2

It seems to me that some questions here suffer from an 'XY' problem resulting from fundamental legal principles. Copyright and patent law is civil, not criminal, law. Unless countries start passing laws and signing treaties that draw very precise boundaries, many questions here boil down to the traditional legal complexities of precedent and principle. Expertise on those areas is not in evidence here -- even links and references to legal expertise, while not completely absent, are perhaps the exception, not the rule. There are some parts of the terrain here which are fully settled law, due to prior litigation and precedent. There are others that are not.

If we want this site to be a useful resource, I claim that sometimes it is not helpful to have an answer of the form 'I claim that there is some legal principle that permits you to do X or prohibits you from doing Y', but, rather, 'this area is legally tangled, it's more important for you to find out what the copyright holder thinks.'

If the owner of the rights of something dislikes your use, she or he can cost you a great deal of trouble and expense by filing a suit. Even if you win and they lose, you're out time, trouble, and in some cases, money. If the owner of the rights of something smiles upon your use, it does not matter if some other people think that it should be impermissible. Obviously, the concrete example here is TLF versus FSF on derivation vs. aggregation.

My concrete suggestion is that it should be acceptable to answer a question of this kind by explaining to the OP that business and legal context could be more important than technical maneuvering around a license. That might not be the only answer -- but the community should view such an answer as a legitimate XY response, not as a non-responsive answer.

I'm afraid that asking for all such questions to be off-topic would leave the sound of crickets, so I'm not suggesting that.

Edit:

Discussions on meta aren't always aimed at some concrete, crisp, outcome, such as a close reason, a paragraph in the help center, or a 'policy.' People always have the right to vote as they see fit. This posting here is intended as food for thought. If some people think that the atmosphere is already what I'm asking for, perhaps other people hadn't considered this.

  • It's a good point: I'm assuming that you would like these out of scope? – Zizouz212 Aug 1 '15 at 19:18
  • Yes, a good point, but what are you proposing here? – ArtOfCode Aug 1 '15 at 21:39
  • Edited to offer a suggestion. – bmargulies Aug 1 '15 at 21:42
  • In that case, extremely related: meta.opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… – Zizouz212 Aug 2 '15 at 9:52
  • I'd agree with this suggestion. That is a valid type of answer, anyway, so shouldn't be NAA flagged – ArtOfCode Aug 3 '15 at 11:49
  • "it should be acceptable to answer a question of this kind" Please clarify exactly what this kind of question you're referring to is – curiousdannii Aug 3 '15 at 12:12
5

Yes and no.

Yes:

If a post poses the question:

Can I do X, given Y license and Z conditions?

then it is ok to post an answer which says

Y license says A and B, which would imply you could do this. However, it may be wise to check with the rights owner anyway, since they can inflict lawsuits on you.

No:

Given the above question, it is not ok to post an answer which says

Check with the rights owner.

Such an answer could be applied to many if not most of the questions here, and doesn't actually address the specific issues of the question.

Answers must always address the question's details.

I conclude:

My concrete suggestion is that it should be acceptable to answer a question of this kind by explaining to the OP that business and legal context could be more important than technical maneuvering around a license.

OK, as long as answers of this kind also make an attempt to answer the specific question. If you only want to point out that context is important, that's for the comments. Thus:

It should be acceptable to answer a question of this kind by first looking at the details of the problem and making an attempt to resolve the problem, and then explaining to the OP that business and legal context could be more important than technical maneuvering around a license.

1

First: I fully agree with your suggestion!

My concrete suggestion is that it should be acceptable to answer a question of this kind by explaining to the OP that business and legal context could be more important than technical maneuvering around a license. That might not be the only answer -- but the community should view such an answer as a legitimate XY response, not as a non-responsive answer.

However, I am at loss understanding what makes your suggestion different from what we already do.

I hope you're not, by posting this, implicitly say that our community does not consider such answers "acceptable" or that such answers are being panned for being "non-responsive"?

It would help if you could clarify whether you just want us to discuss whether we should just go on accepting such answers, or whether you want to see some change. In the latter case, I would like to know more about what you would like to change, and how your "concrete suggestion" differs from what we already do.

0

I think it would be better to follow general Stack Exchange conventions and leave tricky questions unanswered until there is someone with the expertise to give them quality answers, especially if the alternative is a 'form' answer. If there is no clear legal precedent to answer a question then I think that's the perfect kind of unanswered question!

We will have to distinguish between unanswerable questions which are clear and generic, and those which are unanswerable because they're too localised. It may help to have some Meta guidelines to use. Bmargulies, would you have any suggestions?

Of course it may be very helpful to have a general Meta post explaining that a circumstance needs to be tested in court, but that should be linked to in a comment rather than reproduced for each question. If you can write the same thing in response to every question, then it probably doesn't belong in an answer.

  • If you disagree, can you explain what part you disagree with? – curiousdannii Aug 3 '15 at 3:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .