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today I will be deleting all questions and answers I have written on this site before the 5th of September 2019. This is due to the re-licensing effective from the same date. This post serves as a notice to the moderators who will be dealing with my flags.


My problem is, I was not asked to relicense my content, but rather told that this is what will happen. If I did nothing, I would implicitly agree to it. Since I was not asked for consent I get the feeling that, from SO's perspective, it's "our way or the highway", so to speak. I respect SO's decision. I will take the highway.


Some Q&A:

  • Who do you think you are? We don't care about your stupid content anyway
    • Good. Please delete it.
  • You're not hurting SO, you're hurting the community. Do you not care about that?
    • I do care, which is why I contributed in the first place. The platform is increasingly callous to its treatment of unpaid contributors, such as myself, and I do not wish to grant it any more authority over my content than it already has.
  • What about disassociating the posts from your account?
    • No, it doesn't work for me. I'd like the content attributed to myself, as originally licensed. The second part is no longer possible, and disassociating the account does not solve my problem.
  • Deleting content en-masse might be disruptive to the day-to-day of the site, and creates a lot of work for the mods
    • Re-licensing my content without as much as a by-your-leave is disruptive to me. I'm sure the site will recover and this will be forgotten shortly. As for the moderators, they asked for the job, and this is part of the job.
  • Why now? Why have you waited all this time?
    • I had other things to worry about in the meantime. It's not like I got advance notice or anything.

Edit

I would like to ask a moderator to kindly lift the delete limit from my account, if possible, to make the process faster. Alternatively, if a bulk-delete option is available, I'd be grateful if it was used. At the moment I have 217 answers which would take 40 days to delete with the current limit of 5 deletes per day.

Edit 2

I have used the "Contact" section at the bottom to ask SO employees to take care of this, thus freeing up the mods.

Edit 3

If you're interested in this I recommend reading this post by Thomas Owens on Meta.SO (thanks to Mister Positive for finding it). Thomas does a much better job of expressing it than I ever could. I will quote the relevant bits here, emphasis added:

4.c in CC-BY-SA addresses distribution of the Work in a Collection. It requires that all copyright notices remain intact. Prior to September 5, the Collections were also distributed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

and

8.a [...] "Each time You Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work or a Collection, the Licensor offers to the recipient a license to the Work on the same terms and conditions as the license granted to You under this License." Again, "You" refers to SE distributing individuals Works in a Collection.

The upgrade guidelines state that you must either a) obtain consent to relicense, or b) clearly display the license version.

To restate my grievance:

  1. I was never asked
  2. The older license version does not appear on my old posts1

That's two violations of the old license, which, by the way, is still in effect.

1 When I visited an early post of mine, from January 2019, I did not see anywhere on the page (rev 2020.1.24.35889) any reference to cc-by-sa other than for version 4. Further, the license cannot be determined by a third party as there is no field (that I could find) in the Workplace.Posts schema on Data.SE.


Edit 4

I'm happy to report I received a timely reply from the Stack Exchange team, which I read before writing Edit 3 above. Thank you guys, I sincerely appreciate it.

I hope you don't mind2 me quoting here, since I believe this has wider interest.

My Message

Hello, I would like to delete all my content posted on or before the 5th of September 2019. This is due to relicensing effective from that date. I explain my reasoning further in the link below. Thank you for your time.

Their Response

Hi [name]

Unfortunately, we cannot grant your request. All posts are licensed to us for use under the perpetual license of Creative Commons and cannot be removed by request.

You can, however, delete your profile which removes your credit as a Licensor per Section 4(c) of the Creative Commons license. The content itself is part of the collection of Stack Exchange and the collective effort of other users who have also contributed to that content.

I hope that you understand our position and that you continue to find Stack Overflow a valuable resource.

Regards,
Stack Overflow Team

2 If you do mind, I'm happy for you to do your edit-history-proof magic.

I will respond here. My responses are indexed for ease of reference, but not in any particular order.

