I've seen some answers saying things like this:

It's illegal, but it's unlikely that anyone will find out.

It's illegal, but the police/prosecutor/copyright holder/patent holder/etc probably won't care.

It's illegal, but the evidence probably won't be strong enough for a conviction.

They seem especially common with intellectual property questions.

Should we allow answers like that, that effectively say "it's illegal but you'll get away with it"?


3 Answers 3


Should we allow answers like that, that effectively say "it's illegal but you'll get away with it"?

Yes. That type of answers pertains to "statutes or court decisions", "historical legal applications", and to some extent "legal process and procedure". These items are listed on What topics can I ask about here?

There is nothing wrong with giving an informed insight on the strictness, viability, or practicality of the actual enforcement of a law or rule. Nor is it wrong to address the [in-]sufficiency of evidence or the materiality of non-compliance.

Not everyone who makes, or is interested in, a question which prompts that sort of answers is a wrongdoer (or potential wrongdoer). Sometimes users need to know whether they might have a viable claim under certain circumstances. The value of an answer is not lower merely because of being worded in the 2nd person.


Yes, we should. First of all, it is often the exact truth. Particularly in copyright matters, where the only enforcement action comes from the copyright owner, technical infringements often simply are never seen by the owner, and if they are seen, may well be not worth the owner's time and costs to bring suit on.

Secondly, people asking such questions are not always would-be infringers. They may be would-be self-publishers, wanting to know just what kind of protection their works will actually have. Or they may just be curious about what the rules are. We do not know, and should not try to guess.

Thirdly, how would we enforce such a rule if we imposed it? Where would the line be drawn? I can imagine more arguments over such a rule than over "specific legal advice."

No. I am strongly opposed to any such rule, or even any guideline of the sort. I expect to go on mentioning the likelihood (high or low) of enforcement actions is copyright questions and other IP questions.


In addition to the valid observations by IƱaki Viggers and David Siegal, with which I concur, I take the view that each answer should stand (or fall) on its own particular merits regardless of the subject matter.

A bland, unsupported, and unsubstantiated assertion assumption that lacks a citation from a creditable source should be commented on, and/or downvoted, and/or flagged as individual users deem appropriate.

As we already have guidelines on how to write a good answer, I do not see a need for anything further.

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