The question Is it legal to install msttcorefonts package? Is Wine legal? has just caught my attention. I'm tempted to vote it as "Off-topic - too localized", but also see that the question may be edited in such a way that it applies to a broader group. But as for questions about law, it is really region-specific and the answers will likely vary a lot.

How should we treat these kind of questions?

1 Answer 1


Brazil is a big place. A question is too localized if it's unlikely it will help any other users. Clearly there are at least thousands of users who stand to benefit from such a question being answered.

Good answers to a question about law will indicate that they don't constitute legal advice (either by stating that outright or by saying that the author isn't a lawyer), and will explain that what's legal and what's not, especially as applied to copyright and patent issues, varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

I'm not sure if there's a good general protocol for handling questions that are about, or that touch on, legal issues. Since we allow questions on meta that discuss these matters (I don't mean this question, I mean questions like "Should we allow questions about topic X" where topic X is legally controversial in some country), it would be strange to have a blanket prohibition on law questions in main.

Furthermore, some questions about the law can be easily and definitively answered, even if it is done with the above caveats. For example, suppose someone asked, "Is LibreOffice legal? I thought only Microsoft was allowed to make an office suite." A good answer to that could point out the long history of different office suites.

The specific question that has caught your attention is asking about the legal status of a package that provides content with Microsoft's copyright. I answered the question by pointing out that it's provided in the official software sources, so it's not considered by the package maintainer or Ubuntu project as a whole to be problematic from a copyright or patent perspective, but that one is probably bound by the terms of use that one is asked to agree to when installing the package.

I think that question, and my answer, are reasonable, because I think the OP's concern was that the msttcorefonts package might constitute a violation of Microsoft's copyright, even when the accompanying terms of use are followed. (Or more likely, the OP may not have been aware that this package comes with terms of use, to which users are asked to agree during installation. The OP may have held off on installing wine and msttcorefonts pending research into legal concerns.) There is no reason to believe that's the case in any jurisdiction, and Microsoft has not been trying to stop the distribution of the msttcorefonts package. (If you think I'm mistaken, please do respond, preferably on main in the original question. But msttcorefonts has been around for a very long time, and it's been provided in Debian and Ubuntu without interruption.)

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