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TL;DR because I know there's people who don't want to read all this.

  • If a user is simply referencing that they are having an issue with a piece of software and that it is cracked (like a MInecraft launcher, for instance), but aren't otherwise breaking the Terms of Service or the law, and can safely have the 'cracked' reference edited out and still stand on its own, it should not be flagged for our attention.
  • If the question cannot stand on its own because the cracked software is integral to the question, which would be a violation of the Terms of Service as Oli says, we'll nuke it from orbit like we do other law-breaking things.

There's a lot of grey-area here, but if you see something 'dodgy' you're allowed to flag it, but keep in mind you might not see any activity, or will see a declined flag if it's not openly violating the TOS and can just be 'edited out' and not harm the question at all.

And yes I stole this from Oli's answer - Oli is currently the king of summarizing things in a nice way, and I'm throwing it in this header here:

I'm concerned that, at a glance, I infer moderators aren't worried about piracy here.

That's not the case and, thankfully, also not what you say, but it gets a bit bogged down by reiterating the same ~"don't bother us with this stuff" stuff.

The act of software piracy has no place on Ask Ubuntu.

  • It's either completely superfluous to the question... Like telling us what they had for breakfast in a installation question, and can be safely edited out, or
  • It's integral to the question, and in which case it's against the network Terms of Service, and we nuke it from orbit like we do other law-breaking stuff.

There will be other examples that skirt between these, but for this discussion, I just need to highlight that there very much are reasons you should hit the flag if you see something dodgy. It's certainly not a hands-off topic.

Just use some discretion. If you can fix it yourself, without altering the fabric of reality, please, do the honours.


Now, the long version of the above...

Going through flags, I see things like this on a regular basis in our flags queue (and yes I did blur out a large portion of the data so all you can really see is the flags raised on this given instance):

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For the record, the question that got those flags was a user asking how to resolve a Java error they're seeing in a piece of software. It also just happened to mention they're using a cracked version of that specific software, and does not ask how to crack the software or how to spread the cracked software or how to actually do software cracking/piracy. And I mention all these points for a very good reason.

Let me state something for everyone who does reviewing and/or flagging actively to be aware of: moderators are not the global software police. It is not our job as moderators to police who does or doesn't use a given piece of software on Ubuntu - cracked or otherwise. It is also not our job to close questions or punish users solely because someone uses a given piece of software that may or may not be cracked.

If you are flagging a question for mod attention simply because it mentions that someone is using a piece of cracked or pirated software it does NOT mean that we will actually do anything about it. We may not like that they are using cracked software, but it's not our job to be the police on the matter. They aren't directly violating the rules in this manner.

If you are flagging a question for mod attention because the user is using a cracked piece of software and the issue observed is specifically because of that crack, then consider Voting to Close the Question as offtopic and refer to the fact they should not be using the cracked software (and don't flag for mod attention directly).

If you are flagging a question or answer for mod attention because it asks "How do I get a cracked version of XYZ" or "How do I download XYZ proprietary software for free?" or "How do I crack software and break the license keys?", or are flagging an answer because it links to a specific site that shares the pirated software, or is a downloader for pirated software, or is a link to a torrent for pirated software, etc., then we can do something about it because such posts are then a violation of the StackExchange Terms of Use.

This does NOT mean we openly support or condone the use of cracked or pirated software. However, just because someone says they are using a cracked piece of a given software, doesn't mean we should necessarily penalize them for their question if it's actually a good question and could help someone who doesn't have the pirated software with the same problem.

There's been a lot of discussion on this over the years, on StackExchange sites and beyond. One such relevant discussion thread is this one over on Meta.SE, which explicitly touches upon these kinds of things.


Now, here's the thing: Outside of the world of moderating Ask Ubuntu, where I do not wear a moderator hat and do not wield the Hammer of the Mods, I totally agree that the site and community should not be using pirated or cracked software. It's often my job to do a survey of a workplace's systems and infrastructure and software, and determine if we are in compliance with licenses, patching, etc., and determine if anyone is using illegal software. But that's where I'm hired to do that work, and where that company that hired me to do that has strict policies about what a user can or cannot have on their system, and cracked software is against the policies.

But, that's the world outside Ask Ubuntu and StackExchange moderation. Within the world of StackExchange and moderation, however, we are not the software police, we are the "keepers of the peace" and "enforcers of the StackExchange rules". We can't do much about a single user who say they are using pirated software and want to get help with an issue that is not against the Terms of Use explicitly (for example, a Minecraft question about resolving a Java SSL problem that both a cracked or non-cracked Minecraft can run into is not explicitly against the Terms of Use).

