I didn't realize that when you add a photo to SE from another website that the photo is actually copied from the original website to imgur.

How does this affect SE's TOS that require all subscriber content submitted to be licensed to SE under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license?

Let me give an example. I this answer of mine, I linked I included a photo from another website for which I have no rights over. I also included a 3d rendering of my own which is not at issue.

I obviously don't have the right to relicense that content to someone else. I thought I was merely providing the url to the photo in my answer and not the actual image. As best I understand it (IANAL) they are legally considered different.

How does that work out from a legal perspective? Does there need to be an exception in the TOS?

Fair use may apply in my example but I've seen a few other instances where photos and/or other content have been submitted which would not be considered exempt due to fair use or derivative work exceptions. These sources do not appear to be using a compatible license in some cases.

Also, I use my user profile photo I uploaded here on other sites. The TOS says I need to link to SE for any content I submit. Does this need to be modified? I think a different license or an exception to CCASA would be appropriate for user profile images. Possibly user bio text as well.

Any chance someone can weigh in on this?

  • 1
    I'll kick this up the chain, but I wouldn't concern yourself too much. It's SE's issue if an image copyright is violated not yours. And it's up to the content holder to file a DMCA takedown request.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 10, 2013 at 2:38

1 Answer 1


Technically, what you submit is a link to an image, not the image itself. Stack Exchange doesn't actually store the image. Imgur stores many of the images that show up on the site, but the link could be to anywhere on the web. On our Photography site, the issue came up and Stack Exchange's CFO weighed in:

We don't have any intention to own the copyright on your images, nor do we have any intention of changing the desired license on your images (i.e. by somehow magically making them cc-wiki).

Our content policy states:

Copyright. Using copyrighted material does not constitute infringement in all cases. In general, however, users should be careful when using copyrighted content without the permission of those who created it. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA").

When you upload an image, the licensing details are now referenced:

Image licence shown on upload.

We'd prefer if you didn't link to an image owned by someone who does not want it used on our site, but it's not your job to enforce copyright. It's not the moderator's job either.

As far as I know, avatars and user profiles fall under the same content policy as the rest of content submitted to the site. If you own the image you use as an avatar and the text you use in your profile, then you can choose what to do with them on other sites. Stack Exchange isn't interested in owning the copyright and presumably you won't come to Stack Exchange with a takedown notice. ;-)

  • It doesn't just get uploaded to imgur. It gets uploaded to a SE specific imgur url. The popup states that images are licensed under cc-wiki. It may not be SE intent to change the license but that's not how the policy reads. Imgur is not mentioned in the SE policy or on the popup. I'm uploading an image to a service other than SE and not advised of it or their policies. I brought up avatars because I thought it might be a hindrance if for example some manufacturer/group wanted to have a rep (expert) officially participate on the site and an exception might be a good idea. Sep 11, 2013 at 20:05
  • The imgur terms seem to also be incompatible with ccsa. Sep 11, 2013 at 20:06
  • For more details about Stack Exchange's agreement with Imgur, please see this question on the network-wide meta. Specifically: "Imgur will make no claim of copyright to any images stored by SE on the Image Server (other than Imgur's own copyrighted images and other works, if any)." Sep 11, 2013 at 20:08
  • What the CFO said contradicts what Jaydles said and nowhere in the SE TOS or in the image uploading process am I made aware of the involvement of imgur. According to Jaydles, images SE uploads to imgur fall under SE licensing. But which answer is correct? Anyway. I don't want to start a long discussion. I wanted to point out something I thought might be an issue and maybe someone can look it over to see if there is anything that needs changing. Sep 11, 2013 at 20:26
  • @OrganicLawnDIY: If you put the two together, they say that neither Imgur nor SE are interested in owning the copyright to uploaded images. A copyright holder may pursue the DCMA takedown process if they object to their images used on either site. It's an interesting question, for sure, but the answer turns out to be fairly mundane: it's come up on other sites and most of us just don't need to worry about it. Sep 11, 2013 at 20:39
  • One day SE may not be owned by the good people that run it now. I think the intent explained is the right approach but I'm not sure that the intent is properly expressed in the legalese. I didn't see a legal SE to ask the question. Is there one? Sep 12, 2013 at 1:04
  • @OrganicLawnDIY: At the bottom of every page is a link to stackexchange.com/legal . Sep 12, 2013 at 1:11
  • I meant a SEN site on law. Sep 12, 2013 at 3:52
  • @OrganicLawnDIY no there isn't. There have been a few proposed, but none that have ever gotten through to beta.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 12, 2013 at 12:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .