The concept of licensing questions being on-topic has a long history. When the topicality of this site was first discussed, "software law" was originally on-topic. But this definition of legal questions needed clarification. Eventually, we even updated the help documentation to better reflect scope. And then had to make more changes to the FAQ (which pre-dated the current Help Center). And even then there were many, many, many, many, many, many questions to clarify this particular point of the scope.
Today, the accepted stance is that software licensing questions are on-topic. However, it's incredibly nuanced. The answer requires 24 bullets (3 deep in some cases) to describe how to determine if your software licensing question is on or off-topic. In addition, there need to be three other examples and guidance. The post describing the set of on-topic software licensing questions is over twice length of the entire Help Center article for what is on-topic (520 words to 260 words / 2,987 characters to 1,580 characters).
At one point, I even advocated for us making sure that licensing questions were on-topic here. I don't dispute that we have many great questions and some great and many really good answers about software licenses. I also don't dispute that this topic is incredibly important to software engineers - creating, extending, and incorporating third-party software packages is essential and open source software is pervasive.
However, when I advocated for licensing questions to be on-topic here, that was before the Law and Open Source communities were launched. We were a community of software engineers who cared, among other things, about software licenses. There was no site where these questions fit well and we had sufficient expertise to at least try to help people who came to us with at least a subset of licensing questions.
I believe one of our first responsibilities should be to the person who is asking the question and to people who may find that question when they do a search using their favorite search engine. They should ideally end up on a site where the community can provide expert answers and review (and vote on) those answers.
The "Respect the community - your own, and others'" blog post provides some guidance.
First, it cites a previous blog post, Why Can't You Have Just One Site? to figure out the definition of your community:
Is it really so hard to figure out which community you belong to, and
thus, where your question belongs? Ask yourself this:
You can use the same mountain to go downhill really fast on snow --
but it's plainly evident to the participant which culture they
consider themselves a part of, "skiers" or "snowboarders".
Following all of the recent discussions regarding our name, we came up with the definition (which is now in our Help Center and Tour) that we are a community of "professionals, academics, and students working within the systems development life cycle" - we are software engineers (and some people don't like that term, so I'll also say that we are also software craftsman). We are trying to accomplish "creating, delivering, and maintaining software responsibly".
For completeness sake, I frequently cite it for the scope of the discipline of software engineering, so I do need to point out that one subsection of Software Engineering Professional Practice in the IEEE Guide to the Software Body of Knowledge v3 is indeed legal issues and includes "matters related to standards, trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, professional liability, legal requirements, trade compliance, and cybercrime". However, it also goes on to say that "software engineers must consult attorneys who specialize in the type and jurisdiction of any identified legal issues."
Scope Gerrymandering: attempting to micromanage what’s on-topic in order to avoid overlap with other sites or simply drive away users seen as undesirable.
The Respect the Community blog post says to avoid gerrymandering. I agree that there is going to be overlap. I accept that - we even had the croissants experiment where we demonstrated the overlap and differences with sites like Computer Science, Stack Overflow, and Code Golf. I believe when we took on the whole realm of software law, and then even after we narrowed that down to software licensing, we were doing the opposite of gerrymandering (I also learned that there is no antonym of gerrymander).
We are all practitioners of software engineering. Many of us have formal and structured training, either from a college, a university, or a bootcamp. However, the amount of education in the topic of legal issues tends to be very small for many of us. I don't see this as attempting to avoid overlap or drive users away, but guide users to a more appropriate place to ask their questions, get answers, and have those answers peer reviewed by many other people with the needed knowledge.
Don’t migrate poorly-asked or non-constructive questions. Just close them. If you want to help the asker out by recommending a site where their question would be on-topic, go ahead - but also recommend they read that site’s FAQ first!
I think we do this. For low quality questions, we have a custom "legal advice" close reason that calls out the Help Centers of Open Source and Law. However, this only addresses those poorly asked questions. Many of the software licensing questions asked here are actually good questions.
Do leave comments on questions that might get better answers somewhere else.
I disagree with this advice. We have had significant problems with users on Stack Overflow telling people to ask their questions on our site. It leads to cross-posting. As a moderator, I'd rather have a flag and a reviewing a possible migration than having people leave comments and dealing with cleaning up low-quality answers left by people who aren't knowledgable on the topic or cleaning up after cross-posting.
At the end of the day, I want to do what is best for the people with the problem. I think that is moving questions to where the experts are.