  1. I do and will find SO a valuable resource
  2. Believe it or not, I do understand your position. My original post here, and my message to you, was lacking context. I hope I provided this missing context in Edit 3 above
  3. For those contributions of mine which I made after your announcement:
    1. I'm happy to have them licensed under version 4
    2. I'm happy for my future content to be licensed under version 4
    3. I do not grant you the right to re-license them in a way that violates the new license
  4. Any contributions I made under version 3 are still licensed in that version, because I was never asked to re-license them
    1. You do not display the correct license version on these posts
    2. Your announcement and subsequent communication is not clear on this issue, making it seem like the license update applies to all posts, old or new

Which leads me to answer why I asked you to delete my content: Because you are misreporting the license, which is a violation of its terms.

Any technical measures that could redress this (such as displaying the correct license version) are relatively easy to implement. Since you have not done this already, I assume you never will, so there is no point asking you to fix it like that. Therefore, I ask that you remove content provided to you under version 3, which does not display the correct license.

Final Edit

I won't bore you with this much longer, this thing is coming to an end. Thank you, kind reader, for keeping up so far.

SO's reply to me is not just polite boilerplate, as I originally thought. Here's why:

The content itself is part of the collection of Stack Exchange

The word collection here has a specific meaning

1b. "Collection" means a collection of [...] works, in which the Work is included in its entirety in unmodified form along with one or more other contributions, [...] which together are assembled into a collective whole. [...]

Further:

[...] This Section 4(a) applies to the Work as incorporated in a Collection, but this does not require the Collection apart from the Work itself to be made subject to the terms of this License. [...]

Here's what I understand from this, without any legal training: SO has the right to create a Collection, which includes work licensed under v3, but is not obliged to license the Collection under the same terms.

Fair enough.

  1. I license Work to SO under v3
  2. SO creates a Collection, which includes my work, under a different license
  3. SO did not address my main concern, that they violated our licensing agreement

This leads me to believe that SO is licensing the collection of works, as displayed on their site, under a different license. To my understanding, this is why they're relicensing en-masse. They're not relicensing individual works, but the collection.

To my understanding, this means they can make the collection fully proprietary if they want, but they still must, per our licensing agreement, display the original license under which the work was contributed. SO has refused to do this, which means one of the following:

  1. My understanding is correct and the license is violated
  2. My understanding is incorrect and the license is not violated

If (1): SO doesn't care about violating the license. They owe me no money anyway so they don't care about damages.

If (2): What is the point of having a license, and making such fanfare about it, when the license doesn't actually govern our relationship? This dishonest and misleading.

In either case, (1) being real-politik and (2) being pure bullshit, I do not see a reason why I should participate in something where the terms are either intentionally obfuscated or outright ignored.

Fare well.

In case you were wondering, the venerated data dump does not include the correct license either

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  • 7
    I would like to ask a moderator to kindly lift the delete limit from my account, if possible, to make the process faster. The software doesn't permit mods to do this. Alternatively, if a bulk-delete option is available, I'd be grateful if it was used. I don't think a tool like this exists for high rep users (account destruction not applicable). – mag Jan 24 at 12:10
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    Realistically speaking, I don't think you'll receive a reply from the SO team, the contact us tickets have been very slow for many months now, and that was before they fired some CMs, further stretching the team thin. I'm also no sure that they'll agree to your request, and I don't think the mods here will just let you delete your content or deface it. Standard procedure for something like that is a suspension for the user doing it. – mag Jan 24 at 12:12
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    Seems like you probably won't have a way of redress outside of obtaining a court order. If you're serious about this, it's probably best to contact a lawyer specializing in copyright law and see what exact recourse (if any) you have about this. – mag Jan 24 at 12:13
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    @rath You may get more attention from staff if you post this on Meta.SE, especially if it results in other users deciding to follow suit. – David K Jan 24 at 13:23
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  • Can someone explain "Unfortunately, we cannot grant your request."? As far as I can tell, even if everything they said was true, it'd mean that they aren't obligated to grant the request, not that they're forbidden from doing so. – Andrew Grimm Jan 25 at 4:48
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    @AndrewGrimm It's a polite form of saying "nope". Cannot grant your request doesn't have to mean that it's actually impossible. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 25 at 11:59
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    Honestly, I can't understand what the big fuss is. Looking over 3.0 and 4.0 I can't see any substantive functional difference. Even the "human-readable" explanations provided by CC are identical. As far as I can tell, the main difference is slightly more specificity in 4.0. Perhaps it would have been better to implement the change in a strict by-the-letter fashion to appease legal pedants, but now someone has even started a gofundme to get lawyers involved. All because the previous license was "sloppily" replaced with an effectively identical (albeit different) license? Really? – teego1967 Jan 25 at 13:31
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    @TymoteuszPaul, 3.0 and 4.0 are effectively identical. What's the big deal? I simply don't understand. I've long known that many on here are sticklers for rules, but this seems soooo far out in terms of pedantry. – teego1967 Jan 25 at 20:44
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    Unless a class-action is filed, you are, unfortunately, tilting at windmills. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 29 at 14:28
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    @teego1967 The beauty of the law is that it doesn't care about your feelings. – Ian Kemp Jan 30 at 10:35
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    See also: gofundme.com/f/stack-exchange-relicensing – WBT Jan 30 at 16:57
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    StackExchange is just evil at this point. Whoever in the executive staff that is fucking up this badly needs to be fired. What you should do is hire a lawyer and go after them. You will win. – user91988 Jan 31 at 20:33
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    Given the terms of service changes, the actual CC BY-SA license for user content within a page may be any or all of CC BY-SA 2.5 (last day 2014-12-22), 3.0, or 4.0, depending on when the specific content was authored and/or edited. There's also another, separate, license granted to Stack Overflow for subscriber content which includes additional terms, which vary depending on which version of the TOS was in effect at the time the content was submitted. – Makyen Feb 3 at 5:38
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    @user3.1415927 To my understanding, yes. And that's fine. What's not fine is pretending the posts themselves have magically changed license, which is my issue. – rath Feb 6 at 15:07
22

I have contacted the powers at be at SE to see how to handle this. I don't have an answer at the moment and as you most likely know, I am not a lawyer.

I will elaborate on this a bit though and say that I will not delete your answers for you.

You may want to review this: Legal Info from SE

And this answer from Thomas Owens on this post. Related Post

And similar discussion at MSE: How do I get my content on StackExchange licensed correctly or else removed?

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15

Just to add my two cents: I follow Mister Positive in this, in the sense that we will not entertain requests for deletion of content. Any self deletions or defacing of posts will be reversed as SOP for moderators when site contributions are vandalised or defaced. Our mandate as moderators is clear in that regard.

This is entirely separate from my personal views on this obviously complicated matter but those are irrelevant here.

I understand you are in contact with SE and/or the community team and hope that you can come to a mutual understanding, but as moderators we will not involve ourselves.

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    I understand Lilienthal, and, thank you. Just do your job :) – rath Jan 26 at 13:06
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    Any self deletions or defacing of posts will be reversed as SOP for moderators when site contributions are vandalised or defaced just so it's clear, and everyone is on the same page: Can we get affirmation that this rule applies for community moderation, as well (i.e. if, as a non-moderator community member, we see that someone has defaced a question or answer, site policy says we should roll it back)? Or would the mods rather have that content flagged and left alone, for mods to clean up? – dwizum Jan 27 at 13:48
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    @dwizum Not sure if I should be the one to "confirm" something like that as I don't have the meta threads to hand but it's my understanding that this is standard policy for moderation in general so indeed applies to the community. In fact, the community flagging these when they happen is usually the way in which we discover these in the first place. Really, this is the standard response for any case where you see major edits to posts: roll back and in case you suspect a broader issue, whether it's a something like this or an OP after a disassociation: flag it. – Lilienthal Jan 27 at 14:38
  • Thanks for the reply. That makes sense. – dwizum Jan 27 at 14:41
  • I'd like the mods to clarify, or point to a clarification, where the company specifically says that deletion of content due to not consenting to re-licensing should be reverted. Not just a general global policy of reverting deletion. I have a hunch they will not make a public statement on the matter, and if that's the case, I don't think you mods should stick your neck out and take the risk for the company. Hey, that might be a good question for the election. – Ask About Monica Feb 12 at 17:09
  • @AskAboutMonica We respond to actions and impact, not intent. The impact of mass deletions, regardless of motivation, is detrimental meaning we are essentially duty-bound to step in. I do encourage you to submit this as a question in the election since it's obviously a divisive topic. – Lilienthal Feb 12 at 17:25
11

I understand your frustration. Yes, I agree switching to a new license without consent is not nice. No objection on that.

