The problem of copyrighted images and fair used recently arose here: What does the final て in 待ってて signify?

That's the first place I've seen this issue arise, but that's probably not the first case of having a copyrighted image posted to SE. I myself used an illustration from a dictionary once, and I've seen other helpful illustrations and diagrams being posted. Sooner or later, we'll need a policy for such cases.

I would like to think that was all legal, and I would hate to lose all these nice images, but it's not for me to decide. It should probably be decided by Stack Exchange, really, since they are the ones facing litigation if anything goes wrong, but I just don't know what is SE's policy about that - if they have one.

I guess US law applies here, which means fair use, safe harbor and cease and desist letters. This all sounds quite lenient to me, but IANAL, and I know that at least fair use is a very tricky subject with no defined guidelines. So I'd feel more comfortable if I have a clear (or even semi-clear) answer about that.

1 Answer 1


I think that we should not have a policy at all, but instead let the users police their own contributions. Users should obey the laws by which they are governed and moderators cannot and should not have to compel them to do so.

However each SE user is also bound by the agreement they've made with SE by using the site. It is up to them not to violate it.

In the event that there is a clear violation, the community can always flag the post, or if they have the rights, edit it outright.

I've come to this way of thinking based upon what I've read in the Should moderators enforce NDAs for software vendors and the Clarifying fair use regarding a Stack Exchange site and an imgur hosted image threads.

Ultimately, letting the users police themselves seems to be in the best interest of SE, shielding it from liability.

  • Sounds good, in case SE is fine with that. As far as I understand, safe harbor means that they won't be sued if they comply with takedown requests when a copyrighted material (uploaded by one of the users) surfaces.
    – Boaz Yaniv
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 21:53
  • I agree with you. Maybe I should not have posted the first comment on the question, but excuse me for that. Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 22:53
  • No, need to excuse you for anything. I definitely think it's good that you raised the issue. The more issues we encounter in the beta, the better! Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 20:24

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