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This question already has an answer here:

Correct licensing if users have multiple AD accounts

Take this question for example, nothing to do with legal technicalities but a basic premise of whether microsoft count admin users twice. (Which has an easy worldwide applicable answer of no)

Why should this be closed and not simply answered?

I can fully understand the current position when it comes to legalese, special cases, small vendors, etc. but it seems crazy to apply the same policy with the large multinationals with standard practices worldwide.

As an admin, licencing is a huge pita. Serverfault could be really useful in helping people to understand the basic information that we all need to work with even if it is always with the disclaimer that it requires proper legal scrutiny on the users part.

The current knee jerk reaction seems over the top and very unhelpful to me.

ADDN: So if the argument against even simple non legal help is legal responsibility. What about if I follow your technical advice, wreck something and hold you legally responsible? By the same principles stackexchange couldn't operate at all!

marked as duplicate by Michael Hampton, Rob Moir, Sven, Tim Brigham, EEAA Feb 20 '13 at 22:58

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • It damn well isn't a duplicate of that question! – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 12:38
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    There isn't any need for that tone - please remain civil. – Iain Feb 19 '13 at 12:42
  • Well then please realise how uncivil it is to lazily mark a question as a duplicate without bothering to comment or answer. I took the time to think about whether it was a new question or not before I created it. I saw the previous one and am really asking, if it is the case that feeling among people is that this is still a good policy? – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 12:58
  • With regards to your addendum - my argument isn't that we WILL be help responsible, it's that licensing questions are legal questions by their very nature. As such, they are inherently complex, open to interpretation and the only way to ensure you're the right side of it so to deal directly with the vendor or an authorized third party. Technical advice is nothing like legal advice. – Dan Feb 19 '13 at 13:04
  • I think the point that people are missing is that ANY question is a legal question in that respect. The subject is irrelevant. Ironically a tech professional is far less legally responsible giving legal advice than tech advice precisely because it is not their claimed area of expertise! But the overall assumption which everyone seems to be making which I don't accept is that everyone is qualified to answer a tech question but noone is qualified to answer a legal question. How do you know that the answerer is not MS certified in licencing for example? – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:26
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    Okay. Let's say we accept licencing questions. Someone asks on deoplying Windows 7 and someone replys saying "yup, we do this. It costs us X, needs Y and Z". They do that and then Microsoft picks the OP up and fines them a ton of money because the person that replied works for education and didn't mention it. Whoops. It's a huge area with so many different variables - even EU countires have different laws so you'd have a lot of very localised questions. – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:32
  • The problem of not mentioning something vital could just as easily come up with a technical question too. And have equally as bad consequences for the OP – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:45
  • I guess the real problem is we don't have a satisfactory way of identifying experts and the current methods vaguely work because the general user of this site is a bit technical. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why some stack exchange communities do so much worse than others too. – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:47
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    We're Sysadmins, so we know servers better than we do licensing. If a technical answer is wrong or potentially dangerous, it would get downvoted and likely commented on that it's the wrong thing to do. Also, if you take everything on the internet at face value then, well... – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:51
  • It also may depend on StackExchange themselves - they may not want questions that cover a legal basis. – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:52
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    Still looks like a dupe to me. – Michael Hampton Feb 19 '13 at 15:13
  • It's still not. Merely that stackexchange has no way to deal with staleness or time sensitivity. That question is 3 years old, the consensus may be the same now but that doesn't make it a waste of time revisiting the issue if only to confirm that that is still the case. – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 15:38
  • (also the question is different in that I specifically ruled out legal advice - although as demonstrated by various responses a lot of people don't understand context (in itself that shows you can't expect them to :P )) – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 15:52
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    Just an additional point: what you think of to have a worldwide acceptable answer of "no" simply doesn't. The question does not even address what license programme the licenses are going to be bought under - and Microsoft has plenty. Is it FPP? Is it Open License? Open Value? Enterprise Agreement? Is it SPLA? Is it a School Agreement? Is it something else? Is the licensing model per device or per user? Can you with absolute certainty tell that the answer would be "No" for any Microsoft licensing model in all world regions? You can't because you never even heard of most of them? Q.E.D. – the-wabbit Feb 19 '13 at 16:44
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    @JamesRyan and if we got questions about "what is the 2nd option of the 3rd menu in IIS" they'd be closed too. – Rob Moir Feb 19 '13 at 18:58
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The licensing problem is one of those questions where most asked questions can be closed as Too Localized simply because of the various reasons Dan pointed out, and are also on our Canonical question. You correctly point to one of the few types of Licensing questions we can actually answer without peril or risk communicating incorrect folk-wisdom.

The problem here is how to draw the line. For someone who has no contact with Microsoft at all, there is no way to know that there is a world-applicable answer to the case you point to; such a person won't know that this is on the right side of the line so will likely vote-to-close as duplicate of the Canonical even if there are answers from high-rep Microsoft-fluent users on the question. For ease, we elected to plonk all licensing questions into the off-topic category.

