When someone uploads an image, I'd like to see something like:

When you upload an image to this site, we encourage you to release that image (at the resolution uploaded), under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This license allows sharing and remixing. This helps build the collaborative question-and-answer community Stack Exchange strives to be. It ensures that the content will be part of your contribution forever and can be adapted to meet future needs. However, if you do not want to use this license, uncheck this box to indicate that you prefer more restrictive terms for your image. If you do not have the legal right to copy or relicense the image you intend to upload, do not use this form and instead hyperlink to your image.

Or whatever similar thing can be approved by lawyers. The last part about copyrights could be adapted more closely from the content policy. It'd be okay if it were more succinct but have a link for more information. The three key bits of information are:

  1. Provide an easy way to mark things with a CC license.
  2. Provide an easy way to mark things which are restrictively licensed (as allowed by imgur — see below).
  3. Provide an obvious summary of and link to the copyright policy.

Non CC-BY-SA images would be marked with a separate style, and maybe license text displayed. In fact, it might be nice for the upload form to have an attribution field.

This is a particular issue on Photo-SE since we're intrinsically image focused, and since as content-creators we have a particular concern for copyright. However, I think it applies across the network as well.

Addendum: Jeff Atwood says here that since the images are provided by imgur, not SE directly, their ToS applies. That says in part "All files are copyrighted © to their respective owners. Imgur directs full legal responsibility of files to their respective users."

I think, however, that 99% of the users of the form have no idea that there's a separate hosting service. I'm not a lawyer but I think a court might look at the overall SE service and decide that to be an iffy distinction – and consider SE to be "the user". A little bit of text in the upload form and a link to the Imgur ToS would help.

Secondly but more importantly, since the images are central to so many of our questions and answers, I don't find the "eh, they're a separate thing" approach very satisfying. We should provide an easy way to make example images fall under CC-BY-SA as the rest of the text, and a way to mark legal but non-CC-BY-SA images so they're not inadvertently copied with the rest.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is related to an issue under discussion at meta stack overflow \$\endgroup\$
    – chills42
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that at that answer, Stack Exchange officially responds that CC-BY-SA applies. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Russell McMahon — I know this has been a concern of yours. Please see the above. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


The upload form now notes the applicability of - and links to - both the CC license and our network-wide content policy:

image upload dialog

Obviously this isn't as verbose as your suggestion, but I think it will suffice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome! Less verbose is just fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 23:32

What is the reasoning behind encouraging users to release the image under CC BY-SA 3.0? Is it for questions that they provide an image and are asking how to post process that image into a different state? Then that would give answers the ability to edit it and repost? I ask because I don't see too many questions like that, and that is the only reason I can think of that we would want the release.

I think it is more common that we see images posted that are asking "how to achieve this look from a professionals portfolio", where I would assume almost no users are going to be able to give us the release you are asking for.

Note, I am glad you brought this up, and I think you are on the right track, I just want to understand what the reasoning is.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Allowing post-processing would be nice. Secondarily, it would allow things like a community-published book of questions and answers, which would be pretty cool. But the main reason is the same one the entire site is licensed that way: it makes the Internet better wiki.creativecommons.org/Case_Studies/StackOverflow.com. Mixing in restricted-license content as essential to the questions and answers defeats the point. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 2:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe you're right that the other case is more common and should be presented first. My subjective impression is that questions with example photos are evenly split between self-made images and references to someone else's work, while answers are largely self-made images (or could or should be) with rare references to famous examples. I don't think we'd want to have a separate upload UI for question vs. answer forms, though — way too confusing. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see your point on making the images CC BY-SA to fit the rest of the site, that is a great idea. I never thought of a book, but that is a neat idea too. I agree with your subjective impressions on images posted. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 2:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ To dig the rabbit hole a little deeper... I just posted an answer with an image upload that included a screenshot of what must be a coyrighted software UI. I layered captions on it and mixed it with some of my own content, so where does that fall? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sean
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @sean - You are officially in the naughty corner! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 3:34

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