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There's been a lot of talk recently about what it means to support piracy and pirated games. A very recent example is this question, in which a user asks a question that turns out to be a valid problem for a legitimate copy of the game, but in which he admitted in the comments that he's using a pirated version.

Even after it was clear that this problem exists in non-pirated copies, the question was still closed due to the mention of piracy.

Is the simple mention of piracy enough? Does the question need to be more intrinsically tied up with piracy? Where do we draw the line?

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    This is definitely something we need to hash out. If we DO decide to make some questions that mention piracy on-topic, we need a solid, clear policy in place. No using judgement, no gray areas at all. Either they're all off-topic, or those that are on-topic must meet some very exacting standards.
    – Frank
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:29
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    The only point I really want to stress is that helping someone who pirated the game is not in itself supporting piracy any more than selling someone a hot dog is supporting that person's choice of political party. That said, there are other problems regarding what to do with the user who admits to piracy. Should we be giving them rep? Would it be easier to simply close the question so we don't have to work out whether or not the problem exists in legitimate copies?
    – user9983
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:36
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    Of course, then it raises the question of what you do if we already know it's present in legitimate copies. Or what to do if the user who admitted piracy asks another question about the same game? Close it too? What if he deletes his comment admitting piracy and now you have no proof of it? What if he posts "Just kidding?" What if he posts that it's a pirated game 2 years after he asked the question and it's already got 30 upvotes and 5 answers? There's a lot of "what ifs" once the asker and his motives come into it.
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:38
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    @Sterno To be fair, you asked for it to come up in chat again, because you were impatient.
    – user98085
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:43
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    That said, closing anything that just so much as mentions piracy spares us a lot of work. We don't have to care about the what-ifs. We don't have to care about whether or not it exists in legitimate versions, we just close based on that small phrasing.
    – user98085
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:45
  • @Sterno Ah, well, if Grace Note's on the case, who am I to dissuade him? Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 18:49
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    @Raven I'd really like to see your answer anyway, since I knew you were kinda workin' on this f'r a while.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 19:03
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    @One-One In most cases, that is correct. Most often, the way we identify pirated games is because users state or imply they are using pirated games. e.g., "I'm playing the non-steam version of Civilization V". (Civ V is a steamworks-exclusive title ) Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 20:47
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    So essentially it comes down to does the user have morals? I can honestly say that I have pirated in the past, but I also buy A LOT of games, some of which come from piracy. Then you have to look at Dev's giving the okay to pirate because they know it potentially leads to people buying the game. It's a matter of "Do I really want this game?" and answer a question for a pirated game should be treated as a normal question in my humble opinion. Other diag ?'s shouldn't tho.
    – Cole Busby
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 15:18
  • How about just flagging a post that contains piracy and remove it. Warn the poster a single time that posts or jokes about piracy is strict forbidden and the next time he gets a sanction -points, limited ban, perma ban.
    – Madmenyo
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 8:32
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    Also, a note to all the people out there: when someone says he/she is using a "Cracked" version, it doesn't mean it's pirated! I have legally aquired games, but I hate DRM's, so I always download cracks. This should be taken into consideration before accusing someone of something that isn't true.
    – Gizmo
    Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 18:06
  • What about "ports" (no clue what to call them) where, for instance, an old pokemon game for game boy is re-made for computers (not by Nintendo), and the problem is occuring there? What then, if they bought the original but wanted to use the computer version too?
    – The Ugly
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 21:38

7 Answers 7


As I see it, closing a question strictly because the asker admits (or implies) the use of an illegal copy, is a misuse of close votes.

There are two major problems that arise from this, "Piracy == Close" policy. The first has been demonstrated by Sterno, who re-asked the question that sparked this whole debate.

Ignoring the comments and edit history of each question, here are each of the question bodies:

Question 1:

I'm doing quest Discerning the Transmundane on xbox 360 version I've killed orcs, falmer, high elves, and dark elves but I can't harvest their blood. I can only search them(loot).

What am I doing wrong?

Question 2:

I'm doing quest Discerning the Transmundane and I'm on level 15.

