How can we define what is good or what is wrong about software law here? This issue came from this question closed as off-topic.

The best way to explain the problem with that question would be: "What's that question could add to us, programmers on our job?". We can ask questions about software law that affects our job. That question is just about an past issue of our industry. This issue probably didn't affect the programmers of IE 10 years ago. How it could affect us? How it could be more than a trivia like?

Some good questions about software law:

Are there laws to protect us from hackers who disclose vulnerabilities prior to alerting the vendor?

What is the “default” software license?

Should software patents be legal?

Ethics, Clients, and legal repercussions.

What legal considerations do I need to have when programming?

How would you want to see software intellectual property protected?

Some of them have other problems, specially "Should software patents be legal?", but they are on-topic to me.

This is my personal opinion. What you think?

  • "Some of them have other problems, specially "Should software patents be legal?", but they are on-topic to me." Could you describe the "other problems" ?
    – Rusty
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 14:50
  • @Rusty: This example specifically could be "not constructive". I don't wanna take any actions alone, so I keep the question untouched. Most of these questions are barely not constructive or not a real question, but they are edge case, not so obvious.
    – Maniero
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


When I look at a question like that,the one question that goes through my mind is: "what knowledge, gained from experience, does an answer to this question provide?" That is, the value of Programmers.SE, mostly codified in the Six Subjective Guidelines and the FAQ, is that there are certain things you only find out from being a programmer for a long enough period of time, and this is the place to ask the questions to get at that knowledge.

A question like that is off-topic because it's not asking something that only a veteran programmer can answer based on his years of experience, but a trivia question. There's no experiential knowledge being transferred, except from maybe reading about it when it happened. The other questions at least invite others to back their answers with knowledge they've gained over time.

To be honest, the question smells like a perfect Quora question, where they eat up those types of trivia questions.

  • 1
    the "historical trivia" description is interesting, and one I hadn't heard before. It's almost like a game show question. We are leaning heavily toward a question guideline of "only ask questions about actual problems/situations you personally have, not hypothetical or historical problems other people had." Commented Jan 1, 2011 at 4:11
  • @Jeff the game show analogy is a better way of putting it. It's like asking "Who can search Wikipedia the fastest?" instead of "Can someone help me?"
    – user8
    Commented Jan 1, 2011 at 10:52

I think a question like:

Has your work been negatively impacted by a software patent? If so, please explain how.

Would be a little 'hot', but probably on topic, 'kosherly' subjective enough to fly and actually add value to the site.

I deal with copyright, patents and trademark on a very frequent basis, it's part of my job. I'm also extremely familiar with most OSI approved software licenses and have first hand experience with the caveats of each. I like sharing that experience.

I agree, it is a big part of our industry and litigation is in no danger of slowing down.

I think, if more experienced users see these types of questions and edit them to work (while preserving the OP's intent), they won't detract from the site.

What worries me the most is people who should probably be talking to a lawyer, not a Q&A site.

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