I’ve seen some similar questions, but was wondering about a more specific case. I wrote a Stack Exchange answer, and would like to use it in one section of a book I’m writing (which will be commercially sold). I also modified the answer, and added to it, but some original passages remain. I’m wondering if, as the author, and with proper attribution that the section is based on my Stack Exchange answer, with a link, this is legally acceptable?


3 Answers 3


Yes, that’s allowed. Under the Stack Exchange terms of service, content you upload is licensed to Stack Exchange Inc. on a non-exclusive basis under CC-BY-SA 4.0. The terms of service do not give Stack Exchange the copyright to your contributions, and a non-exclusive license means you are not promising Stack Exchange that “only Stack Exchange will be allowed to use this content.” That means you can continue to do whatever you want with your own content and do not need to mention Stack Exchange at all. The only restriction is that you can’t stop Stack Exchange from continuing to use your Stack Exchange content under CC-BY-SA 4.0, and since it’s a Creative Commons license you also can’t stop anyone else from using your Stack Exchange content under that license.

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    @Skeptic The ":share alike" provision means that if someone else uses the answer(or a work derived from the answer), that person must release it under the same or a compatible license. But the copyright holder (normally the author) of the answer is not bound by the license, and may use the answer in any way that s/he pleases, and need not keep it under anyy CC license. Commented May 15, 2022 at 19:41
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    @Skeptic A bookl incorporating part of an answer would be a separate work, under a possibly different license (probably "all rights reserved"). No one would have any different rights to the part derived from the answer than to any other part of the book. However anyone could use the original, unmodified answer, from the original SE post.. But not any rights to any modifications released only with the book. Commented May 15, 2022 at 19:45
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    Crucially, you have not given StackExchange the copyright. It's your work, but you're allowing them to show it under a particular license, in the same way that you don't give GitHub the copyright to code you upload to it, merely permission to display the code on their website (assuming your repo is public, of course). So you can still do whatever you wish to the answer you wrote, since it does belong to you. Commented May 16, 2022 at 0:49
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    It may be worth noting in the answer that one ramification of not being able to stop SE from continuing to use the content is that you can’t give anyone else an exclusive license. I don’t know the publishing industry that well, but it wouldn’t shock me if publishers generally expect the contents of things they publish to be exclusively theirs to publish. That couldn’t be the case for an SE answer (though of course an SE answer does not constitute a full book in the first place, and presumably the rest of the book would be exclusive).
    – KRyan
    Commented May 16, 2022 at 1:12
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    @KRyan enough non-fiction books will deal with quotes that aren't available under exclusive licenses. so they should be able to handle excerpts that aren't under exclusive license Commented May 16, 2022 at 13:08

I also modified the answer, and added to it, but some original passages remain.

If the content is strictly your own plain text and equations that's one thing, but some posts may also contain block quotes from other sources and/or images, and their status will have to be examined separately and individually beyond SE's CC-BY-SA.


I believe there is another issue you may have to consider, and that's your contract with the book publisher. You have already granted some rights to Stack Exchange, and that means you cannot assign all rights to the publisher, which they may by default want you to do.

The thing is, this is between you and the publisher and they will probably be okay if they don't have exclusive rights to a few paragraphs of the book. I am just making the point that the publisher also does have a stake in what you have done with the material before.

I am very much not a lawyer but this might be something to ask more knowledgeable people about.

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