I've killed orc, falmer, high elves, and dark elves but I can't harvest their blood, I can only search them(loot).

I'm playing on the xbox360, game version 1.0.0.

One of these questions is still open, and the other has (at time of writing) been put on hold as off-topic. Which is which? Does it matter?

Voting on a question (up, down, or close) should be done based on the merits of the question alone. Before voting to close, ask yourself: "Would this question be acceptable if it was asked by someone else or without the last paragraph?". If the answer to that is, "yes", then you should not be closing the question, you should be fixing it!

The second problem with such a strict policy is one of community stigma and retroactive consequences.

To use a personal example, I have asked one hundred and thirty six questions and answers in the Skyrim tag.

If, tomorrow, I were to admit that I have never owned a legitimate copy of Skyrim, and every single one of those was based on a pirated version of the game, what should happen? I'd have admitted to using a pirated copy, which means that all 21 of those questions should be closed? That all 115 of my answers should be deleted and invalidated? Should I never be allowed to ask a question in the tag again?

We don't judge the source of Arqade's content, we judge it's quality. I suppose I'm advocating for a specific, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy -- as long as you're not actively advocating to pirate content (or looking for us to help you do so), you're welcome to share your knowledge, or ask questions.

And I'm going to have to strongly disagree with Badp about identifying pirated content. With the rare exception, I'd be willing to wager that the vast majority of questions on Arqade would be identical regardless of the copyright status of your game.

And I'm going to have to disagree that "version" or its like can be used as a reliable indicator, as well; people without wi-fi may never update games on their console, Steam Users can prevent automatic updates of their library, and when developers release stand-alone patches, even pirated versions can be "up to date".

I agree with Agent86 -- if all references to pirated content can be removed from a question (or answer), that should be done, and the question let stand. If that means the only right answer becomes, "Update the game to the latest version", I am okay with that.

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    Sterno "seeded" a question about a game version they probably don't own. The other was asked honestly (if naïvely) about a cracked/burned/who-knows version. They are only the same question if they are artificially engineered to appear superficially the same in order to support an argument. Asked naturally, they would be different questions. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:12
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    My original posting of the "seeded" question did not include the fact that it was for xbox or that it was version, because it was clear by that point that such pieces of information were irrelevant. Yes, I was trying to prove a point that our current policy can lead to absurd situations, but I was also trying to improve the quality of the question. But I think @raven's point wasn't "look, almost identical text!" so much as "Neither of these are about piracy per the text, and are the same question, yet one was closed".
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:19
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    @Sterno Posting a question that you can't verify the answers on: how is that supposed to work? There's a reason we generally discourage posting questions without actually having a problem to be solved. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 4:14
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    Seems to be working just fine in this particular case.
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 8:50
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    "We don't judge the source of Arqade's content, we judge it's quality." This basically summed the main direction I was going to with my answer, though I opted for the more rhyme-y "Intent is not what matters, but content." I had more to say though so I may yet still post summat, but you and agent certainly shave off a decent amount of the text I had.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:39
  • I think maybe room for quality of intent is needed here. When someone asks a question, say about moving files concerning a DRM controlled distribution service that falls into a "grey area," I feel best practice is to mimic what official support within that service also directly states. For example - moving Steam files - support states it can be done when it's same system / different system but same user. Currently a question exists where it's different system different users. I see that as too great a variable to answer without possibly assisting piracy, regardless of claim to license Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 15:46

When I think of the "no piracy" policy, I think of avoiding situations where we're suggesting an illegal or questionably legal activity to further another illegal or questionably legal activity.

We close questions to prevent answers - in this case, the "evil" of the answer is the furtherance of this illegal activity. I have no issues with this and support it as a policy.

If there's a question, and the "piracy" is either implied, suggested, or otherwise suspected, I tend to view it through the lens of whether or not other people could be legitimately in this situation. After all, DRM issues and anti-piracy checks can occur to legitimate buyers, and glitches arise in all games regardless of how they were acquired.

