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I was wondering what would happen if a high rep user decides to shutdown their account and take down their answers and questions.

I imagine stack exchange would want to stop that from happening because high rep users often have popular questions and answers. But can they?

Is there a legal doctrine that stack exchange can avail itself of?

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    Similar: law.stackexchange.com/questions/9343/… – Nate Eldredge Aug 10 '17 at 17:13
  • This is really a meta question and I've suggested it be transferred there. It also seems to have nothing to do with copyright. – ohwilleke Aug 10 '17 at 17:18
  • @ohwilleke: It actually would be a question of copyright to the extent Stack Exchange can invoke its license if the former user were to sue to have his or her prior contributions deleted after SE restores them. – Upnorth Aug 11 '17 at 1:00
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Condition 3 in the SE Terms of Service says that

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. You grant Stack Exchange the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and, except as otherwise set forth herein, to allow others to do so in any medium now known or hereinafter developed (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by You.

Your use of SE is predicated on agreeing to those various terms, and therefore they can prevent you from deleting your content. They can of course decide to allow you to delete content, but legally need not.

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