Exception-handling is always the hardest part of logical structures, especially when working with community-consensus standards. In this case, knowing that a question is on the right side of the line requires domain-specific knowledge in the tag. Such exception-handlers are not well dealt with on the StackExchange model. It's a fault we can't do much about, I'm afraid.

  • This is true but isn't the whole point of the stackexchange voting system designed to point out what is a good answer? We don't question the voters technical ability, how do we know that an answerer ISN'T a lawyer or for example someone MS certified in licencing? – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:10
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    @JamesRyan The problem comes when the non-domain experts think it's OT/bad. Our question volume is low enough that non-experts can follow everything and vote on things they (wrongly) think is out-of-place. Non-experts outnumber experts by quite a bit on most questions, so the opinion of non-experts actually matters and can drown out the opinions of experts. This is a case where community consensus excludes the ability to have a technical-exception to an agreed upon rule. – sysadmin1138 Feb 19 '13 at 13:21
  • Ok this is a good point I guess, but ideally we should be able to pick those experts out regardless of a technical or non technical field. Easier said than done, I have no answer to that :) – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:37
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    @JamesRyan I know from personal experience that an OT question can be rendered topical if the right answer it dropped on it. However, the Review Queue for close-voting doesn't show answers so that critical piece of feedback is left on the table; questions have to stand on their own merits all by themselves. – sysadmin1138 Feb 19 '13 at 14:42
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I think we should continue to close them, because the facts remain:

  • Only the vendor can decide what does and doesn't contravene their licensing
  • They can change this at any point
  • There are different licenses for different people and different countries
  • We should not take responsibility for distributing legally correct information
  • A user should not rely on an unverified 3rd party to answer legal questions
  • Answering the question without a citation is pointless. If you can find a citation then that is the answer and it's down to the user to interpret that for their specific situation

What is a seemingly obvious answer could look very different in the face of legal action.

  • likewise you can be held legally responsible for your technical advice, we should close every single question if we apply the same principles! – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 12:48
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    @JamesRyan That's a very flawed argument. Firstly, I doubt it. Secondly, technical advice is fairly easy to test and evaluate. Legal questions are not. – Dan Feb 19 '13 at 12:57
  • If you ask someone how, for example, configure a Cisco ASA to do x most people would come up with the same route. If you ask a question about licensing, you'll get a multitude of answers due to locations and different businesses. – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:08
  • And how many answers will I get if I ask which web server or OS is better? Your example is a bit contrived. Ok so some licencing questions may be region specific but if someone states the region they are certified or knowledgable about in much the same way people mention and applicable OS or tech qualifications, how is that any different? – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:33
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    If you ask which web server or OS is better it would get closed as not constructive (produces option or debate). – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:36
  • Ah so if there is already a mechanism to deal with that type of question then that is no valid reason to exclude a wider field by. :) – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:43
  • I don't know what StackExchange counts as "too localised" but a "region" would probably apply. – tombull89 Feb 19 '13 at 13:44
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Licensing is as you say a huge pain. Getting it wrong can leave you in legal difficulties.

  • If you have an audit trail that shows you attempted to get the correct number and type of license by contacting a suitably authorized body then you may have a leg to stand on.

  • If however you point at some random internet site then you only have yourself to blame.

We chose quite some time ago not to get involved in licensing issues. This is why we made a canonical Q&A and closed all licensing questions as duplicates of it.

  • So when someone follows your technical advice and breaks something, would they not have been in a better standing if they could show they went directly to the companies own technical support? – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 12:49
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    @JamesRyan: Here on SF we expect people to be professionals. As such they should be able to assess the advice provided and proceed with suitable caution. With licensing you really can’t do that unless you’re a lawyer. – Iain Feb 19 '13 at 12:56
  • How do we judge an answerer's professional ability though, score? What if someone has built up answering questions about IIS and then gives bad advice about RAID partitions? What if an answerer IS a lawyer or licencing professional and has built up their reputation on those type of questions? At the end of the day a questioner has to take any answer with a pinch of salt because they don't know the skill or correctness of a given answer. – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 13:08
  • @JamesRyan There is a HUGE difference between someone being A lawyer and someone being YOUR lawyer (The former entitles you to nothing; The latter has incumbent rights and responsibilities on both parties). In fact every lawyer I know who talks about law/legal advice in public fora will only do it in the most general terms (even then advising you to seek counsel at the end, and including a disclaimer like "I am a lawyer, but I am not YOUR lawyer - If you want to remedy that situation contact me and we can discuss fees and terms".) – voretaq7 Feb 19 '13 at 16:55
  • The exact same legal responsibility falls on professionals giving technical advice too, a lot of people just don't realise that. You do not have to have been paid for advice to bear a legal responsibility for it. It is not the subject of the advice that makes it a minefield, it is giving advice at all. Lawyers are cautious because they are particularly aware of this, not because they are talking law (also they like being paid!). In my question I ruled out legal questions specifically to avoid this confusion. – JamesRyan Feb 19 '13 at 17:15

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