What is the license for photos published as the weekly featured photo? Do they become CC-by-SA like everything else on this site?

  • Wow... given the level of confusion in the answers, we definitely need clarification here. Whatever it ends up being, some clear note needs to be placed in the threads soliciting submissions.
    – Reid
    Nov 6, 2010 at 17:58
  • I thought the upshot of the debate was that if we link to contributed photos the photo retains its original copyright licensing conditions, with one added (implicit) condition - the target web site has the right to display the linked image.
    – labnut
    Nov 9, 2010 at 8:29

4 Answers 4


And to add an opinion: I don't want that. While I'd love to have my best work featured here, I'm uncomfortable placing it under the broad and irrevocable permissions that comes with cc-by-sa.

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    I 100% agree. As much as I love this place, I still want to keep control of my images. I'm happy to share them to help promote the site, but for that purpose only. I think the license should be "Royalty free usage only by Photo.StackEx on the main page header, for the duration of the week."
    – Alan
    Jan 13, 2011 at 22:30

IANAL either, but I believe the images are not covered by cc-wiki. For instance, I can embed any image from the nytimes in an answer simply by linking to it, however that does not mean that image is now covered by cc-wiki.

We could probably clarify this on all sites by saying something like "images hosted on outside domains and linked to from this site are copyright their respective owners. all other images are copyright stack overflow internet services inc".

And then essentially the header image is just licensed to us temporarily for that week.

We don't have any intention to own the copyright on your images, nor do we have any intention of changing the desired license on your images (i.e. by somehow magically making them cc-wiki).

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    If you don't believe your use of the NYT image is allowed under either fair-use or by the NYT, the image should be removed from the post. It isn't magic: if the user includes their image as part of the content of their post (not as a link), why wouldn't it be covered under the license for the rest of the content?
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 15:51
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    @roger The way Stack Exchange works, you can't include an image as part of your post. You can only include a url to an image somewhere else (by default that somewhere else is imgur.com). The "user contribution" is the link, not the image. We only ever store the link, not the bits that make up the image. You can't "contribute" something that isn't yours. Our lawyer confirmed this. Nov 5, 2010 at 18:44
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    I'm not providing legal advice, of course, but I'm also not saying SOInc. is contributing the image: the user that posted it is. SOInc. acts more like a network provider. I've tried to clarify in replies on the other answer rather than here.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 19:16

The current wording in the footer reads:

user contributions licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required

It also reads:

site design / logo © 2010 stack overflow internet services, inc;

I would expect it would go down the to the definition of what makes something a user contribution, and what constitutes part of the site design.

As a personal opinion, I prefer the interpretation that says that the user contribution is the post, which includes a link to a third party which hosts the image. As that externally hosted image is not part of any data dump, I wouldn't expect the licence to extend to that. Once it has been voted a contest winner, it is then incorporated into the site's design on a royalty free basis for a limited period.

I'll see if I can get a clarification on the view that stack overflow internet services, inc would take...

In addition, it's worth also remembering that images uploaded (as opposed to inserted as a link) are also covered by the imgur Terms of Service

  • Being part of the data dump isn't required to be covered by the license. For example, old revisions of text aren't in the dump.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 14:42

In order for a photo to be selected, it first has to be posted by the user to meta (example), which is licensed as CC-BY-SA.

Instead of including the image in the post as content, you could only link to another site hosting the image. You could include a resized and cropped version in your post, and this altered version (but not the original) would be covered by CC-BY-SA.

I see no reason you must include any image in your submission, not even a resized/cropped version, but it certainly does make voting easier than just linking to elsewhere. :)

Including an image in the post rather than a link should be a significant difference — the former includes the photo as content in the post. It's the difference between taking a picture of a painting and handing out copies (this requires a license) versus telling someone the location of that painting within the museum (this information is not controlled by copyright).

(I am not a lawyer.)

  • I'm only talking about submissions to meta above. The final use in the design doesn't necessarily have to follow the same terms. However, if you include a resized/cropped submission in meta (and hence licensed CC-BY-SA), then SOInc. (or anyone else) doesn't have to ask for additional permission, but they can only use the version you included in your meta post rather than the original.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 18:47
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    "Instead of including the image in the post as content, you could only link to another site hosting the image. " You can't actually include an image as content. You are only including the link to the other site. The only difference is whether its set up so your browser shows you that image from the other site when you look at the post or not. Our servers never send you the image. Nov 5, 2010 at 18:48
  • @Michael: My understanding is an image (rather than an anchor, i.e. <img> vs <a>) is considered to be including that content; and that's how it is presented to the user, too. For example, I could not <img> to an SOInc. logo from my site without permission, but I could tell people the URL without permission.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 18:50
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    We don't control the bits of the image, so Stack Inc. has no say over the copyright of said image. It isn't included in our dumps or our backups or anywhere on our machines. The header image is actually included on our servers, so this doesn't apply to that... I'm only referring to images linked to from posts. Nov 5, 2010 at 18:53
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    @Michael: I'm referring to opinions such as "Providing this address to an end users web browser should be no more an infringement than providing that web address in written form... Unfortunately, life is never that simple. ...unauthorized IMG linking may well be a violation of the right to make a derivative work under copyright law," which show a difference in how the "link" (<img> vs <a>) is presented.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 19:10
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    @roger I'm not trying to say that <img> absolves you of getting the rights to embed an image into a post... I'm saying that doing so on stack exchange does not put that image under cc-wiki. Yes, of course you should have the rights to <img> link the image on whatever site you do so. But doing so does not put your image under the licensing terms defined by that site. i.e. your image is not the "user contribution" we refer to the in the footer, the characters of the img link are. Nov 5, 2010 at 19:23
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    @Michael: I would be stunned that an image I purposefully include in a post with the full understanding it will be displayed alongside the rest of the post, would not be considered a user contribution; especially when there's a seamless way to upload and include it. But I know this is still a legal grey area.
    – Roger Pate
    Nov 5, 2010 at 19:38

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