If I can either assume good faith or cross out the irrelevant portions of the question, I suggest we proceed without closing. Especially in cases where it's up to the community to judge the actions and intentions of the asker beyond what's present in the question, I'm inclined to let things pass. However, if the piracy and the question's issue are intertwined and inseparable, and valid answers will only condone further bad acts, then close.

If we take a look at a similar situation where, say, a user is leaving good answers but then going on a curse-filled litany at the end of every answer, we would probably edit the curses out, and leave the answers as is. Then we'd deal with the user's behavioral issue separately from the post.

If we close valid questions on the basis that piracy is tangential to the asker's situation, we are punishing the user by proxy by punishing the question. "You're a pirate, evildoer, and therefore unworthy of an answer to your question, no matter how valid the question is." I really kind of hate punishing users by proxy, as I don't think it works well and it causes all sorts of issues.

Instead, perhaps we should punish the user directly for their misdeeds, and allow the question to stand - that way, the benefit for the answer is reaped by all, while the punishment for the negative activity is felt directly by the user.

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    If we close valid questions on the basis that piracy is tangential to the asker's situation; But it's not tangential, and the perception that it is is entirely at the root of the misunderstanding here. The very first comment on the question was 'Update the game.' While the issue described can occur in a patched copy, my understanding is, it happens much less often; however, the user insists on a solution for a cracked version 1.0. This was even included in the text of the question. This is not tangential. A similar question may be piracy free, but the one as asked is not. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 23:16
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz That makes "update the game" an acceptable answer, not, "Update the game. Why haven't you updated the game? Are you a dirty thieving pirate?" Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 23:19
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    @RavenDreamer The dirty thieving pirate information was volunteered by the asker. At which point, he essentially rejected the first and most important step in any practical means of troubleshooting his problem. Any solution which caters to him at that point, is a solution in service to a piratical end. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 23:22
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    @LessPop_MoreFizz If one is still expected to close the question after all piracy-related information was removed, the enforcement itself is inconsistent, and perhaps should be changed: A Close Vote is not a Super Downvote Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 23:46
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    @SevenSidedDie If removing the piracy information makes the question no longer relevant... we are not talking about the same class of question. The whole point of the argument to keeping the questions is that they are relevant, to some subset of the legal playerbase. This is not about the pirate/asker getting answers, but about the site getting content. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:21
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    @RavenDreamer SE optimises for pearls (answers), not sand (questions). Questions like this are not worth saving. We have no idea of what would help this user. For all we know, a bug may be unfixable by normal means due to the crack used. We don't know. We don't care either. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:25
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    @SevenSidedDie There's no pearls without sand, and for all we know, half the answered questions on the site were spawned from pirated versions. We can't start from the assumption that questions from pirated games are obviously such. In some cases it is obvious, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:19
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    If it helps to think of it, "No pirated game should be considered to behave differently from a legitimate copy until proven otherwise". Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:22
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    @RavenDreamer Argue with Jeff about sand if you like, but until you overturn that design decision it's not debatable here: questions are disposable, and that is a fundamental premise we must work with when crafting policy around question closing. Moving on, I don't quite understand your position here: we need not make any assumption, since we know this is a pirated game. I don't see anything to discuss, given that. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:25
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    We are not lawyers. Let lawyers worry about this sort of issues.
    – badp
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 9:41
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    I'm just afraid people will link to this answer as evidence that we should provide support to pirates because we "don't want to punish the user." It's one thing if, as in the linked question, the problem still occurs in the retail copy. But the majority of the time the correct answer is simply "update your game to the latest version," to which they reply, "I can't, I have a pirated version." Well then, tough-titties to you. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 13:19
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft No, you've described perfectly what I would expect to happen. "I can't benefit from your answer" does not make it wrong. And remember, there are legitimate reasons for users to have their games not be up-to-date (deployed overseas, favorite mod compatibility, etc.) Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:43
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    One thing to note: Developers are throwing more clever behaviors into the game when they detect it's not legitimate, such as Game Dev Tycoon's "Lose all your money due to piracy." Do we answer these with, "You pirated the game, buy a legit version", or do we close it, since the problem is due to piracy? Either one seems valid.
    – Frank
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 16:08
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    Though proving a pirated game behaves differently is a different matter entirely; it might be best to "assume identical until demonstrably otherwise" in such scenarios. (And if this results in the "update your game" answer as above, so be it) Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 17:33
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    Well, the anti-piracy measures tend to be publicized rather widely once they become known. Serious Sam has it's large, invincible scorpion, one of the Batman games limited glide time, that sort of thing. There's no way for us to know those are piracy measures until we're told about them, so assuming good faith would be par for the course, I believe. Otherwise we'd assume every bug we can't reproduce is a product of clever DRM and close accordingly. :P I was referring to those "bugs" that we know are products of piracy DRM.
    – Frank
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 17:44

