonable for an enterprise network (Server Fault), but not so common as to merit inclusion in the canonical answer for home networking (Super User). Writing a new canonical answer would let us adapt the information to our site's angle, and it would avoid any discomfort about a full copy.

An issue raised in the comments of that specific question is its broadness. As in, that question is super broad, and I cast the appropriate close vote. Community FAQs are supposed to be adaptable to a lot of situations, but lumping subnetting, NAT, and the math together makes it difficult for a reader to figure out where the part that helps them is. Notice how the copied answer is so long that it had to be split into two! That's a pretty good indication that our format isn't appropriate for that kind of thing.

For copied canonicals that are reasonably scoped, I do think that community wiki is appropriate. That status says "I don't own this, it belongs to the community, please add your knowledge to make it great for our site." As a general rule, CW isn't needed for all FAQs, but if a canonical is expected to be worked on a lot by many members (i.e. built by the community), it probably should be wikified.

  • 2
    If a question is on topic here, and it can be answered be a answer on another site, a new answer should be submitted which quotes (and cites) and adds to that answer on the other site. What should not be done is submit an answer with a link to that answer, just because it is another SE website, does not mean the question won't be deleted.
    – Ramhound
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 3:07
  • That Q&A was designed to be broad and cover almost everything one should know about subnetting, and also in the process be a target for duplicate votes. Unfortunately it turned out that answers have length limits, and by definition the question is too broad if the answer won't fit in the box. It still serves its purpose as a dupe target, though, as we frequently get those sorts of questions (and are mostly sick and tired of them). If SU isn't getting enough such questions to be noticeable, then copying the Q&A is completely gratuitous. Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 21:20

The various aspects of the question are well laid out and I completely agree with Ben N's answer. What I want to focus on is the relative "gravity" of the issues.

One set of issues relates to scope and fit, and the preferred style of handling this. That deserves careful consideration and discussion because it will be somewhat of a precedent.

The other is the issue of plagiarism, which I see as more clear cut, immediate, and serious. On SF, both the original question and answer have rock star status, with the kind of upvotes normally associated with hot network topics or top CW threads. The answer is likely to also attract serious upvotes here. It is absolutely improper to accrue rep, especially substantial rep, for copying someone else's hard work. The only condition under which we should be discussing the canonical question aspects is if posts such as this are CW, so no personal rep accrues, and prominently attributed to the original author.

But this still spills over for the original author. A lot of work goes into developing an answer like this. We shouldn't be taking action here that deprives the author of rep that could accrue to his answer. I love Mokubai's suggestion in his comment on the SU question to invite the author to post here. That's really the best solution.

Short of that, reposting an answer here as CW still deprives the author of traffic and rep for the original post. It would be much fairer to the author to send readers to the original post. That doesn't serve as a canonical answer here, though.

But it suggests that the proper, and fair, way to do it would be not to copy answers wholesale from elsewhere, but to develop our own. As Ben N describes, SU's focus is going to be a little different, anyway. We can borrow bits and pieces, and attribute those to the original author. That way, we have a canonical answer here that is customized to our site, and also direct some traffic back to the author.


I feel the right way to do something that might be to the 'letter' but not the spirit of the rules would have been to ask on meta first. This is one of those cases.

It sets a bad precedent both for our site and others - especially since the questions/answers are copies. While I appreciate the 'intent' the worst case scenario is someone less scrupulous might grab a recent HNQ, copy paste it and... yeah

As someone on SU and SF, I'd also feel what would be relevant for SF would not match completely with the scope of SU, people who have a cisco router in their basement not being as common as many of us would wish

The question itself is fine, IMO - it could act as a FAQ proposed and point at the SF question for people who need that depth. I disagree with copying the answer word for word. A good answer would be focused on our scope and pick choose and quote the other answers as needed to fit the scope of SU.


I fully agree that closing questions as duplicate from other site of stackexchange would be an easy solution.

Now let's discuss the situation in general when the question is a good quality one, it's on topic here, exact duplicate of another question on a different site and that one has a good answer, so when the only thing preventing marking as duplicate is that it isn't on superuser.

Here I think the best option is to appropriately quote it. Our goal is to give good answer, it doesn't need to be neither unique, neither original.

Community wiki: I don't think here we should consider that an answer is coming from another site, it's simply not relevant there.

Ethical aspect: someone may say that getting reputation for a quoted answer isn't ethical (at least I've this feeling based on the CW proposal). I've to disagree, reputation is based on usefulness of answers, not efforts behind them. There are also plenty of short answers with a lot of upvotes. Also, quoting answers from other sites requires research or knowledge that the specific answer already exists.

Of course there will be situations like the example in the question where number of upvotes will be likely too much to be fair, this case - if not done by the original poster - moderators should convert answer to wiki, but I think these will be the exceptions.

  • On your "ethical aspect": the pieces are true, but I don't reach the same conclusion. Yes, upvotes are based on usefulness, not effort, and there are many upvoted short answers. But those aren't the the issue. The issue is answers that are useful because of the extreme work that went into them. Just finding an answer elsewhere gets no rep because that would be posted in a comment. Creating a new answer through your own research and including pieces of another's work is completely acceptable. The issue is lifting an entire answer, adding no value to it, and getting rep for that.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:40
  • Posting the link as an answer is fine. My question is what should happen to it if it's actually the answer to the problem? Should the question remain unanswered / should it be converted to am answer, if yes, by who? Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:52
  • (different topic) The community wiki part has two purposes. One is a mechanism to avoid unearned rep. But canonical answers are, ideally, community efforts, where the community is encouraged to perfect the answer. CW does that. Anyone with sufficient rep can edit other people's answers, but that isn't supposed to be used to substantively change the answer. With CW posts, it's a community answer, so the original author's words don't have the same relevance.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:57
  • On your comment, above, are you talking about a question not having an answer if it isn't closed as a duplicate (because the dupe is on another site), but just has a comment pointing to the answer on the other site? That gets us back to the canonical answer. The question is what standards do we use for that. Having a canonical answer is great if we can do it within the guidelines applied to other answers on the site.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 22:02

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