Should we vote to close and/or flag questions that we know are a request to help do something that is forbidden by the Terms of Service of a third party?

The example that I see pop up the most is about how to get YouTube Videos to play outside of YouTube itself, and not through the officially provided APIs.

Here is one from this morning that has since been deleted. I know I've seen others that are similar though.

This question would seem to me to violate the following terms in the YouTube ToS (note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any desire to be):

You agree not to distribute in any medium any part of the Service or the Content without YouTube's prior written authorization, unless YouTube makes available the means for such distribution through functionality offered by the Service (such as the Embeddable Player).


You agree not to access Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Service itself, the Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate.

I know my example question has already been deleted by its asker, but it would be nice to know what is the correct action if any to take when things like this are asked.


This is extremely similar to Meta questions (example) about SO questions that apparently break NDAs, and I believe that the answer is the same:

Stack Overflow/Exchange has no place in the agreement between two other parties, and has no responsibilty to police that agreement. In fact, it might be a bad idea for SE to start trying to do such policing, because someone could decide they are liable for episodes that they missed.

There also shouldn't be any reason for you to not answer, unless you have an agreement with, e.g., YouTube that prevents you from doing so.

In short, it's the OP's business that he or she has an agreement with someone else; the question should be judged, like all others, on its technical merits.

  • Good points. I agree with them. However, I think that, while we have no responsibility to police agreements, if we see someone posting something harmful, like telling users to run rm -rf * to solve a problem, it should be flagged for removal. – jmort253 Jul 7 '12 at 20:31
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    @jmort: It depends on the context. Downvotes and comments should be used first. – jscs Jul 7 '12 at 20:33
  • Sure, the rm -rf is an extreme example though. If it's clearly posted maliciously, it must be removed. – jmort253 Jul 7 '12 at 20:34

The goal of Stack Overflow is to provide expert answers to programming questions. As it stands, this is a programming question, one where the answer doesn't really involve code. As someone with experience, you recognize that this isn't possible.

In this case, the answer to the question may very well have been "you can't", followed by the reasons why, the statements you cite in the YouTube Terms and Conditions, and maybe even some alternative solutions. the Terms and Conditions provide evidence that this isn't supported, and while there could be a workaround, it's not a supported workaround and could be terminated at any moment.

This could very well be helpful to future visitors who also wish to do the same thing, and who don't know that it's not possible.

With that said, if it's clear that a person's intent is to do harm, then we don't want that material on the site. It should be flagged for moderator attention and removed.

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    I disagree with this: if there's a technical solution that can be provided, that's the only suitable content for an answer. A caution regarding the T&C and workarounds being voided is certainly warranted and a good idea, but an entire answer focussing on legal issues is off-topic and not a good SO answer. – jscs Jul 7 '12 at 20:31
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    Answers aren't judged as on/off topic. Only questions are. If the answer addresses the question, it's fine. The terms and conditions are a risk, and as a developer, if you implement something that isn't supported, you may end up having trouble supporting your product later on down the line. That's important information to know as a dev. With that said, I agree with you that if there is a technical solution, provide that as well. – jmort253 Jul 7 '12 at 20:33
  • Certainly an answer can be off-topic. If you ask me how to concatenate a string and I respond with a history of C's string manipulation functions, what would you call that? – jscs Jul 7 '12 at 20:35
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    That might be "not an answer", if the history has no impact on the successful use of those concatenation functions. YouTube saying "we don't support this" does have an impact on how successful the dev would be in implementing a workaround. – jmort253 Jul 7 '12 at 20:37

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