One of the founding principles of the network is to focus not on people, but on information. It's why we disallow discussion, why votes are focused on posts and not people, and a host of other components we have enabled to improve the quality of our Q&A above all. A great question asked for stupid reasons (though this tends to be done more often on, say, Stack Overflow) is still a great question. Following from this, our general approach on things is to judge not on intent, but on content.

Let's thusly delve into the problems where this started - someone openly (and, typically, stupidly) admits that they're yohoho-ing all up ins with their wares when asking a question about a problem they faced in the game. We know the user is a salty seadog but since we judge on content, we look at the question. The fact that the game is pirated is actually considered pertinent data at this start because until evidence is shed otherwise, we have no ability to ascertain whether or not that data is relevant to the problem. There's basically three ways this can go from here.

  • The problem has nothing to do with it being a pirated copy, and is a legitimate problem that normal gamers also run into. I agree with Raven and agent here. This eliminates the pirate-ness from being pertinent data and it can thus be removed from the question, leaving us a legitimate question. Requiring a landlubber to re-ask the question is not only focusing on the user instead of the post, but it also creates extra work for several parties that serves no benefit to our goal of content generation. The question is a legitimate question and should live as such, and the original asker is irrelevant. If anyone else could've asked it, it's them who decided not to ask it in the first place.

  • The problem is entirely because it's a pirated copy. Basically, if the problem's identity boils down to "You're a pirate and getting a real copy of the game would fix this problem", that's all we can offer. I would venture that support for pirated copies are not in the scope of our knowledge, in the same way that news is outside of our scope. If we wish to be anti-piracy, then allowing for a subset community of Pirates Helping Pirates with their copies of the game is not really conducive to our end goals. I mean, it even abbreviates to PHP. Point is that this lets us be a safe harbor for pirates to work with each other - they have other places they can do this, just like people can visit news centers to get news.

    I personally don't think that should leave the question open. For the same reason we shouldn't point people at news sites as an Answer to a speculation question, I don't think we really benefit by having "You're a pirate and that's why you can't have nice things" as an Answer. Both of these are general advice that we can and do give without people needing to ask. I would suggest that we close this scenario as Off-Topic when we identify it as such.

  • The problem exists in normal copies, but the solution doesn't apply to the original asker because it persists for different reasons because pirates. We should cater to the normal game problem and provide solutions for those. We won't be able to help the asker directly since, again, PHP is bad. Just like dealing with someone who asked the wrong question to solve a problem they have (the XY problem as it's commonly known elsewhere), the route here is to work with the asker on how to break this down - we basically give them the choice between the two routes above. We can either remove the piracy references and focus the question on the legitimate problem and they accept that it won't solve their own copy, or we leave it as focusing on the pirated version which warrants closure. Leaving it open to address the proper question does mean we probably lose the capability to have an accepted answer, but in most cases we can have a highly voted correct answer that is enough of an indication of how things go.

This all relies on us making the identification of the scenario in the first place, though, and this may not be immediately apparent or even for a while it may not be apparent. Anecdotally, it actually doesn't take very long for folks to identify whether something exists as a normal copy problem versus a pirate-only problem. Someone venturing to answer the question tends to also identify it as a real-copy problem. Until such happens, a simple comment along the lines of "We do not perform support for pirated copies of games, so unless this also is a problem in normal copies, it is unlikely that we will be able to provide a solution for you." addresses everything nicely. Then we let it sit, either as is or until we get the necessary identifying information. We are of no obligation to do any research on our own part, and I venture that we shouldn't waste any of our time and effort to do such, if we believe that it is most likely a result of being a pirate. If it isn't a prevalent problem that exists outside of pirates, then the question will languish, it won't attract votes, and and it will be reaped for inactivity eventually, which is even less work on our part to clean up. There's plenty of time for people who would know and can prove the legitimacy of a question to speak up in its defense.

