The content of SU is CC-SA-BY. As far as I understand it, this includes the content of all the questions and answers provided.

Does that mean if I copy an answer, edit it, give credits, and use it to answer the same question, technically I'm not infringing the rules?

Is it morally and / or ethically questionable to do so as I have done here?


2 Answers 2


Is it allowed under CC-SA-BY? Yes. Is it allowed under Stack Exchange rules? Yes, as long as you're properly attributing the original user. Is it morally questionable? Kind of.

What you should really be doing in a situation like this is just editing the original answer. If your answer has a disclaimer on the end that "this is basically user's answer but with improvements" then you should probably just have edited the original answer. There's no rule against doing what you're doing, but it's lowering the overall usefulness of the page by duplicating answers.

  • 1
    Sometimes, though, some people can be rather unhappy with edits that are 'too major' (even if they don't change the meaning of the post).
    – Bob
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 17:20
  • 6
    @Bob that's not the editor's problem though. Editing is an inherent part of Stack Exchange; if somebody responds negatively to it then they need to reconsider where they choose to contribute content. Some users can be unhappy when you edit their answers, but some would be yet more unhappy if you copied it verbatim and then fluffed it up in a different answer. Both are allowed by the CC license used on SE, but editing is officially encouraged, whereas copy-and-fluff is not.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 17:21
  • In this particular case, I would have edited the original. The user whose post you cited is new and needs the rep more than you do. If you are not adding any new information but just followed the links he provided and posted a question quoting the information you found there, I would consider it polite to at least mark your post as community wiki. That way, you won't be getting rep points for information you took from another's answer.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 2:47
  • @terdon CW isn't really meant as a get-out-of-rep-free card. What would make more sense is if the original answerer had disappeared, to adopt the original answer, flesh it out, and then ask for it to be made CW since it's not entirely the original person's answer more, and is indeed a community owned post.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 3:25
  • @nhinkle first of all sorry, I converted my answer to a comment since it ws not really worth an answer and posted here instead of on the original question by mistake :/. As for CW my point was that if you are going to take another's answer, at least make it CW so you are not perceived as 'stealing rep'.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 3:29

The content licence applies to how you use the content. On that front, all it requires is that you provide attribution and the same licence of your copy/modified version.

Keep in mind that the answer policy (what are considered acceptable answers) is distinct from the content licence. The content licence governs how you may use the content elsewhere (which can be another answer, on your blog, etc.), while the answer policy affects what is allowed in your answer. While you may have satisfied the requirements for using the content, your answer may or may not be up to standard.

For example, it is generally discouraged to copy and paste large chunks of information, and paraphrasing is recommended. Also, in some cases where an answer is merely a duplicate of another answer with no additional meaningful content (e.g. 'this worked'/'thanks' type answers), they may be deleted. On the other hand, 'consolidation' answers are sometimes encouraged. Sometimes, editing for minor changes is encouraged over copying and modifying for a new answer.

There isn't really a hard and fast rule for which way to go - it is very situational.

In your specific example, it looks reasonably different, though I don't really have much to comment on it. You do comment "minus linkrot", implying that you have fixed/removed/omitted some broken links - generally, it is recommended to fix links where possible in the original answer too.

  • The "minus linkrot" was supposed to mean I had provided the actual paragraphs with relevant info, instead of just pasting links Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 17:25

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