We can squish people who try and spread pirated software or who post links on how to pirate software or how to crack specific pieces of software, as all that is off-topic and against the SE Terms of Use. But we aren't able to really squish users based on the fact that they posted a question and just happened to mention they are using a cracked version and are seeking help - especially if the issue can be seen regardless of the crack being present or not.

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    (While I totally agree) I think this should better be written in Q&A style, like “OP revealed s/he uses pirated software, what do you mods do about that?” – dessert Dec 31 '17 at 9:21
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    @dessert there's a long history of meta posts that are PSAs and not intended to be answered. My opinion is that there's no need to shoehorn a piece of communication into a format artificially unless there's a really strong reason to do that. – Zanna Dec 31 '17 at 11:02
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    Probably should be featured – muru Dec 31 '17 at 15:12
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    @muru i held off on putting "featured" while still discussing this internally. – Thomas Ward Dec 31 '17 at 18:03
  • Question for you: Does Ask Ubuntu openly condone asking "homework" type questions on the forum? – Douglas Held Jan 7 '18 at 15:40
  • @DouglasHeld the opposite: we openly condemn. – TheWanderer Jan 14 '18 at 18:20
  • Thank you - I meant to ask "condemn". My point was to probe why the forum would openly condemn one misdeed while looking the other way from other misdeeds. And in the meanwhile I can see that the homework questions are directly contrary to the spirit of Q/A based exchanges, while piracy is a completely orthogonal topic. – Douglas Held Jan 14 '18 at 22:04
  • I think I've found a gray area deserving clarification: What about a question about running "keygen.exe" with Wine? Whilst not piracy per se the sole purpose of the software in question is to allow piracy. What should we do about it? – user692175 Jan 18 '18 at 17:30
  • @michaelbay let's cross that bridge if and when we get to it. The chances of someone asking that question are very low, and the chances of its being a decent question that meets the standards of SE are even lower. – terdon Jan 18 '18 at 20:00
  • @terdon Oh, the bridge has been crossed: Question 992698, now deleted. I rmeber commenting something about it then somebody else said I was wrong and directed me to this meta question from which I quoted the issue observed is specifically because of that crack... and the person retorted with the software itself isn't pirated (true) so the question should be OK. Having been deleted suggests the close voters agree with me but a clarification would be great, the question could have been closed removed due to VLQ but imagine a similar but well written question pops up again? – user692175 Jan 18 '18 at 20:18
  • @MichaelBay "Imagine a similar but well written question pops up again" - so you want us to deal with a hypothetical nonexistent case? The probability of that case happening is near-zero. – Thomas Ward Jan 18 '18 at 20:48
  • I just suggested a clarification for what I regard as a gray area. Although for me is a straight no-no, I must admit it's above all a moral argument or a de facto rather than de jure situation. As such, I asked for clarification just to be be told let's cross that bridge if and when we get to it which would be fine IF the bridge hadn't been crossed. And now you're telling me let's wait for the other bridge and that for me settles the issue. – user692175 Jan 18 '18 at 21:00
  • @user692175 "What about ... running "keygen.exe" with Wine? Whilst not piracy per se the sole purpose of the software in question is to allow piracy." Wrong. I have legally bought copies from ~20 years ago for which the printed CD Keys have simply faded and/or worn out to the point they're no longer readable, so no, it's not the only reason. I have others for which some of my CD keys have been lost (e.g. packing/unpacking during moves, etc) and there's no recourse. You wouldn't even be able to buy the game again if you tried. – code_dredd Nov 20 '18 at 7:19
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I'm concerned that, at a glance, I infer moderators aren't worried about piracy here.

That's not the case and, thankfully, also not what you say, but it gets a bit bogged down by reiterating the same ~"don't bother us with this stuff" stuff.

The act of software piracy has no place on Ask Ubuntu.

  • It's either completely superfluous to the question... Like telling us what they had for breakfast in a installation question, and can be safely edited out, or
  • It's integral to the question, and in which case it's against the network Terms of Service, and we nuke it from orbit like we do other law-breaking stuff.

There will be other examples that skirt between these, but for this discussion, I just need to highlight that there very much are reasons you should hit the flag if you see something dodgy. It's certainly not a hands-off topic.

Just use some discretion. If you can fix it yourself, without altering the fabric of reality, please, do the honours.

