This question has code based on copyrighted code, and the copyright is still in the provided code:

* (C) Copyright 1992-2010 by Deitel & Associates, Inc. and               *
* Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.                           *

Should I not have -1'd the question and flagged it?


This is covered by section 3 of the Terms of Service (linked to from every page as “legal”):

You agree that all Subscriber Content that You contribute to the Network is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Exchange under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. […] Subscriber warrants, represents and agrees Subscriber has the right to grant Stack Exchange and the Network the rights set forth above. Subscriber represents, warrants and agrees that it will not contribute any Subscriber Content that (a) infringes, violates or otherwise interferes with any copyright or trademark of another party, […] (c) infringes any intellectual property right of another […]

The copyright notice by itself is not a problem (lots of open source contains them too, since all code is actually copyrighted). What is problematic is that it seems the poster does not actually have the license to release the code under CC-BY-SA (or release it at all).

I think flagging the question was the right thing to do and that at least the questionable part of the code should be removed. You might also consider editing the question to remove the problematic code.

But I don't think downvote is warranted, since this issue doesn't fall under what downvotes on questions are for (“This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful”).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've gone ahead and deleted the question. It is a bit extreme, but I don't see that I can extricate the problematic bits of the code without destroying the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Winston Ewert Feb 16 '13 at 4:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think Fair Use doctrine is likely relevant here as well. Specifically the notion that sharing a subsection of a copyrighted work does not necessarily violate copyright. While a question that shares a complete class or library that clearly is protected in a way that prevents the OP for sharing it may well be questionable, a question that shares snippets of such code may not be, even if in the latter case it's still equally clear that the OP has no license to be sharing/copying/distributing the code in question. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Feb 19 '13 at 13:01

We certainly don't want moderators to avoid acting if they feel it's necessary or for a site's community to avoid developing their own policies about what's acceptable, but I feel I should note that in general moderators should not feel obligated to act on alleged copyright or other legal violations.

We have a process for copyright owners to report any infringement directly to us here at Stack Exchange. It is described in section 15 of our Terms of Service. This avoids placing volunteer moderators into a position where they have to judge the validity of claims and allows us to follow a well-defined and legally defensible process.


I'm the OP of the question. It would have been nice to allow me to get the feedback from the respondents since we all put in a fair amount of time and effort and that is all wasted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What you've done is most likely illegal and I really don't think we want to support that kind of behavior. It's too bad that effort was wasted, but I do think deleting the question was the best approach here. Besides, it seems you did get the chance to read the feedback others gave you. \$\endgroup\$ – svick Feb 16 '13 at 12:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Greetings, if you were to refactor the class Hand out of PlayDeck, and just pust that code, I am sure we could review it without having access to the copyrighted part. \$\endgroup\$ – konijn Feb 16 '13 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your question lives on in Google's web cache. Or at least it will, for a time. Unfortunately it appears that there were no comments or answers against it at the time it was cached. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Feb 19 '13 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @svick - I think you may be coming down too harshly here. The copyright notice makes it clear that the copyrighted work is an entire book, not just the code in question. Reproducing just that code would not likely to be ruled as infringing on the book's copyright. Moreover, the disclaimer in the copyright block strongly implies that the authors of the book do not mind if people use their code, provided that they (the authors) are not held liable should anything bad happen. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Feb 19 '13 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aroth But using code is not the same as republishing it under CC-BY-SA. And I agree there are limits, for example, I sometimes include quotes of copyrighted works in my SE posts. But I do think copying a whole non-trivial class is beyond that limit. \$\endgroup\$ – svick Feb 19 '13 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @svick - I agree, this is likely in the gray area. Probably it's somewhere between a college professor xeroxing a chapter out of a textbook and distributing copies to his students (probably okay) and a college professor xeroxing a chapter out of a textbook and submitting it to a publisher under his own name (probably not okay)? But I wouldn't go so far as to label it illegal or imply that it's immoral/bad behavior. In any case, I think the real issue is that current copyright law is woefully inadequate/broken in light of modern technological advancements; it needs serious reform. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth Feb 20 '13 at 2:30

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