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I did not read user agreement - maybe you did? BUT!, does the content of the answers belongs to a given user as intellectual property? Such, that when user is suspended he can demand to remove he's answers from the site in order to be fair? Interesting topic for a website with private ownership.

UPDATE:

To sum up long and interesting discussion below:

  • SE is licensed under CC-wiki license with Attribution required, you can read it here http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

  • There is a post on S[OFU] about same topic with more details: Who owns the copyright to S[OFU] content?

  • Stack exchange CAN USE your work(user generated content) to earn money. This is written in the short summary of the license hyperlinked above.

  • Effectively you retain only CREDITS on your work. But not the rights to remove it from circulation or issue a new license which will contradict / constrain CC-wiki (this part is declared in termination section of CC-wiki).

  • License is effectively INFINITE (up to the limits of international law, about 60 years)

  • There is no WAY to terminate this license by the will of the creators (users).

UPDATE II:

Good news. If we look at UK CC license (lest assume our user lives in UK), we read following (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/legalcode):

"2.3. This License does not affect any rights that the User may have under any applicable law, including fair use, fair dealing or any other legally recognized limitation or exception to copyright infringement."

So if I understand correctly - when user gets BANNED from this website he can remove all he's work from here. At least in UK. Am I correct?

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    $\begingroup$ No, I don't think that your interpretation is correct. A copyright holder has no right to retract permission to use a work unless parties violate the terms of the license agreed to by both parties. The CC license says you grant permission forever unless SE violates the CC license, at which point you may revoke your permission. Otherwise you may not. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @tph2114 What does this paragraph means in your opinion?? $\endgroup$ – Asphir Dom Aug 31 '13 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ You may however, request that your name be disassociated with the content. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 31 '13 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ That paragraph means that you are still the copyright holder. Just like it says. But Stack Exchange holds a license to the work forever, because you gave it to them. That means that Stack Exchange has---forever---the right to use that content in keeping with the terms of the CC-AT-SA. You seem to think that being the rights holder somehow entitles you to remove permission to existing licensees, but that is not the case unless the license explicitly allows that. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 31 '13 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth pointing out that the CC-BY-SA license used by SE is exactly the same license as the one used by Wikipedia. Also, section 2.3 quoted above has nothing to do with the user's rights on his own contributed answers. Fair use is about a limited exception to copyright if you want to copy material whose copyright is owned by someone else. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Aug 31 '13 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ (1) We don't ban, we suspend. All suspensions are for a limited duration and (2) Stack Exchange is still a licensee for the content that you posted here. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 31 '13 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom How are you defining moral rights? It sounds like you are implying that a suspended user is somehow violated in someway. In reality, SE has been violated by the user resulting in the suspension. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom But none of that has to do with the license for content. You are arguing that a user may take SE to court to overturn a suspension. The court would have to decide based on the Terms of Service (stackexchange.com/legal) which is wholly distinct from the licensing of content through CC. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ A user being suspended or not does not violate any of the terms of the CC license. The only way to terminate the CC license is if the licensee violates the terms (reproducing without credit for example). Has nothing to do with the Terms of Service for using SE websites. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ If that is what you are arguing then you are simply wrong. It doesn't matter how much rep the user may or may not have, the license has been conveyed. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 31 '13 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom Rep has nothing to do with it. A user may request to remove the posts. But SE is under no obligation to do so. The license is irrevocable. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom All I can tell you is this -- if you don't want SE to have your contributions forever, then don't contribute. The ToS and CC license make it very clear that those are the rules. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 31 '13 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom You are in effect simply trying to assert that your, personal, analysis of what is fair in this relationship should be the law, but the law is what it is not what you hope that it is. The Creative Common's licenses were written with great care to use the framework of international copyright law to make material widely and easily available rather than to tightly control access as is often the intent. That pretty much thwarts your desires in this situation. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 31 '13 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee: Think about it this way. I buy a book from, say Tor publishing. That means I have a license to one physical copy of that text from the author by way of his (or her) designated business agent the publisher. Not true. Buying a book does not mean buying a license. There is no license. This is related to the US first sale doctrine. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Aug 31 '13 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ You seem to be assuming that "applicable law" does not contain licensing laws. That is not true, once you fully license your content to SE (regardless of the other license; even if you disallow any use of the material this still applies) they are legally allowed to use it however they wish. "Fair use" is totally different. If, for example, you have some copyrighted content, and some other person wishes to use it without needing to contact you, there are very limited uses known as "fair use" in which that person can use your work without your permission. Irrelevant here. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 1 '13 at 7:32
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The owner retains the copyright for what is written, but by submitting it to the site he/she irrevocably allows StackExchange to use, modify, and create derivative work from it forever. This is why anybody is allowed to edit questions/answers without the original poster's consent.

So no, a user may not demand that SE take down data he/she has posted. The user may ask but SE is not obligated in any way to do so.

At least that's my interpretation of the license.

EDIT

To clarify, let's pretend that this is the conversation that happens when you submit something:

User: Hi StackExchange, I've created this awesome answer and would like to post it.

