Ethics questions may be on-topic, given that direct relevance to one or more SDLC activities is provided and the question falls within the scope of this community as defined in the Help Center.
Questions that are about the law or require the expertise of a lawyer are off-topic here, but may be a suitable fit on Law Stack Exchange. Ethical questions that stray into the realm of "primarily opinion based" or "too broad" will also be closed. Anyone asking questions about ethics in software engineering should keep in mind the criteria for good subjective questions:
- inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
- tend to have long, not short, answers
- have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
- invite sharing experiences over opinions
- insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
- are more than just mindless social fun
Good answers should include facts and references, including to accepted ethical theories and frameworks. Great answers would be framed with respect to one or more codes of ethics directly related to software engineering or computing.
History questions are still on-topic, provided the op can demonstrate some relevance with an ongoing concern related to the SDLC.
Candied Orange provided some great insights:
History can be thought of as everything that isn't happening right now. That isn't what is off topic. What's off-topic is anything that ONLY has value from a historian's perspective. Simply having value from a historian's perspective doesn't make it off topic. Doesn't make it on topic either. So it would need another reason to be on topic. Doesn't matter if the OP frames it for a historian or not. So the ugly history of waterfall that led to agile is on topic. The reasoning behind Java being named after an island that exports coffee is not.
Historically (no pun intended), history questions have fared well here, provided they are interesting and not merely curiosity questions about some very obscure and random thing that can only be answered by someone that was actually there when it happened. Questions about the design of the Babbage engine are probably on-topic; questions about the color Babbage painted his engine are probably not.
Licensing questions are not part of the SDLC; they are entirely a legal concern. Law and Open-source have demonstrated a willingness to accept such questions, and can answer them better than we can.
However, I've been told that, in some cases, the Software Engineer is the one making these decisions, and so it's still a relevant concern on a Software Engineering site.