I know a lot of answers (including some of my own) are just copy/pasted from an official website that has the answer (See This Question).

Is this allowed or do copyright issues make this a bad thing to do?

If it isn't allowed we should try to make it more clear to the users because I see this all the time (I can go look if you don't believe me)

To fix, is it suitable to just paraphrase the C/P'd text instead of leaving it as is?

  • I just think that if it's a problem for Wikipedia and we use the same license, it's a problem for us as well. Slight rephrasing would do the trick.
    – badp
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:50
  • I asked a similar question here, if that helps at all. Linking so we have this all in one place for reference.
    – FAE
    Jul 28, 2010 at 10:55

3 Answers 3


I think it depends on what you're copying and to what extent.

In my opinion:

  • Copying a sections from a walkthrough available somewhere else online - OK as long as
    • It is attributed and linked to the actual source.
    • Only excerpts are copied and not entire sections or lists / tables.
  • Copying an anti-cheating policy of a company, or an FAQ item - OK, but should be linked just in case the policy changes or something.
  • Copying a few lines from a strategy guide which is not available for free - should be avoided. At most it can appear paraphrased and properly attributed.
  • copying from a blog / article / game review - OK as long as it's only excerpts and is attributed.

So I think the recurring theme above is that it's typically okay as long as you attribute / link your source, and only copy excerpts.

  • So for the question i linked, neither mine or Juan Manuel answer would be acceptable in your mind, since we copy basically whole paragraphs?
    – Josh K
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:10
  • 2
    @Josh I think a paragraph counts as an excerpt. I would call it that, at any rate. The important thing is that you're extracting the useful and relevant information as opposed to dumping the whole thing.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:11
  • @Grace Note So an excerpt would be even larger? Multiple paragaphs or a page of text?
    – Josh K
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:16
  • @Oak I noticed neither of our answers would be acceptable in your mind because we both use lists. What would you recommend as an alternative, seeing as those lists are provided good information towards the answer. I have seen this for other answers as well
    – Josh K
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:17
  • 2
    @Josh An excerpt is a cut out of the relevant portions that address what you are quoting for. A handful of sentences can be an excerpt from a paragraph, while a paragraph can be an excerpt from an essay.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:18
  • @Josh: actually the linked question falls under my 2nd bullet, where I didn't mention excerpts (although I did at the end...). In short, I think it's fine, and anyway I agree with @Grace that you copied only the relevant information there.
    – Oak
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:18
  • @Oak Ahh good point i misread that originally, this policy does seem fine but as badp notes, we aren't lawyers so legally it is hard to say
    – Josh K
    Jul 27, 2010 at 15:06

As long as the answerer is properly linking the source, then I don't see a problem with copy-pasting (as long as it is not excessive). That's pretty much what the quote formatting was designed for, after all. Remember that the ultimate effect of plagiarism is taking credit for others work as your own, which proper attribution counters. Since it is an official online resource for most of these, people can just click the link and quite easily tell that those are the same words.

Whether you paraphrase it or just copy the text directly, the important effect is that you're saving the question author the extra step of having to follow a link to yet another site.

  • 1
    I agree that the answer itself should be on this site and not just a link to another site. C/P is just really handy because often some where else has already answered that question (beauty of the internet)
    – Josh K
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:08
  • 2
    If we take example from Academic writing and in Journalism, has long as you properly cite the original source and give a reference, I think there is not problem because you give them the credit for the information.
    – DavRob60
    Jul 27, 2010 at 15:17

We use exactly the same license as Wikipedia does, so since we aren't lawyers I'm just going to link on their article about legal problems on non-free content.

  • That said, I'm not aware of StackOverflow ever being targeted by copyright lawsuits, unlike Wikipedia has.
    – badp
    Jul 27, 2010 at 14:56
  • 2
    This is a very valid point.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 27, 2010 at 15:13

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