15

I've been having some sneaking suspicions about one of our newer users, and I've run into what I perceive as, at best, shady behaviour.

The Details

This user has asked a few questions, and gotten some answers, and he answered one himself before it got closed. In his answer, he links to a blog. This blog is fairly low quality from my point of view, and the primary purpose seems to be to drive viewers to the paid guides.

For the most part, that just means it's a bad blog, and I ignore it. However, I have learned that our user is the owner of said blog, and had not disclosed it as such until we confronted him about it. He edited the answer with his link to make the disclaimer. A little shady, but he makes up for it by conforming to the rules.

We got another question from the user a couple days later. He gets an answer, so that's all good.

Here's where it gets interesting: Later that day, he writes an article on his blog that incorporates the details he got from his answers, and other related answers on different questions. This article has some decent detail, and links back to the developer for various bits, but any information that comes from Arqade has no attribution at all.

The Problem

My understanding of the CC-wiki license is that if information is gathered from the SE network, that attribution must be visible and linked on the page it is used. I can find no such link on this article at all.

I want to clarify: this user is not just straight copying and pasting; he is paraphrasing. I believe the attribution requirement is non-negotiable, however.

Secondary Issue

The article also has a link at the end to one of his paid guides. So, in essence, he's using information gathered from other sources (some here, some the developer), without providing proper attribution, in order to drive sales. This, to me, is highly unethical.

From the timing of his article, it seems at least his latest question was asked specifically to gather more information that he could use in his article, and thereby lend more legitimacy to his paid guides.

What do we do?

What do we do in cases like this? I'd care less (but I'd still care) if he was just writing articles to help gather viewers and disseminate information. I'd say he should just add an attribution and keep on going.

But what about when the purpose of the articles is to drive sales to his guides? The vast majority of the posts I checked on his blog all have links to his paid guides at the end. If it matters, all these "guides" use those giant sales pages that go on forever.


Minor addendum

I am not mentioning any specific details due to trying to generalize the question, and preferably not prejudice anyone against them, in case it turns out he's not doing anything wrong. I've asked about this in chat, so most of you will know who I'm talking about regardless. If details are required, I can edit them in upon request.

  • 3
    I'm not a lawyer, but before we even start talking about whether or not it's okay for someone to make money off of SE information, they definitely have to attribute it appropriately. – Adam Lear Aug 11 '12 at 4:57
  • He's also written an article for Arqade blog where he mentions his site - idk how that affects SEO ಠ_ಠ – Alok Aug 11 '12 at 5:59
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    @alok I've nofollow'd that link for now. – badp Aug 11 '12 at 8:00
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    You really have a thing against long sales pages. – KOVIKO Aug 11 '12 at 13:15
  • Relevant blog post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/defending-attribution-required – CruelCow Aug 11 '12 at 20:11
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    @Koviko I think most people have a problem with them, given the lion's share tend to be scams. – Rilgon Arcsinh Aug 12 '12 at 1:25
  • @RilgonArcsinh I know. fbueckert has got a bit of a personal vendetta against them, lately. – KOVIKO Aug 12 '12 at 1:35
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    Courtesy of this single blog! Very little offends my sensibilities as a web designer and programmer as much as these sales pages do. They do everything that's wrong with a webpage. – Frank Aug 12 '12 at 1:58
  • on other se sites when a user asks a question involving code and then people help solve their problem, i don't think they really put an attribution link anywhere in their code. obviously this is a more extreme situation and slightly different but thought id chime in – Tom Prats Aug 17 '12 at 7:42
  • @TMP I leave attributions in my code. Most of the time to document for myself where the ideas came from, but sometimes a solution is so awesome that it really deserves more than a simple comment in my humble code. – Atav32 Aug 22 '12 at 22:07
10

All Stack Exchange content is licensed under a cc-by-SA license, also known as cc-wiki or Creative Commons Share Alike. Attribution is also required. These rules apply to every external use of Stack Exchange content unless express written permission is given by the company. (This permission has not been given in the case of the blog we are discussing here.)

So, as long as the blog or website...

  • Attributes the content properly, and
  • Is not designed to imitate a Stack Exchange site, tricking people into thinking they're on one of our sites,

then they are within their rights to share, remix, and make commercial use of the work. This includes paraphrasing our users' words (aka "remixing") and monetizing our content on their site through display ads or links to their paid guides or whatever. Some consider it a jerk move, but it's still totally kosher according to our license.

Since this issue relates to behavior and policy outside the walls of our Arqade garden, this should be handled by someone from Stack Exchange, Inc. So, the right way to deal with this is to report the offender either on Meta Stack Overflow or by contacting us directly.

  • There is no proof that all of it is learned from here, though. Pretty much all information shared here is obtainable from elsewhere. Just because someone may learn a few details from here doesn't invalidate everything they learned before using SE. Our knowledge is our own and the mentality that SE somehow owns what we say is ridiculous, IMO. – KOVIKO Aug 13 '12 at 14:25
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    @Koviko Check the license agreement. Once we post the knowledge here, it becomes subject to the license that's been linked. As such, anyone who makes use of that knowledge (which has been done obviously in this case) is bound by the license under which it was posted. – Frank Aug 13 '12 at 14:28
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    @Koviko Our attribution police won't know that until they can see what blog we are talking about, which won't be possible until this has been reported through one of the channels I listed. We'll look at the case and determine whether or not anyone's being infringed, and if so, we will ask nicely for attribution to be added. Paraphrasing is always a subjective issue, so it has to be taken case by case. – hairboat Aug 13 '12 at 14:29
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    @Koviko SE doesn't own it - that's part of what our Creative Commons license means. It's owned by the commons - by the community. We just host it and take care of it for you. Apart from the actual content on the sites, SEI makes all data available through the Data Explorer and the quarterly Data Dumps. "Our knowledge is our own" - that is completely correct. The community owns the knowledge here, not SEI. We are just babysitting it for you. – hairboat Aug 13 '12 at 14:33
  • @fbueckert Simply posting information that is obtainable elsewhere doesn't give anyone else ownership of that information, though. If any attribution should be required, it's to the original source. And the blog in question does mention official Blizzard sources. – KOVIKO Aug 13 '12 at 14:34
-1

I suggest asking the user to either state or link back to the site the original information came from -- and please understand that it does not have to be Arqade in every case. Much of the data collected here is either "borrowed", rephrased or otherwise acquired from different sources that do not get always the due credit.

