When answering ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro questions I know that I will often copy/paste a short paragraph or two from their Online Help.

For example, at https://gis.stackexchange.com/a/209427/115 I answered:

To do this try using Union which:

Computes a geometric union of the input features. All features and their attributes will be written to the output feature class.

followed by Summary Statistics which:

Calculates summary statistics for field(s) in a table.

You would use the identifier field from one of the original layers as the case item to summarize information from the other.

However, I sometimes see answers that provide attribution to the ArcGIS Online Help but copy much larger parts of its pages (perhaps 80%) and some of the pictures.

Does GIS SE provide any guidance on how much of a help page or blog posting may be copied before that action starts to cross-over into plagiarism and/or copyright infringement?


I think the answer to this can be found in the Meta of Stack Overflow and applied here.

In this answer by @BoltClock to Answers entirely copied though properly attributed they say:

there are some situations where indeed there isn't much more to be said than one or two well-written paragraphs from a documentation section or a language specification. That's fine, you're not going to get into trouble for doing that every now and then. Just remember that you still need to provide attribution and quote the text as required above.

But if you find that you're consistently posting answers that consist of little more than text from other sources, or if you find yourself about to highlight and copy practically an entire document just to answer one specific question, that's when you need to take a step back and ask yourself if it really is necessary to copy all 27 of those paragraphs.

I think the above is inline with our Help page on How to reference material written by others.

Consequently, I think commenting to cite this Meta Q&A, downvoting and/or voting to delete answers where large parts of work by others has been posted here are reasonable actions and which action is chosen will depend on your privilege level and should be commensurate with how much beyond a short paragraph or two has been copied, and how often.

No hard cutoff of two paragraphs is implied here. That number of paragraphs is purely mentioned as a guide for when to start thinking "perhaps becoming too much" rather than "definitely fine".


How much of help page or blog posting can be copied/quoted?

I think quotes are ok when:

  • *commented (preferably, in a thoughtful way and/or with examples);
  • relevant to the post
  • cited/referenced (in a proper way);
  • do not transgress copyrights.

*If a quotation is just dumped in a post, even if it is a short one and only part of the original source, where no other text exists in the post accompanying (introducing, explaining or expanding on) the quotation, it is inappropriate. In other words a 100%-quoted-text post.

I believe this is in accordance with the general guidance from Stack Exchange about plagiarism.

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