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Previous History:

Recent examples:

Prior community consensus went something like: it's OK to ask legal questions, but be aware that bad and/or off-topic legal questions can and do exist, and should be dealt with accordingly.

Is it time to revisit this and form a new consensus?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The "winning answer" on that other thread currently has a score of +17. Given the fact that the traffic on meta is roughly the same as when that question was asked in 2010, I think it should only be fair that to "reverse" that policy that was established 7 years ago, we'd need at least the same score on Maximus' answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexandre Vaillancourt Jan 10 '18 at 17:41
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The case for legal questions being off-topic

  • They fail the "would a game developer give me a better answer?" test.
  • Game developers are not legal professionals and are absolutely not qualified to answer legal questions.
  • At the time the previous consensus was formed, Law SE did not exist.
  • Law SE does exist now and deals with legal aspects of software development, which is on-topic for that SE.
  • Law SE covers itself with an appropriate disclaimer: "Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner. Communications on Law Stack Exchange are not privileged communications and do not create an attorney-client relationship".

Proposed new consensus

  • Legal questions are off-topic for Gamedev SE.
  • Legal questions may be migrated to Law SE.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you propose closing all legal questions in the event that law.se does not want the migrations? \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Dorsey Jan 8 '18 at 22:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ The general consensus here seems to be toward these questions being off-topic. Guidance from Law SE members and their own help center and meta, however, suggests these questions are also off-topic there. So in the future we would simply be closing these questions without migration. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Jan 10 '18 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, that kind of closes the debate, I guess. If law.SE has concluded that it's too dangerous for law.SE to accept questions which are asking for specific legal advice, the logic leading to that conclusion would apply for us as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Jan 11 '18 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TrevorPowell It doesn't though; this isn't that community. They don't get to set our rules and we don't get to set theirs. Short of StackExchange telling us these questions cannot be asked, we're free to decide that on our own. That Law SE meta is also discussing a specific type of legal question, where this meta is discussing the entire topic of legal questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Jan 11 '18 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ (I do think we should adopt that same specific policy though -- we should just do it by voting on it ourselves, and not because some other SE has done so; this question has given me a number of ideas about how we could refine and improve our handling of legal questions in the future, presupposing the outcome of this discussion is to uphold the status quo). \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Jan 11 '18 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do feel like the distinction that law.SE draws between "legal advice" questions and "general principles" questions is a useful one, and not one that I'd really considered before. If we follow their lead in declaring obviously-asking-for-personal-legal-advice questions as out-of-bounds ("Would it be legal for me to <X>", etc), then a whole bunch of my objections are probably irrelevant to the remaining, more general legal questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor Powell Jan 12 '18 at 12:59
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I don't see a need to institute a blanket ban on questions touching legal issues.

We already have restrictions in place that require the scope of the question to be related to game development. The questions we've accrued so far seem to be commonly-asked by, and useful to, aspiring game developers who (as you note) don't always have a complete grasp of even the basics of the law.

Why should we stop providing that service to our community, exactly? To address some specific points:

They fail the "would a game developer give me a better answer?" test.

That test was established for programming questions. It's something I've come to view as a mistake, as well. I think it hobbles our community and bringing it to bear on more topics would only further penalize. For almost every topic we consider on this site, there now exists a SE for dedicated practitioners of that topic. We were to apply this test to every such topic there would be ample arguable room to consider almost everything off-topic here, or at least to reduce a lot of questions to tedious argument over whether or not a question passes or fails such a test. Remember, also, that:

At the time the previous consensus was formed, Law SE did not exist. Law SE does exist now and deals with legal aspects of software development, which is on-topic for that SE.

Just because a site exists for a topic does not make that topic immediately and implicitly off-topic everywhere else. We don't consider art questions off-topic because of the Blender or Graphics Design SEs. We don't consider math questions off-topic because MathOverflow exists.

Game developers are not legal professionals and are absolutely not qualified to answer legal questions.

You don't have to be a lawyer to discuss the law. Naturally. Or we'd all be jail except for the lawyers. We don't prohibit people from answering questions about Unreal even if they've literally never opened the Unreal Editor. Sometimes those users can still provide a great answer.

Similarly, we don't have to be so protectionist about legal questions. The system -- community consensus through voting and flagging -- works. We should let it work.

Law SE covers itself with an appropriate disclaimer: "Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized advice from a qualified legal practitioner. Communications on Law Stack Exchange are not privileged communications and do not create an attorney-client relationship".

Most of the users who actively engage in legal questions here include that disclaimer in their own answers.


There are legal issues in game development. Some game developers know about them and can use that knowledge to help other game developers who may have some questions. These questions do not harm our site; in fact, they give it value. Consequently, banning them (and, naturally, all the related tags) seems pointlessly harsh.

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I think it's wrong to base our policy about legal questions on our policy about math questions or art questions. These things aren't comparable.

If someone takes bad advice from an approved answer about art, which was given by a well-meaning novice who didn't know what they were talking about, then somebody's character models might wind up crinkling at the shoulders when they lift their arms.

If someone takes bad advice from an approved answer about maths, which was given by a well-meaning novice who didn't know what they were talking about, then sometimes a collision might not be detected.

"We don't prohibit people from answering questions about Unreal even if they've literally never opened the Unreal Editor. Sometimes these users can still provide a great answer." - @JoshPetrie

This is absolutely true. Sometimes they can! And when a well-meaning novice who doesn't know what they're talking about provides a bad answer, then maybe the asker loses an hour trying to make that suggestion work. That's a shame, but it's not really a huge deal.

But if someone takes bad advice from an approved answer about what's legal for them to do, which was given by a well-meaning novice who didn't know what they were talking about, then somebody could take an action which turns out to be illegal, be sued, end up bankrupt, their company destroyed, future wages garnished, their employees out of their jobs, etc. This is all entirely plausible.

There is simply a different level of risk, when we're talking about bad answers about the law, than when we're talking about bad answers about art or bad answers about math or bad answers about the Unreal Engine.

Questions about legality should be referred to Law SE. They're much more likely to be seen by somebody with at least a cursory understanding of the law over there, and the law-focused moderators and regulars there are more likely to be able to identify and down-vote any bad answers, than are the development-focused regulars here.

It's better for the asker (they'll get better answers), and it's better for the SE network in general (better-quality answers across the network, because the topic experts are the ones seeing the question and voting on the answers).

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