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It was recently brought to my attention that by posting anything to Stackoverflow, you irrevocably grant Stackoverflow a CC BY-SA 4.0 license to your posted content. I thought CC BY-SA 4.0 was comparable to the MIT license in the sense that it's very permissive, but then I read this https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/...

This quote scared me, "ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original."

I am not a lawyer and I could be misunderstanding the law, but does this mean that if I post content on Stackoverflow that is a small piece of a proprietary project that I plan on keeping closed source, I can no longer keep the project closed source?

Based on this: "ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original," I've posted the content on Stackoverflow meaning it's granted to Stackoverflow under CC BY-SA 4.0. That means that my larger proprietary project is "build upon the material." So if the larger project is "build upon the material" I posted to Stackoverflow, I have no choice but to release the source code of my proprietary application in its entirety???

I am not okay with this. Is there any way I can get out of releasing the source code for all of my proprietary projects? Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding the CC BY-SA 4.0 license... Could someone clarify this for me? Preferably a lawyer or at least someone who is familiar with open source law?

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  • It sounds like you're concerned about having to abide by the license you grant on code entirely of your original authorship -- if that is so, this question is quite similar to So the GPL doesn't restrict the creator of the software in any way? (especially item #3). Note that the situation is quite different if you are concerned about using CC BY-SA material authored by someone else, but it doesn't sound like you're concerned about that case in this question -- if you are, you should edit to make that clear.
    – apsillers
    May 26, 2023 at 21:30
  • In this case, I'm referring to work that is entirely of my original authorship. This is code that I posted on Stackoverflow looking for assistance. So in this case I am free to keep my larger works proprietary? If so, that's great news! May 26, 2023 at 21:39
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    Yep! If you say, "you are allowed to visit my yard, but only if you are wearing a hat," -- you are, by default, allowed to refuse entry to your yard, and are also allowed to permit people to come onto it under specific circumstances you choose. Those who don't follow rules on your yawn are trespassing. But no one could ever win a suit against you for being on your own lawn without a hat because you can't trespass on your own yard. Copyright and licenses work analogously: you have full copyright to your own authorship, and others may enjoy some of those rights if you license them.
    – apsillers
    May 26, 2023 at 21:44
  • That's amazing thanks! If you make that an answer I'll mark it correct. This is a new account but I think I still have the privilege to mark an answer correct at 1 rep right? May 26, 2023 at 22:46

1 Answer 1

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does this mean that if I post content on Stackoverflow that is a small piece of a proprietary project that I plan on keeping closed source, I can no longer keep the project closed source

It means that the piece of code you have posted is available for reuse under CC BY-SA. Assuming you are the sole rightsholder, then because the rightsholder is not bound by the terms of his/her own licence grant, it does not require that you only ever publish the rest of your project under CC BY-SA. You may publish the entire project elsewhere under any other set of terms you choose.

Is there any way I can get out of releasing the source code for all of my proprietary projects?

Don't post the entire codebase here.

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