  • Marking this as accepted so it stays up higher. – Thomas Ward Jan 2 '18 at 1:48
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    «because the cracked software is integral to the question, which would be a violation of the Terms of Service as Oli says, we'll nuke it from orbit like we do other law-breaking things» Cool. Except it happened multiple times that I flagged answers or comments explicitly telling the user to use pirated software (it was 100% of the answer/comment) and my flag got rejected. Every single time. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jan 2 '18 at 21:47
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    @AndreaLazzarotto That's unfortunate. It sounds like they should have been dealt with one way or another. I can't really comment (or fix it) without seeing the posts/flags in question. If you still have one to hand, let me know. Same goes if this happens to you in the future. – Oli Jan 3 '18 at 10:50
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    @AndreaLazzarotto I just checked and you only have one declined flag for this sort of thing and that was declined because it wasn't actually suggesting pirated software. It was linking to Hiram's Boot CD which is not pirated. Now, there may be some sort of licencing issue between them and Microsoft but that is way beyond what we can be expected to sort out as non-lawyers. I handled that flag and tried to see what was illegal about anything in the answer and failed. If I need to have a law degree to figure out something's illegal, then it isn't something lowly moderators can deal with. – terdon Jan 3 '18 at 13:14
  • @terdon, Hiren Boot CD is not only a pirated copy of Windows, it also includes several cracked commercial programs. You don't need a law degree, you just need to be aware about the contents of Hiren's Boot CD. Have you ever looked into it? Some other flags have been provided on other communities, but the SE TOS should apply equally regardless of the community. – Andrea Lazzarotto Jan 3 '18 at 13:32
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    @andrea I did actually. I checked its web page and Wikipedia. The point is that the software wasn't pirated. I have no idea whether hiren's boot CD is legal or not and under which jurisdiction. However, linking to it is not linking to pirated software, it is a freely available tool. Whether the tool itself is legal or not I will leave to Microsoft's lawyers to decide. I honestly don't know if it is or not. – terdon Jan 3 '18 at 13:43
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    Hiren's Boot CD used to be a huge pile of pirated software. It's much less now but I don't think we need to split hairs, especially in situations where this isn't the only option. If somebody told you to download a copy of Windows from well known torrent site, you wouldn't flinch before deleting the post. This is a smaller set of Microsoft's gubbins, in amongst a pile of permissively-enough licensed software, but at its core still it's telling somebody to download unlicensed software. (All assuming that is still the case - edit, still uses MiniXP). – Oli Jan 3 '18 at 13:45
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    @Oli that's just it. As I said, I did check and I couldn't understand if there was anything illegal. I think that it's one thing to remove links to pirated software but an entirely different thing to try and decide whether a non-pirated piece of software is itself actually somehow illegal. How am I to know what agreement Hiren's makers have with Microsoft? All we can check is whether the link given is active piracy (linking to cracked software). If it isn't, I don't think it is reasonable to expect us to go digging to find whether the tool is in full agreement with some TOS. – terdon Jan 3 '18 at 14:31
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    Just as devil's advocate, how do we know The Pirate Bay doesn't have a special license to redistribute all those movies? I think if somebody tells us something is illegal, and we can't determine otherwise, we have to cede to their knowledge, and then leave a comment explaining why we're deleting a post. If the author knows better, they can flag it back up and we can dig in further. – Oli Jan 4 '18 at 14:04
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    I've shunted this off to Meta.SE. We by no means need to follow the result but it might give us better options. – Oli Jan 4 '18 at 14:25
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    "If you can fix it yourself, without altering the fabric of reality, please, do the honours." Says it best.. – Elder Geek Jan 5 '18 at 17:34
  • The information about whether a user uses a genuine or cracked version can be integral to the question in that anyone using the genuine version should know that whatever answer provided does not apply to him. Editing out this information even when it seems superfluous causes loss of contextual information. – tkruse Jan 9 '18 at 3:04
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I certainly do not disagree with @Oli or the OP, but I just thought I'ld put a bit of my logic out there:

Yep. If it's about movie piracy, I'm certainly not responding to the question. That's not to say I've never set an undismissable ad to opacity 0 or anything, but it's one of those - If you want to do that, you're on your own things. I do like that the post notes something about "if it's a valid question anyway then allow it", but I avoid those questions like the plague, because there's no way for me to know if it has more to do with the cracked software than an actual problem.

Like if someone said they had trouble with a sublimetext3 bug that I never saw but also pointed out they were using a patched version to get rid of the nag window, I would dismiss the question out of hand. For that reason, I think it's important NOT to edit it out of the question.

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