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One of several problems of having a creative commons (CC) license for code generated on Code Review, is that it is incompatible with major software licenses. Your project would have to either have to be re-licensed to, or already use a license compatible with CC to use Code Review contributions. If the licensing could be changed to a more permissive license, say MIT, it would be much easier to integrate code from Code Review into existing projects.

Therefore, I suggest (request) that the license of code in Code Review contributions be changed to MIT.


From creativecommons.org (emphasis mine):

Unlike software-specific licenses, CC licenses do not contain specific terms about the distribution of source code, which is often important to ensuring the free reuse and modifiability of software. Many software licenses also address patent rights, which are important to software but may not be applicable to other copyrightable works. Additionally, our licenses are currently not compatible with the major software licenses, so it would be difficult to integrate CC-licensed work with other free software. Existing software licenses were designed specifically for use with software and offer a similar set of rights to the Creative Commons licenses.

From creativecommons.org (emphasis mine):

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

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    \$\begingroup\$ CR/SO contributions are knowledge, not software. Why take something simple and make it complicated? \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Oct 7 '16 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mat'sMug CR contributions often quite literally contain software. You can't just pretend it's not software. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 2:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, what then, let's shut down Stack Exchange and sue millions of users for breaching a license that may possibly sometimes be applicable? What about GPL? What about existing posts from 2008 and onward? \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Oct 7 '16 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mat'sMug Why would you need to shut down SE? What about GPL? Existing posts could keep their current license, which is CC. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a network-wide discussion that belongs on the network-wide meta. I'd migrate it if it wasn't a duplicate of the existing discussion about changing the license on SE sites. Feel free to chip in here, or request a follow-up about it on MSE. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Oct 7 '16 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mat'sMug I'm asking about CR specifically though. The link is very relevant, but discusses something different. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 2:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK SE will not make per-site licenses. \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Oct 7 '16 at 2:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mat'sMug if that's true, that might make for a good answer, and reason for setting the status-declined tag. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 2:50
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Stack Exchange staff proposed a license change to MIT within the last year. In my argument against the change, I pointed out that it was a bad idea, especially for Code Review, since our intention is to share code for discussion, not to give it away, which is what an MIT license would essentially do. On top of that, there were over a dozen issues raised by many members of the community.

This is such a complicated issue that you're going to have discussions about how to have the discussion. You're welcome to try, but trust me, you don't want to go there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hope I'm not being too heavy-handed in citing three of my own posts and ending the discussion, but the votes seem to indicate that there is community consensus. \$\endgroup\$ – 200_success Oct 7 '16 at 7:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ You probably have consensus, but one thing to consider is that MSE is network-wide. You haven't gauged consensus in the isolation of CR (at least I don't think so). \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 7:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. We can let this discussion run its course. \$\endgroup\$ – 200_success Oct 7 '16 at 7:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ To comment a bit on the content of what you linked: there seems to be an assumption with part of the community that code in SE questions and answers isn't licensed. It is my understanding that it is. Now, you suggest that you are sharing code for discussion, and not giving it away, but with the CC license, you are giving the code away. It's just given away in an inconvenient non-permissive form. Does my thinking here make sense to you? \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 7:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmaniKilumanga not necessarily, but I think the consensus is - just don't post proprietary code. Obfuscate it or try to find someone that will sign an NDA and do the review for you via freelancing. You can dual license your code, if you want. Most of my code is MIT, but once part of (or all of) it is here, it's not my decision on how it's used if gained from here. \$\endgroup\$ – Raystafarian Oct 7 '16 at 11:43
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Problems you point out with the CC-BY-SA license:

  • Incompatible with major software licenses
  • Code has to be re-licensed, if incompatible

And so I think you're coming at this completely the wrong way.

Firstly, at Code Review we teach you to code better. You provide code for us to critique and should grow as a programmer out of it. We're not here as free, near public domain, code writers, as this is a site to teach and to learn.

Secondly, there are three groups of people that care about licensing:

  1. Askers preferably want to post under the same license or sublicense their work. An asker that writes GPL code don't want to relicense their code under MIT. This is as they then have to give users more or different permissions to their code. They would prefer to stay away from re-licensing if possible.

  2. Readers care about licenses when they want to use the code. Since Code Review has sizeable portions of working code, a user may want to just copy and paste the code and use it. They normally want the most permissive license they can get their hands on.

  3. Curators want to prevent license violations. (Relicensing code you don't own.)

The cost for changing from CC-BY-SA to MIT is that anyone can use code on Code Review however they wish. The benefit is, if you're using MIT, you don't have to re-license or sublicense your code. This doesn't sound like a good trade-off to me.

And so, no, we should not use MIT on Code Review.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the drawback to changing from cc to MIT you are suggesting? I don't know if that was completely clear. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmaniKilumanga Hmm I may have been a bit sparse on that. So I will add more to the answer. But I don't think it follows what CR is about, we are here to improve peoples abilities at programming. Not hand anyone and everyone code on a silver, MIT, spoon. \$\endgroup\$ – Peilonrayz Oct 7 '16 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much appreciated. But if that is what it boils down to, then the bronze, CC, spoon doesn't sound much better. It really sounds like (at this point in time) like you want to prevent people from using CR code and implementing it in their projects. Anyways, looking forward to additions to your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Amani Kilumanga Oct 7 '16 at 14:09

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