Is it appropriate to ask questions about software licenses/licensing on StackOverflow? Or is the appropriate place Programmers Stack Exchange? Or is there no appropriate site currently and we should suggest such a site on Area51?

2 Answers 2


For free/libre/open licenses:

https://opensource.stackexchange.com/ (Beta)


An important caveat on this is that there are two different types of licensing questions.

There are the licensing questions such as:

  • Can I use a BSD licensed library in a GPL licensed project?
  • How do I comply with the MIT license in my application?
  • Can I use a GPL licensed library in my commercial software?

There are also licensing questions such as:

  • What license do I need to run Windows in a virtual machine?
  • Can I use my student licensed commerical IDE software after I graduate to develop commercial software (before that license expires)?
  • How many backup copies of this software can I make and remain within license?

The first set of questions are on topic on some sites (though no longer on Stack Overflow or Software Engineering (née Programmers)). These are questions that a programmer is expected to have experience with and can draw upon their knowledge to be able to answer it.

The second set of questions are off topic. These questions, though a programmer may know it, do not draw from expert programming knowledge, but rather talking with the sales department at the company. The answer to this question may change as the software company changes their public licensing terms and only the company can give an authoritative answer to such a question.

For specific guidance about the blurry line between licensing and legal questions, When is a software licensing question on topic? from Programmers.SE's meta site. The answer also mentions:

  • Does the question pertain to an open or commonly known license, or is it about a proprietary or commercial license?
    • The former could be on-topic, but the latter is likely not to be, because it's:
      • Unlikely we can read the full license, so answers will be speculative
      • Unlikely to be of value to future visitors
      • Likely to need an attorney to interpret what the terms actually mean

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