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Does SE return the copyright to its contributors in order for them to partially/completely republish their own material in some peer-reviewed journals, or any written permissions from SE are required?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the license for the content I post?. $\endgroup$ – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 7 '20 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ The potential problem is not at the SE end but instead whether the journal will allow that the material has been published before on SE. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Nov 8 '20 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Unpublished material is not mainstream physics, yet. It should not appear on SE. $\endgroup$ – my2cts Nov 8 '20 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @my2cts I try to amend this deficiency by publishing my off-beat SE material in some mainstream journals as fast as possible, I'm sorry if I made any inconvenience to you! $\endgroup$ – Mohammad Javanshiry Nov 8 '20 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ I hope that, after publishing them in a journal, I do not encounter any unrelenting reactions regarding those questions if I reshare them here. That will probably depend on the perceived quality of the journal as well as the perceived quality of your arguments. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Nov 8 '20 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think you have an incorrect understanding of what “mainstream physics” means on this site. “What defines mainstream physics? Mainstream physics is physics which has been accepted by a significant portion of the physics community.” Merely publishing in a peer-reviewed journal does not make your ideas accepted. Journals publish plenty of incorrect ideas that never get accepted. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Nov 8 '20 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Deletion of low-quality questions and answers is part of the normal operation of SE. There is nothing unprofessional about maintaining PSE’s quality standards; this is what members are expected to do. By stating this fact I am not making any judgement of the quality of your questions and answers, which I have not recently reviewed. Regarding your suggestion to me, I have published multiple papers in a journal that is not merely reputable but top-tier, but they were not based on my answers here. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Nov 8 '20 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Dissenting points of view regarding physics are not necessarily irrational. They may make perfect sense. But because they dissent from the mainstream view, they are by definition not part of mainstream physics and are therefore off-topic on this site. You have been on this site long enough to know that one of the standard question-closure reasons says “We deal with mainstream physics here.” And I have shown you this site’s definition of that. I understand that you don’t like this policy, but that’s irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Nov 10 '20 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ I think you are operating under the false assumption that questions are closed just because users don't know how to answer the question. It also seems like you are operating under the false assumption that one of PSE's goals is to push the frontier of physics research. Neither of your assumptions are warranted. This is a Q&A site with specific policies. If questions or answers do not adhere to those policies then they are deleted. If you do not like this, then perhaps PSE is not for you. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 11 '20 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ Just because many of your questions have been closed doesn't mean moderators and users are being tricky. Have you considered the possibility that you just don't understand how the site works? $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 11 '20 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @MohammadJavanshiry Time won't change what the site rules are right now though. $\endgroup$ – JMac Nov 11 '20 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Your attitude to criticism on SE suggests to me you will find peer review an exceptionally painful process. The rules here are well defined and public by comparison with the processes used to review articles prior to publication in journals. You really need to learn to accept rejection as a practical reality other people have the right to use. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Nov 12 '20 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ Also, consider asking a separate meta question if you have contentions regarding specific closure cases. Or, ask a question about why a certain policy is a certain way, you're welcome to raise questions about policies and propose changes. Endlessly debating tangential points in comments is not helpful. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. Nov 12 '20 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. "Endlessly debating tangential points in comments is not helpful." I thought that was the point of meta comments? ;) $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Nov 12 '20 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist Really? I mean I realize that meta is not as stringent as main but the discussion here seemed completely unrelated to the question asked (in the sense that if someone just read, say, the 8th or the 9th comment, they wouldn't have guessed the topic of the question with any accuracy). Anyway, I have been a source of many many comment "wars" so who am I to say ;) $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. Nov 12 '20 at 17:20
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As mentioned in the comments, the Stack Exchange terms of service speficy that:

  • You retain the copyright of any content you post to Stack Exchange
  • When you post, you are making the content available to the public (and within that, to Stack Exchange) under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (with the precise version depending on when the content was posted).

As far as Stack Exchange is concerned, you own the content and you are able to publish it in any form you want.

Of course, pre-publication on Stack Exchange could make some journals and publishers refuse to publish the material, but that is a question that we cannot answer for you.

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While you mention publishing your own material, note that if you are publishing material from answers or questions by other people you need to at least make that clear.

There have been cases of people selling eBooks based entirely on Q&A material from sites on SE. That was material they did not themselves write. This is seemingly legal. You would, however, normally be required to acknowledge the use of material from SE in any such publication (as was done in those cases eventually, IIRC). You should not e.g. publish material from an answer by someone else and not make it clear that it was from them.

I would recommend reading the posts about the subject on this Q&A : Somebody scraped our answers and sold them as a book

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    $\begingroup$ It is entirely legal for anybody to sell eBook collections of Stack Exchange content (so long as they respect the license conditions), i.e. there's no "seemingly" about it. Every time you post content on Stack Exchange, you are certifying that you're OK with saying to anyone that they can redistribute your content, even commercially, under the CC BY-SA conditions. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Nov 12 '20 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ ... but then again, if they don't keep those terms (as was the case in the thread you linked to), then it absolutely isn't legal. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Nov 12 '20 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ "You would, however, normally be required to acknowledge the use of material from SE in any such publication."Not "normally" but always. The BY in the CC BY-SA stands to signify that you have to give credit to the original creator of the content. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. Nov 12 '20 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. The copyright owner can waive any licence requirements, including attribution. $\endgroup$ – Brian Drake Nov 15 '20 at 9:37
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Does SE return the copyright to its contributors

No, SE can’t “return” something that they never had. Each contributor owns the copyright on their contributions the whole time (assuming these contributions are actually their own work), unless they enter into some other agreement regarding this copyright.

Contrary to what is suggested in the top-voted answer, I cannot find a clear statement of this. But we don’t need one. Copyright doesn’t get transferred unless applicable law specifically provides for this or the copyright owner agrees, and neither of those applies to SE contributions in general.

in order for them to partially/completely republish their own material in some peer-reviewed journals

Even if SE owned the copyright and subsequently transferred this ownership back to the contributor, the contributor would be free to exercise all of their rights under copyright, not just publishing the material in selected publications.


You may be thinking of how some journals require authors to transfer the copyright to the publisher. In that case, the publisher may licence certain rights back to the authors. That is different to transferring ownership back to the authors, which is what the phrase “return the copyright” suggests.

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    $\begingroup$ The legal ToS explicitly exclude a transfer of copyright (i.e. content is "perpetually and irrevocably licensed", but copyright is not transferred) by not including that language where it would otherwise need to be. If you want an explicit discussion about this, this thread on Meta SE seems to be the canonical thread there. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Nov 16 '20 at 11:07

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