However, in reality nothing has changed. The license has changed, but you aren't trying to make profits from your writing anyway. You have absolutely nothing to lose. This is a Q&A site, we ask or answer, that's what we care. As long as the site is still allowing free access for Q&A, you shouldn't be disappointed.

What do you gain from the old license versus the new license??? Can you make a patent from your writing? Can you sell a book from your writing? Will people buy your answers???? Now, let's get back to the game. We should leave the technicality for lawyers.

Talk less but answer questions harder. Why not be nice if you have nothing to lose?

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    For me, it's not about the old vs the new license. I like v4, happy to see it used from now on. My problem is that our current agreement with the site was flagrantly violated. I would've been happy to consider changing over, had I been asked. I probably would've consented. That did not happen. – rath Jan 26 at 13:09
  • We need to clarify what exactly is going on here. What does SO consider to be its property, and what powers exactly do ind-ctrb. such as myself have? One of the selling points of v4 in the announcement is more power, as an individual, if someone scrapes your content. This suggests one form of ownership, but SO's reply to me suggests another. I want to clarify exactly what's going on so that a non-lawyer like myself can understand. I get the feeling there's a lot of fanfare about nothing, that there's some legal thing that I just don't see. If that's the case, [...cont] – rath Jan 26 at 13:13
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    [...] I don't appreciate the dog-and-pony show SO has been putting on about how great the new license is, while at the same time it doesn't actually cover the way SO uses the content. – rath Jan 26 at 13:14
  • @rath, the more I find out about this, the more incomprehensible your complaint (and that of others) becomes. It sounds like this is an issue of trust. You don't trust SO anymore because they swapped one license for another in a way that is not strictly allowed (even though the licenses are, for all practical purposes, identical). Is that what this is all about? Why didn't you just say so? – teego1967 Jan 27 at 3:11
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    it sets a precedent is the real issue to my mind. Whether you like the new licence or not makes no difference. It means that next week they could chuck another licence on or something else . – Kilisi Jan 27 at 14:07
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    @kilisi, but “another license” in this case is effectively the same license with a bit more technical (in a legal sense) specificity. I feel like this is absurdly pro-forma and distant from any reasonable pragmatic consideration. It makes me think there’s some kind of ulterior motive like revenge for moderator fiasco, which, curiously, came after the license change. I find it almost impossible to believe people are so strictly principled about minute details of license conformance when there’s no labor, money or time involved. – teego1967 Jan 27 at 17:51
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    @teego1967 this time it's minor, doesn't mean the next one will be. Either way it should have been asked instead of just applied. – Kilisi Jan 27 at 23:36
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    @teego1967: "I find it almost impossible to believe people are so strictly principled about minute details of license conformance…". Obviously, not everyone is, but a comparatively substantial chunk of the SE userbase, whether because of religion, software ideology, political stance, bitter experience, or some other reason, really does see this as an issue that is very important in its long-term implications. Compare the minor specific incidents that so often trigger revolutions. What kind of weirdo would care about a small tax on tea, after all? – Nathan Tuggy Jan 28 at 9:10
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    @nathantuggy, I find this fascinating from a sociological perspective. It seems most plausible that this is a hair trigger response in a context where SE corporate has lost much of the trust of the community. And in fact the Boston tea party was such a response, it wasn’t really about tea. SE has fancied itself to be infallibly objective, while at the same time be laughably tone-deaf (re moderator fiasco) I think this situation here is response to that. But if this is really only about petty details of license conformance that’s hard to believe, would like to understand better if that’s true – teego1967 Jan 28 at 12:16
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    The problem is power abuse which breaks the trust between users and the site, not the particulars of how users benefit or are hurt from this particular license change. – Apollys supports Monica Jan 29 at 0:54
  • It's about not letting the horrible staff at SE abuse their power. This should be easy for anyone to understand. StackExchange has not been nice, so why should we? They depend entirely on their users. All content is created by users. We need to hit them where it hurts, with lawyers if necessary. I want this site to burn. – user91988 Jan 31 at 20:34
  • You: "As long as the site is still allowing free access" ... OP: "To my understanding, this means they can make the collection fully proprietary if they want" - aka, a paywall. (somebody asked for a tl;dr, that's it) – Mazura Feb 7 at 10:44

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