Short question: should we provide links to the answer, or copy external content into our answer?

Long question: In response to this question, I provided a link to an external blog (of which I'm not the owner) which provides an exhaustive listing of the running terms and acronyms which the original questioner requested.

A comment to my answer suggested that since links can grow stale, I should have provided more than a link, but also included a summary of the content. While I agree that this works for some content (see the question about the Ironman distances, where I gave a short summary and also a link to a detailed explanation in Wikipedia), I don't know that this is appropriate/possible for some kinds of content - specifically, a long list of definitions.

My concern is that if I cut and paste a large chunk of content from some other site, I open myself, and StackExchange to copyright infringement liability.

Is there a "tipping point" for how much external content should be copied into answers?

  • 2
    The tipping point here is much like with a research paper. A quote is great, summary is good too, just don't copy the whole thing (or even most of it), and always attribute.
    – wax eagle
    Feb 9, 2012 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


A link by itself should not be an answer.

See a question on Stack Exchange Meta; How can I link to an external resource in a community friendly way.

So as not to be ironic (my own answer being just a link), in summary:

  1. We want to avoid a situation where Stack Exchange relies on other websites. It should be it's own self sustaining resource; if the external website goes down, your answer is now useless. The question you answered now has (potentially) no answer!

  2. By all means link to another website, but you should at least summarize the contents of the page you link to.

  3. By giving a link to the resource, and by citing the source of your quote, you minimize the risk of there being any copyright infringement.

  • 2
    Absolutely. Cite your source, but make your answer independent of the source. A great way to do it is, "blah blah blah, ba-blah blah. See further information at [link]." That way you're bringing them the content they need to answer their question, but are providing validation and opportunities for further research. This is of particular value for future people who have a similar problem and are immediately directed to the further research.
    – corsiKa
    Feb 9, 2012 at 18:14
  • If you are citing a rule or the specific text copy a segment of the relavent text, post as a quote, and make certian the citation is properly displayed. This is fair use and the proper way to handle these.
    – Chad
    Mar 26, 2012 at 12:41
  • Is copying whole contents of the link and giving the source link okay? E.g. See this answer. The answerer just copied and pasted the whole article from the given source. Is it acceptable? or we should just add summary from the given link.
    – Himanshu
    Feb 12, 2014 at 5:37

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