This question https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/76733/6526 presents the problem where the OP has a problem with his teacher telling him to crack software despite the fact that he knows it's illegal.

One of the more highly upvoted answers encourages him to use the cracked software despite the fact that it's illegal and the user has said it makes him feel morally uncomfortable.

I flagged with a custom flag saying that we can't condone the use of cracked software, but my response was - declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

So... what? We are going to tell people it's ok to crack software from other countries because 'hey the companies there are rich enough and it's not a big deal here cause... culture, even though it is against the law;' which is basically the stance taken in the answer?

As a software dev I find this highly troubling.

Note I don't think this is a dupe of this question I know we aren't the licence police, but at the same time actively encouraging someone who hasn't already cracked software to crack software is, I think, far different from trying to police someone who already has done it.
Also I think not a dupe of this question, accourding to international treaty which China is party too cracking Mathmatica there is illigal. That's not at question here.

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    It depends. The case specific part is to be handled on the specific site or even better by contacting the SE staff directly. The "do we allow posts that promote bad behavior" is a network-wide concern. And then there is the whole "does this actually promote bad behavior" concern Shog raised in his answer
    – SPArchaeologist
    Sep 20, 2016 at 17:20
  • "it is against the law" [citation needed] Sep 20, 2016 at 19:13
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    None of those links seem to make software license restriction cracking illegal in the relevant jurisdiction. One does seem to make the relevant jurisdiction recognize the copyrights of other jurisdictions the same as it recognizes their own, but that appears to be all. Sep 20, 2016 at 20:47
  • @AlexanderO'Mara, the software in question is Mathmatica, which is copyrighted in the US. The Op in said question stated he was in China. Copyright on software is a civil right in China, they also have office of registration, i.e as you just said, Mathmatica must be treated at least as well as their own software because of above treaties meaning under Chinese law piracy of and cracking of Mathmatica is illegal. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_copyright_in_China
    – Ryan
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:26
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    There are a lot of problems with that article, and using it as the sole basic for determining if software cracking would be found illegal in the relevant jurisdiction, but you're welcome to post your own answer using it as reference if you like. Sep 20, 2016 at 21:36
  • From what I can tell, they are not breaking the copyright on the software at all. Just the license key. Which is to say they are forcing "unauthorized access." The software of the program itself is not reverse engineered, it is merely accessed without payment, so this should fall under piracy. But, IANAL Nov 25, 2016 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


So... what do you want to happen here?

The answer isn't providing instructions for cracking the software. The answer isn't linking to cracked software, or suggesting possible search terms for finding cracked software.

The answer boils down to, "if you want to take a class run by a teacher who instructs you to crack the software you'll be using, then follow the teacher's instructions."

That... Isn't actually all that unreasonable. It may still be bad advice for exactly the reasons you cite - but the answer itself is hardly illegal.

If you disagree with the advice given in that answer, then downvote it and upvote a different one. For instance, the answer which describes how one might complete the course without actually using Mathematica, or the one which suggests buying a license. Or write your own answer.

That's how Stack Exchange is supposed to work: bad advice gets downvoted, good advice gets upvoted. Perhaps it would benefit your cause here to find out why so many people seem to think that answer provides good advice...

  • Obviously the answer isn't illegal. The behavior it suggests is. Interesting that the policy being adopted is that answers promoting illegal behavior are being given the OK. And as a software dev who's worked with remote teams around the world I know a lot of individuals around the world have a different view of software piracy then me. That still doesn't make it ok, or legal in their country.
    – Ryan
    Sep 20, 2016 at 20:41
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    So, write an answer that tells him this then, @ryan. What else would you have us do?
    – Shog9
    Sep 20, 2016 at 20:53
  • @ryan So, you want Stack Exchange to start policing what is suggested by answers, and check that is legal against... what? The laws of some special jurisdiction? The laws of every jurisdiction in the world? Both seem rather ridiculous. Sep 20, 2016 at 20:55
  • @AlexanderO'Mara, Stack Exchange doesn't police anything, they set policy and the community and moderators police the content according to that policy. And it's worked well for the last 8 years. And the majority of the world recognizes that piracy is illegal (physical and digital), so it doesn't seem that hard to say "our policy is don't tell users to break the law".
    – Ryan
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:33
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    Terms of service are linked to on every page - note that while they clearly prohibit various forms of lawbreaking, there is no blanket ban on the discussion thereof, much less a singling out of specific forms of lawbreaking for which any positive mention must necessarily be removed without discussion nor input from the community. Also, don't call people names when they take the time to engage with you in a discussion you raised, @ryan. Also, I've asked you a question twice now and you've dodged it both times...
    – Shog9
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:37
  • @ryan I'm not sure I can expect a more compelling argument than further insults, but your "our policy is don't tell users to break the law" brings you right back to the same problem I just pointed out of "what law is the law?". Sep 20, 2016 at 21:46
  • @Shog9, yea I read the ToS, since when can you edit other people's comments? Finally I guess that was my answer to your question you just can't ping more then 1 person in a single post. Policy statement "If a majority of the world recognizes X is against the law, don't tell users to do X". That seems clear enough. If someone on academia posted their psychology teacher told them to go shoot people in the foot in Somalia and they asked about it here, and the top answer said "Don't rock the boat go shoot people in the foot, people get shot worse there all the time." Would we let that stand?
    – Ryan
    Sep 20, 2016 at 21:57
  • What if Hitler rose from the dead and posted something all racist and murdery on Academia, @ryan? WHAT THEN? Do we need a hypothetical situation here? We have an answer on Academia that recommends something many of us wouldn't advise. What do you think should be done with it? A) nothing, B) downvote, C) edit, D) cake and prizes, E) deletion, F) none of the above, G) all of the above.
    – Shog9
    Sep 20, 2016 at 22:01
  • Sometimes shog..., Anyways that wasn't a hypothetical it was a recast of the same question, Teacher told me to steal, " well go steal then, worse gets stolen all the time. don't rock the boat." The answers (E) @Shog9, the answer is E. Answers that tell users to do illegal activity, that's considered illegal in most of the world should be deleted when they are reported.
    – Ryan
    Sep 20, 2016 at 22:08
  • @ryan But the majority of the people have voted overwhelmingly against your position. How are you determining the majority of the world agrees with you? Sep 20, 2016 at 22:11
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    Ok. Finally we're getting somewhere. So you wanted the answer deleted, and of course you lack both the privilege of doing so directly and the support of the moderator team who do have that privilege. Then your recourse, @ryan, is to take your case to meta and appeal to the rest of the community who elected those moderators. I've taken the liberty of moving your question there, since it had already been closed and a moderator on this site expressed interest...
    – Shog9
    Sep 21, 2016 at 3:42

We have discussed what our stances are on legality in regards to questions What is our stance on questions that can be used for legal and illegal purposes? This is not necessarily the same as for answers, but my opinion is the same. I am hesitant to provide answers that will likely be used to break the law, even if there is a technically legal way of using the information. For answers, I would not go so far as delete them, but would like to see answers about ways to break the law down voted.

I am not a lawyer or expert on international copyright law as it pertains to software. That said, the answer does not particularly focus on the act of "cracking" the software, but rather on the use of cracked software. As I said in this answer I think there is a difference between distributing material that is in violation of copyright law and using the material. The answer also presents a case why using the cracked software may not be unethical (which is another aspect that is important in my opinion). I do not like answers which promote legal, but unethical, behavior either.

Overall, I do not like the answer and have down voted it. There is a comment, left by you, expressing concerns about the legality of the answer. Apart from leaving an additional comment about the ethics, or writing a new answer, I do not see anything else that needs to be done.

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