In summary, the mention of piracy does not invalidate a problem until it is identified that piracy is the root of the problem, is how I would approach it. This makes it mostly in-line with a lot of what agent86 and Raven Dreamer are saying, though I do differ in that I do believe that questions wherein we identify that piracy is, indeed, the root of the problem, that we are better served to simply close these rather than post answers which equivalently amount to "stop being a pirate".

...y'know, half the reason I held off for so long was because I wanted to write less but this still feels like a monstrously long post.

  • In case it was unclear, I, too, advocate against answers of "stop being a pirate". Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 20:08
  • It was not entirely clear when I read your answer, yeh. At least, that's how I interpreted the detail of "Just update" when I figure that not being up-to-date is not entirely pirate-specific as an issue, so it otherwise confused me for the distinction of attention it attracted.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 20:22
  • Cracked up at "PHP". Awesome answer besides. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 1:25
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    As a PHP purist, I feel offended by this use of the acronym. :P
    – user98085
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 2:18
  • I'm happy with this answer. It does leave some room for disagreement on the specific question that started this: there is a claim that the bug occurs even when up-to-date, and a counter-claim that the bug is far less frequent when up-to-date therefore the problem is very likely still piracy. I still see that question as unclear and grey because, applying this answer's logic, it's probably case #2. But the question is then such a corner case, despite being the inspiration for this hubbub, that it doesn't detract from the quality and nuance of the approach given here. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 2:22
  • I disagree that intent should not be a qualifier and identifier of quality of content. Take for example a question about Minecraft launchers and why they can't get the game to work using a specific one. If my knowledge of the launcher is that I know it's intent, then intent is a qualifier. The intent of the question is to get help running a pirated game. No matter how the question is asked, that's the intent and if only implied, answers indirectly signal that semantics will win out and all a pirate needs to do is take the "long route" to their answer or appeal to public perception. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 16:05

In general, the pirated version of a game really is a different game from the "public" one.

  • The public version gets updates, the pirated usually doesn't.
  • The public version integrates with Steam, Origin and pals, the pirated thinks it does but it doesn't.
  • The public version passes any internal anti-piracy checks, the pirated doesn't and may have "extra super-special seriously explosive features" as a result.
  • The public version can play in MP, the pirated doesn't.
  • The public version is one and only one, while multiple different pirated versions of one game can be published, and the user probably doesn't know what version they've got (at best we'll get "uh, it's the one with the most active torrents")
  • We explicitly chose not to support pirated versions of a game, and all of the variables they introduce.

For this reason, the asker may not be helped by an answer that is otherwise correct. This is a problem because:

  • The asker is the one and only person who gets to accept an answer
  • The asker doesn't have the version of the game we support and answer to to check if the answer works or not

At the end of the day, we aren't going to run out of question numbers. If the question also applies to legitimate customers of the game, let them ask instead. Let them get the reputation from the question; let them exercise the duty of accepting an answer; let them get in touch with answerers, regardless of reputation, with the comment area.

Sure, we can make exceptions to these rules where it makes sense, and my close vote was just a regular user's 5th close vote. But this is an area where I'm a little less lenient than usual. :)

