Thus far we have the following questions regarding the legality of music related situations:

  1. How can I easily find music recordings that are copyright-free (in the public domain)?
  2. If ticket scalping is illegal, why are sites like StubHub allowed to operate?
  3. Permission for remixes?
  4. Do you need original artist's consent to cover their songs live?

Legal issues vary depending on the company, the piece, the country, and other factors. Some questions like this may be good for the community to answer, but others are inappropriate for an online community to handle.

Where/how do we draw the line?

6 Answers 6


We should stay out of giving any kind of legal advice as the focus of the site is not legal advice.

So questions like:

  • Is it legal to ...
  • Is (this service) legal?
  • How can I legally ...

Should be off-topic.

I do however think there is a place for some legal content on the site as there are some interesting court cases about copyright like the Vanilla Ice vs Queen & Bowie.

In context of the list of questions:

  1. Definitely off topic as it is pretty much asking "How can I download song for free legally?" which I described under bullet point 3.
  2. Off topic as it is a variation of bullet point 2.
  3. Here we get into grey-area, but I would lean more towards closing as the answer can be perceived as advice to someone who is just visiting the site.
  4. We get into grey-area again and my logic is the same as the last where it may be perceived as legal advice.

So 1 and 2 are definitely off-topic, but as for the other two I think we need to talk about them a little more and exactly how they fit into the site.

  • 2
    I agree, not the least of which because: a) law can change; b) laws can vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; c) there is a great deal of legal myth polluting the internet already.
    – Donald.McLean Mod
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 18:58
  • 1
    Regarding your note about existing court cases: I think those could be useful and interesting if oriented towards "history" more than the legal issues involved. I agree with pretty much all your points. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 1:09

While by no means should what we do on Music: Practice & Theory dictate what Music Fans does, my post there about legal issues is somewhat relevant here also. Adapted:

I think these questions should be off-topic.

Questions about legal issues are either too localized (asking about laws in a specific area) or too broad (we can't answer well without knowing your specific area), and rely on legal expertise and not musical expertise. Most of these issues are only tangentially related to music; downloading a book illegally or reading it aloud in public have largely the same implications as similar issues about downloading or performing copyrighted music.

While answering these questions could be interesting to music fans, I don't think they primarily are questions about history, critique, or other "fan concerns"; they're primarily about legal issues. The scope should not be expanded to include them because we are music fans and enthusiasts, not legal experts. There may also be legal ramifications of giving advice on legal issues, which we don't want to deal with.

I've made a more expansive post on this subject for Gaming, which I think largely applies here as well.


I don't think there's one blanket answer.

Question 1 has the potential for dubious answers, possibly including links to external websites that may not be what they claim to be.

Question 2 is too broad, and could just as easily apply to tickets of any kind, not just music ones.

Questions 3 and 4 seem to fit with the site.


Much like top morto, I think the first question would be off topic, as it is asking for a resource.

Otherwise, I think these questions are fine. They aren't asking for legal advice like

Does my band need to pay royalties to an artist for a cover?

They are asking

How is this legal situation usually handled.

It's more of a general reference question that happens to involve legality, rather than straight-up giving legal advice.


"it depends" would always be a precursor to any such Q/A, but there is simple scope for an answer to be "Yes, you must get permission" as an all-encompassing generic response; which can easily ignore the fact that in Ulan Bator things may be different, without compromising the general 'correctness' of the answer.

We're not all lawyers, neither are we handing out legally-binding advice but I'm sure some of us will have worked close enough to publishing etc, even if not directly in that industry, that they can give a sweepingly general answer that would guide 95% of the population reasonably accurately.

  • I agree that we can give reasonable general answers, but how useful is that? Shouldn't we be providing more value than Yahoo Answers does? We want to attract and curate quality content. Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 1:25
  • For sure - I was just really thinking out loud. Q1 brought about a discussion as to 'what is copyright' which if reformulated as a good Q/A could be useful to future users. Similarly Q3 & 4; people are always going to want to know about 'permission to use' & I'm sure we can provide sufficiently sound advice to satisfy the majority case. For me, only Q2 is totally off-topic.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 7:48

I think the questions mentioned are all fine insofar as they deal with legality.

If the answer is complex, the answer can reflect that complexity, or give examples for certain legislations.

Number 1 (by me, as it happens) is also a "where can I find XXXX resource" kind of question, and the community may see it as off topic for that reason (though actually I hope that some of those kind of questions will be allowed)

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