StackExchange: Great job User! Just so you know, if you submit this to me, you own the copyright of what you post. But, you do agree that I can use it forever, and I can modify or share it, but I always have to attribute it to you if I do. That also means that anybody else who uses it may do so also, but they have to attribute it as well.

User: So if I want to reuse what I post here, I can?

StackExchange; Yes, you own the copy right. The license even allows waivers of clauses if the copyright holder agrees. This means you don't need to attribute it to yourself if you don't want to. It also means you can derive other work from it and you don't need to use Creative Commons if you do. But I have to use Creative Commons if I derive anything from it.

User: But what if I want my content removed? Can that happen?

StackExchange: You let me use it forever in any way I see fit. So if you want it removed, you may ask politely but I am not obligated to remove it.

User: I get it now! Here is my awesome answer!

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I did not get it yet. What benefits does the owner get from he's imaginary rights if he can not use them? What are the situations in which i can use this rights? $\endgroup$ – Asphir Dom Aug 29 '13 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom What rights are you talking about? $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ That's the general consensus on the license I've heard, but for some reason the powers-that-be have been extremely reluctant to directly say that you do not transfer ownership. I understand some hesitation while consulting a lawyer, but 4 years?! $\endgroup$ – user10851 Aug 29 '13 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom You may use your own IP anyway you want, including licensing it to others under some other set of conditions if you want (and someone is willing). But you have granted Stack Exchange a CC-BY-SA license which means that other can also use the content as long as they comply. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 29 '13 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ Well, if i create a song i have full control upon it, i can demand youtube to remove copies of it if i wish so. This i understand as a WORKING copyright. $\endgroup$ – Asphir Dom Aug 29 '13 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't want to license your content under the CC, then don't post it here. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Aug 29 '13 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom There is a big difference. When you create a post and upload it, you agree to the terms for submission. Which says that you are allowing SE to use, modify, distribute forever the work you are uploading $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Asphir I'm not sure what you mean by "effective copyright" but you do remain the copyright owner of any content you contribute to SE. However, when you contribute that content, you agree to let SE use it. Being the copyright owner does not give you the right to revoke that agreement. Just like tpg2114's answer says. $\endgroup$ – David Z Aug 29 '13 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom Absolutely not. Not even close. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom "Actual working legal powers" depends on your country of origin. But, if somebody used the post on SE in violation of the CC license, you, as copyright holder, have the legal right to pursue action against that person. Because you own the copyright and the only thing you let out was "Somebody may use this under the CC license and must attribute me." So if that wasn't done, you have all the normal legal rights of a copyright holder whose copyright was violated. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom I see your point. There are 2 aspects to ownership in legal theory - the right to use and the right to exclude. You retain your right to use, but you effectively surrender your right to exclude, since as long as SE wants it will distribute the content with (almost) no strings attached. You own the copyright, but it has lost most of its teeth. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Aug 29 '13 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom Whereas here, all you said is "I give you the rights to use, modify, and distribute this work under CC forever so long as you attribute it to me." $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom Regarding temporal limits: creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode No, there is none if you read section 7. Termination. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ And this is a really great time to point out that I am not a lawyer, I have no legal training, and anything said here is my opinion and I do not purport to be giving a legally binding or accurate interpretation of anything. So your mileage may vary. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 29 '13 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @AsphirDom To be clear: If any other site copies your content without attribution, you can get it taken down. But you have irrevocably licensed it to SE, so you cannot force them to take it down. This happens in the music industry too, and it's called the same thing -- "licensing". You can give a third party the right to sell your song, and you can't force them to stop selling it later. Of course, the CC-BY-SA thing is another difference between this and the music industry -- people are free to copy-paste your work as long as you get credited in a specific manner. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 30 '13 at 4:40
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From a practical user-ship perspective, you can not delete your contributions which are questions or answers. There are ways that you could try to fight this. Particularly, there was once a user who edit all their questions and answers to be blank as a protest to the banning of a different user. I do not know what the resolution of that, but it would be consistent with policy that moderators reverted all those edits - and that is what you should expect if you do the same.

Stack Exchange is privy to concerns of privacy and online reputation. Deleting your account takes moderator action, but it's a rubber stamp. Anyone may delete their account, and their username will be removed from all their Qs and As. This is important, because maybe someone wants to carefully manage the type of content on their stack exchange network, and they don't feel that contributions somewhere were not in keeping with the decorum of their online reputation. They can remove their identity, but their contributions remain as a nameless Qs and As.

That's basically all I wanted to add. Redacting your contributions is both legally and technically impossible, but Stack Exchange does allow withdrawal of credit (which is legally at their discretion).

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    $\begingroup$ Note that it is also possible to get posts dissociated from your account. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 1 '13 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think pho did that... $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Sep 1 '13 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth How? $\endgroup$ – Keep these mind Sep 1 '13 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @aufkag You ask a moderator, or more preferably use the "contact us" form. Try to give reasons. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Sep 2 '13 at 7:32

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