I would like to ask fellow users of the site what they think about a certain poem that fascinates me but that I don't understand. The poem's copyright has not expired, and it is not available elsewhere online, so I can't link to it. Would posting an image of the poem in a question on this site be protected under the Fair Use principle, or should I forgo posting it to avoid potential legal problems?

The poem is Left Umbrellas by James Emanuel.

  • And if you do post an excerpt as suggested in the answers, please post text and not images (unless it's the visual aspect that you're asking about).
    – muru
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:58
  • @muru Posting text is important, since images of text are inaccessible to blind users (unless you add a text alternative that represents the entire text in the image).
    – Tsundoku
    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:39
  • Thanks for your answers muru, Christophe and Zyerah. As I'm seeking feedback on the poem as a whole, I don't think posting just part of the text along with a narrower question will bring the insight I'm hoping for, but I'll think about it. May also consider trying to contact the owner of the rights to the work.
    – user6832
    Aug 2, 2018 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


It's less a legal problem, and more an issue of respect. It's unfair & unjust to the author of the poem to make their content available online without their permission.

Generally, if you're going to post something that's copyrighted, you want to keep it as minimal as possible to give the information someone might need to answer the question. It's not, for example, reasonable to scan and post an entire book to give people access to it. People either need to know the book, or need to find a copy of it. You can post small sections you have specific questions about, and that's fair game.

So, here's my advice: if the poem isn't publicly available, provide what information you can to help people find it. Don't post the whole poem. If, however, you have questions about specific parts of the poem - please do post those.


The section "Subscriber content" in the network's terms of service says (emphasis added),

You agree that any and all content, including without limitation any and all text, graphics, logos, tools, photographs, images, illustrations, software or source code, audio and video, animations, and product feedback (collectively, "Content") that you provide to the public Network (collectively, "Subscriber Content"), is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Overflow on a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis pursuant to Creative Commons licensing terms (CC-BY-SA) (...)

Posting an entire poem that is still copyright-protected implies that you license somebody else's work to Stack Exchange under the conditions of CC-BY-SA. This is not acceptable. What is acceptable, however, is quoting an excerpt that is short enough to be accepted as fair use. (See, e.g., A Writer's Guide to Fair Use by Howard G. Zaharoff, 2001.) What percentage of a copyrighted work can be quoted and still be considered "fair use" is up to the judge when a case is taken to court. So my advice is, never quote a copyrighted work in its entirety.

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