The Stack Exchange review system for post creation, editing and removal is quite sophisticated and somehow steered by discussion on meta networks (Stack Exchange and others) which are "user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required". Is that aspect of steering sufficient to be able to implement a similar review process (let's say for torrents of FLOSS Linux distributions on a Java EE web platform) and licensing it under Apache 2.0?

How would the required attribution end up in the projects COPYING and the source file headers?

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    Just so I'm sure I understand, are you asking, "Is there any legal issue with using suggestions made on Stack Exchange meta-sites in designing a new piece of software similar to Stack Exchange's review tool?"
    – apsillers
    Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 14:20
  • Yes. I'm basically asking "Is there any legal issue with designing a new piece of software similar to Stack Exchange's review tool?" given the fact that most (all?) of the review system design comes from meta sites which is definitely CC-by-SA and thus compatible with Apache 2.0(?). Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 14:42
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    The license of the content has no relation to any licensing/patents over the ideas of the review system... Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 14:54
  • I agree. So, the inevitable question is: Which license/patent has the idea of the review system? Commented Mar 29, 2017 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


Ideas themselves are not copyrightable, only their expression is. So as remarked by @curiousdannii the license of the content of the SE sites has no impact here (unless you also want to reuse part of the content that can be found on these sites).

Ideas cannot really be patented either but industrial processes can and this notion has been twisted a lot so you end up with software companies having a lot of patents, whose validity is often questionable, but which represent a threat nonetheless. I don't know if Stack Exchange Inc. owns any patent but this is something that you can research since patents are public.

However, as you say, a lot of the ideas which power these sites were first posted by contributors on the meta sites and this alone prevents patenting (to be patentable an invention must be original, non trivial and useful). For more information on patents, you should rather go to Patents SE.


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