[ For avoidance of doubt: I don't think there's any particular significance to the specific question and edit I've linked to here. It's not intended as criticism of the actions of any one person at all; this has been on my mind for a while and these were just the ones I saw which kicked me into writing a meta post ]

We not uncommonly see questions which have the relevant image linked to an external source (see for example How to show great heights and depths without the road dividing the picture into two halves?). Every now and then, an edit is suggested to the question which embeds the external image into the question (for example, this edit). Should this kind of edit be rejected?

  • What about if the source is external and with license, not permit edit w/o prior permission? And what if someone upload copyrighted (edited from source) image in SE? – Romeo Ninov Dec 27 '15 at 7:00

I would offer that whoever is recommending the edit should be checking to see if the image is public domain. If it is, then embedding it is RECOMMENDED, as it avoids broken links to external content, which effectively breaks a topic (especially if it's an image resource and the entire post is all about the image.)

I would also offer that whoever is reviewing the recommended edit should also be checking to see if the image is public domain. If it is not, if the image is copyright and does not grant a license compatible with CC-BY-SA, then obviously our only option is to link the image rather than embed it. If it is possible to contact the owner of the image and get permission to embed their image, we should also try to do that as well. If we get permission, the image should be embedded, and a comment should be added to the post clarifying that permission from the author for use of the image was given.

The linked thread is an example of an image that came from Wikimedia Commons, which is compatible with CC-BY-SA (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Reusing_content_outside_Wikimedia/licenses#CC-BY-SA).


My initial thought is that these kind of edits should be rejected. All content uploaded to Stack Exchange is automatically CC-BY-SA licensed, and this is often incompatible with the licensing of the source image. In the example noted above, the original is GFDL licensed, which is incompatible with CC-BY.

Obviously, this issue doesn't exist for source images which are already available under CC-BY-SA or a compatible license, but I suspect that's a minority of these edits.

  • Doesn't the Wikipedia page of that file also list CC-BY-SA license versions 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0 and lets us pick the license of choice? Am I missing something? – muru Dec 26 '15 at 12:20
  • 1) CC-BY-SA is not compatible with CC-BY. 2) I'm not actually to interested in that specific image: it's the general principle that I'm asking about. – Philip Kendall Dec 26 '15 at 15:23
  • Then perhaps you should find another example, or you might be getting worked up about a nonexistent issue. In any case, content on SE is licensed CC-BY-SA, not just CC-BY. – muru Dec 26 '15 at 15:30
  • 1
    photo.stackexchange.com/questions/71614/… - private photos of somebody's children being edited into a post (now reverted). – Philip Kendall Dec 26 '15 at 15:37
  • Fair point on CC-BY-SA though, answer updated. – Philip Kendall Dec 26 '15 at 15:39
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    that's a good example, perhaps you should edit the question and the answer (and remove/edit the bit about the original being licensed GDFL, since it's also licensed CC-BY-SA). – muru Dec 26 '15 at 15:42

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