In a recent question (about running VMs on my desktop) I received a comment that licensing issues are outside the scope of this site and "we're not lawyers".

Fair enough, if that's the rule that's the rule. But licensing is a very important part of software and VMs are obviously very widely used these days, so where can I ask about such things in the SE universe?

  • Thanks @DavidPostill. It seems the matter is not as clear-cut as I thought, I don't believe my question "needs a lawyer" - just someone who understands about Windows licensing. Which I'd rather hope a sysadmin would!
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 10:04
  • Not everything has a site (yet!). The problem with licencing in many cases is that its a moving target, in constant flux and is terribly complex. The best bet is to find someone who is doing it now and asking them, or actually reading the licencing terms and trying to understand now. Licencing is in no way part of our core hardware and software work
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 11:33
  • There is a difference between asking if something is legal an of something violates a license. One requires a lawyer, in many places, a non-lawyer giving legal advice itself is illegal. Anyone with an understanding of the license and the written language can ask if something in their opioion violated a license. Link to the specific comment if you don't mind
    – Ramhound
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 23:57
  • The best place to ask about licensing is at the company doing the licensing. They are the experts.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:25
  • @fixer1234 that seems rather to fly in the face of the whole SE ethos. The best place to ask about an API is the person who wrote it, etc. Understanding licensing of the OS and software you use is surely a key part of a sysadmin's job, especially in the modern world of virtualisation (I'm not a sysadmin but surely)?
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 10:05
  • If you need to ask somewhere, going directly to the source will give you the most accurate and reliable answer. Answers here about licensing are sometimes mixed because different users have different understandings, and may not know all of the nuances even if their understanding is basically correct. Terms sometimes change with subsequent versions. There are some users who can provide a complete and accurate answer, but how can you be sure those are the ones who answered, and where are you if you get multiple answers that are inconsistent, or one answer?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 16:42
  • @fixer1234 a license question is easy to answer quote the relevant part of the license :-)
    – Ramhound
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 0:44
  • @Ramhound: I've had questions about Microsoft licenses where the license wording isn't clear. Like what's the definition of a single machine? Beyond the hardware components (is it the mother board or CPU?), suppose you dual boot. If you install office on each OS, how many installations does that count as? (turns out to be one, which you wouldn't know from the license wording.)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 5:05

1 Answer 1


Depending on the question, it can be on topic at Programmers or Law.SE - see this discussion on Meta.Law.SE that I started.

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