  • I don't think digital-only and online-only games are prevalent to the degree that pirated games in general are probably of those types, and I think you overestimate the number of games that have nontrivial protection. Anyhow, whether the question is valid for the unmarred game ought to be determined by people in the know. If you don't know, don't close vote; that's always been the guidance. Voting based on the user's actions is not supposed to happen. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 20:05
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    @MatthewRead So... Spyro Year of the Dragon, Earthbound, Maniac Mansion, Mirror's Edge and Serious Sam BFE are digital-only and online-only? Those features are not public information. The changes made to the game by cracks are also not public information. Those changes may negatively affect those games in non-trivial ways, and you'd have to reverse engineer the game completely to know. That's above and beyond what can be expected by gamers.
    – badp
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 20:18
  • @Sterno I'm all for exceptions but they're just that - exceptions to the general case. And that's what we should be focusing on.
    – badp
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 9:43
  • "If the question also applies to legitimate customers of the game, let them ask instead." My problem with this is that when a pirated question is found, users obsessed over rep will jump at the opportunity to ask the same question.
    – Batophobia
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 21:48
  • @badp As hard as you try, you cannot prove something is true in general via examples. I didn't claim that only such games can have piracy protection. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 1:17
  • @badp Earthbound Beginnings is digital-only. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 14:37

We are not here to judge users (though educating them might sometimes be adequate...). While posts and comments clearly implying the necessity of piracy should be removed due to the legal implications, the mere fact that someone uses a pirated version of a game does not render an otherwise valid question suddenly invalid. Any traces relating to piracy should however be removed, and as long as the question remains valid for legally obtainable versions of a game it should remain here.

While the question mentioned here is posted by someone who admitted they pirated the game, we should not make quick conclusions - as a false positive take this question where I was not the only one to first assume that one meanwhile very established user was asking us on how to actively pirate a specific game. And would we have been too paranoid about this back then, we'd probably have driven away one quite helpful user.


I'm not very clear on what policy or practice has been established or agreed upon.

The impression I have in the mixture of answers and ensuing comments was: the onus should be on site members to differentiate between intent and content by encouraging edits and semantics as a means to mitigate negative reaction and sentiment.

That idea seems like rationalizing a zero-sum to get stop-loss.

I feel the policy shouldn't be to deal with it case by case, but to avoid it altogether regardless of how grey-the area is until it's no longer grey. I typically don't like a closed policy of system, but it is of benefit in some areas.

The following examples are why I think having a strict policy is a better alternative to what I understand the feeling to be.

A (now closed) question regarding Minecraft would not launch was posted a few days ago. The asker was told support would only be given for "vanilla" versions and the official launcher. Okay, cool. In this case, there's no support in official capacity for launchers other than what's packaged with Minecraft.

The next day, another Minecraft Launcher question was asked: Do I have a cracked Launcher?

This is not directly a piracy question but it isn't clear whether the subtext of the question was motivated to learn ways to side-step or develop additional practice to thwart piracy. The nature of the question is unclear, but the semantics of it make it answerable. I answered based on the semantic presentation.

Another example:

Can you share Steam game files - was answered with a reminder the recipients would need to have license to use the software once the transfer of files was completed.

Giving the steam Game Data to a friend - has an accepted answer reminding the asker would have to provide license keys to the recipients.

These linked questions have two important and opposing details: onus of responsibility for obtaining license. It appears this difference is from rules within specific titles but in level of understanding by the person answering and lack of official support for the act to clearly define a solvent answer.

If the question about how to handle piracy is somewhat contingent upon semantics and content, then so too should be the answer. When the official source of the product in question has no answers on what or how to do something with the product, regardless of how the question is worded, we should refrain from giving an answer that leads to questionably legal outcome or encourages use of the service or product outside the scope supported by the source.

I don't think it gets any simpler than that.

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    Your conflation of down voting with punishing the user is incorrect. As is your same conflation with closing a question. There's a lot of word salad going on that makes it very hard to understand what you're saying. Condensing your answer would make it much easier to read.
    – Frank
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 20:13

SE's policy is to not dictate to us how to handle piracy, so studiously avoiding even the possibility of being involved in helping someone using a pirated game isn't our concern. That means my concerns about exposure to liability aren't relevant – SE has lawyers (while I don't) and have presumably consulted them and made an informed policy about how to handle this. If they're not worried, then I'm not worried.

(I would delete this answer normally since now it doesn't address the question, but I'll leave it for those who can't see deleted posts and their comments.)

We expose the company that runs the SE network to legal liability internationally if we knowingly leave open a question about pirated content. It is not actually known if doing this is illegal of us, but it is not worth out time or the company's money to hash this out with a day (months) in court in potentially many jurisdictions.

