My question is about the closing of the post
Should the code of my app that include libraries under LaTeX Project Public License 1.3c have to be public?

I have encountered and answered on this site many posts relating to copyright, licenses, Windows versions and licenses, Linux licenses, open-source licenses, serial keys, and so on. The above post seemed to me to be similar and possible to answer from my personal knowledge and experience. This very general question received from me a very general answer, then was closed.

My question is whether software licensing issues, of which there are possibly hundreds of posts on SU, are now off-topic? Or how do we distinguish between those that are on and off topic?

My own view is that as long as we don't pretend to analyze any laws and only talk generalities, then software licensing should be a permitted subject in our non-legal site.

I would like to know what you others think and perhaps we can arrive at some sort of consensus or guidelines for the future.

Following notes

To the users who went and downvoted my answer on the closed post:

What's the point in doing that? You are just subverting the spirit of Meta, where, according to my understanding, discussion is the chief purpose.

To the moderators who answered:

Thank you for your efforts. I understand your motivation in keeping legal advice off-subject. However, licensing is an indivisible part of software. Software distribution couldn't exist without copyright and licensing. The subject of software licensing is often discussed on our site and is on-subject. It goes without saying that software licenses, open-source or closed, are further modified by local legislation which should remain off-subject.

This post was mostly intended to discuss and come up with some rules for defining where the subject of licensing ends, or where it becomes off-subject. I hope that in the future this will be better defined (if at all possible).

2 Answers 2


Uhm. Yes

This isn't even a end user question, its a developer question. Everything else aside, this is pretty much

programming and software development

(SO would close it for other reasons. And its not exactly a good question)

I think well, we really shouldn't be spitballing answers on pretty marginal questions and I can't really see any way its on topic outside "there's vaguely similar questions"

  • Marginal is right. This falls into several categories, including "computer software" from the aspect of distribution. I'm looking for a clear rule, or if one is impossible (as is for many other points), for some clemency in closing marginal posts. Also, a credible percentage of our posts are developer questions.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:17
  • When I say marginal here, I don't mean "marginally ok" I mean :"Its pretty hard to see it being on topic" or even meeting quality standards here.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:21
  • Quality is often lacking when the poster is just looking for a direction, not for a canonical answer. I'm looking for a clear-cut rule why this was off-topic, for example comparing it with other open-source licensing posts, so I can avoid answering a post destined to be closed.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:33
  • Uh... so don't answer low quality questions if you're worried about closure in general.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:37
  • Thank you ... I don't think I'll get my answer.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 9:21
  • @harrymc - You actually definitive answers from two Super User moderators. The question should have probably been asked at a different SE community all together
    – Ramhound
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 12:14
  • @Ramhound: Nobody was able to define why. Then tell me yourself what's the difference here with countless other posts.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 13:09
  • @JourneymanGeek: Thanks for your answer. I added some closing remarks. For me the subject is closed.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 8:15

Being able to answer a specific question from a specific software licence is different from "compare two (potentially) completely different things and tell me what I should do".

What they should do is consult an intellectual property lawyer.

In the past we allowed some licencing questions on the grounds that they were specific, focused, and about the use of a single program or (operating) system itself. The problem is though that licence jurisdiction is not a problem using hardware or software and not something we can determine or police. Licencing questions need a lawyer familiar with the licences in question and needs you to understand both the word and intent of the licence.

Previous meta questions on this subject:

Licensing questions often involve a lot of rule-lawyering to argue whether you can or cannot legally do something. We are not a legal site and cannot offer legal advice. Legal questions have nothing to do with computer hardware or software and so are off topic.

If the question is specific enough about both the software and a single licence then you might be able to say "section 4 paragraph 8 point 7 states... so you are/aren't allowed to use your software" but asking about two licences and whether they allow or are compatible is heading into lawyer territory and far too broad.

If you look at the linked questions above you will find where I, personally, would draw the line but that line is grey and faded and subjective rather than objective. I agree that for simplicity and to avoid legal questions which are off topic a blanket ban on licencing questions would be the simplest.

There is after all Law Stackexchange and Open Source which may both be better fits. I do not see a reason for the question to remain here.

  • The post in question did not talk legalities, just about packaging softwares with differing licenses. No legal terms or clauses were discussed or analyzed. Do you think that such a general answer as mine, saying in effect that packaging a product inside another does not void its license, is too specific for our site? As users we deal with software licenses every time that we install or use a product, and there are many developers here, so some intersection is to be expected. If forum rules have changed, please clarify their text.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 9:06
  • If anything you answer is too broad. There are no specifics at all. You don't answer any of the specific question or points raised in the question (the specific licences involved) nor do you cite any authorities to back up your claims. Many licences have clauses that make them inherently incompatible with the product being included in a more permissive or restrictive licence. Almost all licencing questions, by the nature of a licence being a legal contract, are bound in legal ramifications. The question you answered is asking if, legally (implied), they are allowed to combine licences.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 12:34
  • What licence a person can release their work under is affected by and dependent on the licences of the work they use in turn, as a result they have to consider those licences carefully, not with a blasé hand-wave and hope everything is going to be okay. If a licence is permissive and open then fine, but many licences can and do restrict top level licence and, for example, block commercial use or productisation. You can't just randomly mash licences together and hope they stick. That is the can of worms we want no part of.
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 12:39
  • Everything you say is true, but may or may not apply to the post in question. As I see no definition, the final decision seems to depend on the gut feeling of the moderator.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 13:26
  • Thanks for your answer. I added some closing remarks. For me the subject is closed.
    – harrymc
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 8:15

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