Otherwise he shall remove the post from his blog. But unless he copies a "significant" portion you cannot do anything legally about that. Especially if this is some random blog where he does only profit indirectly from the information.

The statements should be as official as possible. I suggest that either an administrator or at least a moderator writes the email. Because as a random user you do not own the copyrights to other users content.

  • Site policy states that if you take information from somewhere else, you need to attribute it properly. Indeed, we downvote and outright delete answers that are plagiarized without attribution. Do you have any examples of where answers did not give due credit? – Frank Aug 13 '12 at 14:14
  • Also, you're not addressing the main point; regardless of how much information he copies, my understanding is that attribution is required. It's obviously copied from Arqade, and not from a secondary source where we gathered the information from. – Frank Aug 13 '12 at 14:16
  • You cannot possibly claim that you inspect every answer and post for copyright problems. – ayckoster Aug 13 '12 at 14:17
  • If you get data from a 3rd party site like say diablofans.com and post it in your answer it does not magically belong to Arqade! Everyone can get the info from here, read the original source and only link the original source. That is how copyright works. – ayckoster Aug 13 '12 at 14:19
  • I never claimed I inspect every answer. But you're claiming there is data that hasn't been given due credit. Thus, the onus is on you to prove that this is happening. – Frank Aug 13 '12 at 14:19
  • @fbueckert I can think of one answer that hasn't been deleted or downvoted for not providing due credit to the original author, but I am in no position to post it now. Ping me later this evening. – Niro Aug 13 '12 at 23:03
-5

I seem to be alone in this line of thinking, but it is my personal belief that neither StackExchange nor its users own the knowledge that is shared here. The physical content itself is protected, but the knowledge derived from the content is not. Knowledge is just knowledge and everyone who contributes does so to both increase their own knowledge and that of their peers.

You can copyright your words. You can patent your ideas. But you can't claim ownership of knowledge. One only provides attribution for knowledge if it is needed to maintain credibility. Maybe they are writing a peer-reviewed article or spreading a rumor. But that attribution is purely from personal discretion, not by requirement.

While I understand that your concern lies with the user using their knowledge for monetary gain, I believe that your concern is misguided. I've asked questions on StackOverflow regarding programming projects that I worked on. And, after that gap in my knowledge is filled, I used it to make money. Every single time. And not once do I provide attribution to StackOverflow or to the user(s) that helped me with my problem. The reputation system exists to provide users with reward for their contribution. Anything beyond that is simply not required.

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    I am wholeheartedly against this viewpoint. I understand where you're coming from about learning, but there's a difference between applying the concepts you've learned at your job, and trying to profit from other's work through none (or incredibly little) of your own. – Frank Aug 12 '12 at 23:10
  • What I would do to help understand my point is to imagine that instead of StackExchange, this was Wikipedia. Both are communities of experts that are sharing their knowledge in an organized format. Both are geared towards both learning from and teaching each other. If you learned something from Wikipedia and shared it without giving Wikipedia credit, how would Wikipedia "deal with" you? – KOVIKO Aug 13 '12 at 0:00
  • @fbueckert: He does not profit from the information on this site directly, because you cannot prove that people buy his guides because of the data he "stole" from here. But I agree that he should add Arquade to his sources. – ayckoster Aug 13 '12 at 14:12
  • I don't believe your reuse complies with the cc-by-SA license that covers both SE sites and Wikipedia. When you incorporate code from an SO answer into your project, you should be attributing that code to SO; if someone uses information from an SE site in a blog or a paper or whatever, they should similarly be attributing it to the site from which they derived their content. – Dave DuPlantis Aug 15 '12 at 13:55
  • @DaveDuPlantis That depends on whether I use physical code from an answer or I use knowledge obtained from an answer. As for information attribution, that's unreasonable. Information is all over the Internet and you'd be hard-pressed to find information here that wasn't first expressed elsewhere. Unless you are stealing content, plagiarizing, or using data that exists here and only here, the attribution to SE (or Wiki) simply isn't required. There is no way to lawfully require attribution of knowledge. – KOVIKO Aug 15 '12 at 14:18
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    With respect, I think you have it backward: you are stealing or plagiarizing only if you don't attribute the work according to the terms of the appropriate license. As it turns out, your analogy to SO is not perfect, because using source code from SO answers does not require attribution as long as you aren't publishing your code somewhere. The cases we're discussing with respect to Arqade answers do involve publishing content. – Dave DuPlantis Aug 15 '12 at 14:44
  • @DaveDuPlantis The blog in question gives attribution to official sources (though, sparsely) that our content is derived from. If I learn from Arqade that Minecraft mobs can't spawn on half-blocks, why would I provide attribution to Arqade instead of an official Mojang source? As for the sharing of knowledge versus content, if I learn from Arqade that the maximum level in Diablo 3 is 60, what sense would it make to attribute that knowledge to Arqade? – KOVIKO Aug 15 '12 at 15:12

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