If a question is about a pirated game, we must close it or risk financially ruining all of SE. Piracy-related questions, with any smidge of piratical activity in the question, are off topic for good reason. We have zero wiggle room to hash out here.

Unless we want to bring in SE's legal council, of course. I don't think that's a good idea though.

  • 1
    I've heard this said before as a justification, but I'm not sure if someone from SE actually ever said this, or if its just us all quoting each other. Do you have any Meta posts or other SE communication to back this position up?
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:04
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    Also, where does the responsibly end? If he admitted he pirated Skyrim in one question, must we also close any other otherwise-legitimate questions from him?
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:11
  • @Sterno The policy prohibits supporting or helping piracy, the activity, not pirates, the person. Helping legal activities doesn't expose us to legal liability. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:28
  • @Sterno That's just how the legal system works. It doesn't have to be company policy—the company has no choice in this. We aid or abet illegal activity, and we can be pulled into court by the government's decree. We may win or lose, but that doesn't matter, since why are we going to court to defend a pirate? Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:29
  • 3
    If Stack Exchange Inc. gets in actual, quantifiable Legal Trouble over user-generated content relating to game piracy, I'm pretty sure it will be the first time it has ever happened in the history of forever. (Not that I'm hyperbolizing or anything)
    – Brant
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:41
  • @Brant Lots of small sites are shut down every day. Regardless, if SE gets pulled into court over us helping a pirate, we have spectacularly failed at being good network citizens. It doesn't matter whether they are absolved in court or not. We shouldn't be doing anything that exposes the site to liability. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:45
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    I feel this is a specious argument. Simply running a website exposes you to liability. Hell, simply breathing exposes you to liability. And to be clear, no one is arguing that we should help support piracy. The question is what constitutes that support. If someone admits to pirating Skyrim but then asks a question about Rogue Legacy, do we have to close that question too since it would be aiding and abetting a known pirate (of a totally different game) and we don't want to risk SE getting sued? If that's the line we're taking, then such users should simply be banned.
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 1:46
  • @Sterno Is anyone suggesting we close all questions from the user? I don't see anyone making that suggestion, if you want to talk about specious arguments. We're talking about whether to close questions that are about piracy. If there's no one arguing that we should keep questions about piracy open, that's great, case closed. But clearly both my last sentence is a straw man and so is your Rogue Legacy hypothetical. Our policy is that we close questions about piracy. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:01
  • If we leave a question about piracy open, that is the definition of "helping" on an SE site. If we close it, we're not helping. What the debate actually appears to be about is whether we can sanitise a piracy question to save it from being closed as off topic. Does that sound accurate? Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:05
  • @SevenSidedDie At this point I'm not even sure what we're arguing about. We agree questions about piracy should be closed. I agree with your previous comment.
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:05
  • @Sterno That sounds about right. :) Or, we're maybe not yet disagreeing about what makes a question inherently about piracy, but we're in the process of figuring out what stances are feasible to take. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:07
  • @SevenSidedDie Probably. I was hung up on your "smidge of piracy taint" bit, since I can think of a lot of ways to define that. Anyway, the point of my meta is to define exactly what does constitute supporting piracy, so I (apparently incorrectly) read your answer as "pretty much anything, once a pirate is involved".
    – Sterno
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:08
  • @Sterno Ah. It's actually "pretty much anything on the question that mentions piracy other than closing it." I can see now why you were asking about other questions from the user—sorry for assuming it was a straw man argument. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 2:15
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    Stack Exchange is based in the United States, and as such are subject to the laws of the United States. This includes the DMCA, which fortunately includes a safe harbour clause for sites that host user generated content. Stack Exchange can still be hit with DMCA take-down requests, but this is actually preferable as it gives Stack Exchange some options such as removing the content or disputing the validity of the take-down notice. Any other legal action against Stack Exchange itself is effectively null and void WRT user generated content, at least until a take-down notice is actioned.
    – MBraedley
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:41
  • 1
    @Sterno Awesome, that sets my mind at rest. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 18:26

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