I flagged this question to the moderators, as the poster admitted to illegally downloading Visual Studio. And herein lies the rub. I abhor piracy in any way, shape, or form. The moderator who declined my flag, stated "Not the software police".

That's fine, but where does SO stand on these issues? I personally believe that the site shouldn't be seen to promote piracy by allowing the question to exist in that form. In fact, the OP didn't even have to admit it - a simple "I tried it on this version and it didn't work either" would have sufficed.

What are your views on this, am I overreacting, and I'd appreciate feedback on why the flag was declined. If we're not software police, then fine - I won't flag that kind of stuff again, but I don't think it promotes a good image either.

  • 9
    I think you're overreacting. It's like saying Google promotes piracy because the pirate bay shows up in its search results. Heck, it even shows up in Bing's search results!
    – Mysticial
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:01
  • Removed as it is noise, and irrelevant to the question... a rather bad question to begin with. Nov 22, 2013 at 20:04
  • 3
    You just beat me, @JoshC, because I stopped to write this answer first! Thanks for taking care of it. (And, for onlookers, no, I'm not talking to myself.)
    – jscs
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:04
  • @Mysticial, I asked the question to make sure I was aligned with the policies.. hence the question :) But thanks, yes - probably an over-reation.
    – Moo-Juice
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:11
  • 1
    Maybe @JoshCaswell and JoshC are the same person! tinfoil hat. :P
    – Moo-Juice
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:12
  • Hiding in plain sight, @Moo-Juice.
    – jscs
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:13
  • 1
    Report it to Microsoft's legal team. See what they say about it. But then you might as well report all of China to Microsoft...
    – Cole Tobin
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:15
  • @ColeJohnson, I have no desire to report anybody to any authority. I was just surprised that someone would admit it. As Josh says in the answer below, edit the question, move on. That seems fair.
    – Moo-Juice
    Nov 22, 2013 at 20:19
  • The simple answer would be: SO is related to coding issues, not purchasing issues. You can find that type of site somewhere else! .. Nov 22, 2013 at 20:42

4 Answers 4


It's none of our business, really, and more importantly, as you're proving right now, it's nothing but a distraction from the meat of the question. What would you have SE, Inc. do, anyways?

The appropriate action is to edit that information out of the question, since it (almost certainly) has no bearing on the technical issue, which might also be faced by someone else who does not have a pirated copy.


The Stack Exchange Terms of Service expressly prohibit

Use of the Network or Services to violate the security of any computer network, crack passwords or security encryption codes, transfer or store illegal material including that are deemed threatening or obscene, or engage in any kind of illegal activity.

So if the user is asking how to download a pirated copy of Visual Studio, or tell others how to do it, as a moderator I would generally take action on that. I also would take action on questions that ask us to do something that clearly infringes on the rights of others, like asking us to help him hack a specific website.

However, the techniques for programmatically working with a Torrent or breaching website security are perfectly acceptable subjects on Stack Overflow. There's no way to police how someone uses the knowledge that they get here (there are perfectly legitimate uses for that information), and no way to know for sure whether they're telling the truth about how they're going to use that information anyway.


Had the person submitted a link to the pirated software, then SO would certainly want to remove that link. Someone above mentioned TPB, but remember it only exists because Sweden seems to have lax piracy laws. They've been raided countless times, even though they don't actually house anything on their servers. In most countries, simply facilitating piracy is as illegal as piracy itself.

That being said, because the user simply mentions that he is using a pirated copy I'd say the post isn't worthy of flagging. I'd edit the post, removing the reference to it, and move on.

  • Yeah, we remove links to pirated stuff reasonably often - folks posting up PDFs of books they don't want to buy is a big one. Can't really be tracking down the folks who want to do it anyway though.
    – Shog9
    Nov 22, 2013 at 23:24

"Not the software police". This is interesting because of course "they" are not the hardware police either. Now hardware and software are different things (and I have just got told off for putting what is effectively a hardware question on a software Q&A, my fault, so sorry !). but theft is theft and the intention of someone stealing a bit (more usually a lot) of software is to actually get something tangible out of it e.g. a nice film to watch. I would be surprised to see much software theft where the thief just gets his jollies from staring at lines of code but may be someone out there .... ? So if we are anti theft / pro rules this is surely a no brainer. Get it off the site and ban/block the thief for ever (and report them too - I recommend crimestoppers). There are far too many criminals in this world both little and big and anything we can do to reduce their activities can only make the world a better place. Actually we can independently act on this, anyone who sees anything suggesting illegal activity on this site or indeed anywhere on the www can ring up and report it. So if moderators/ site operators leave it up on the basis they are "not the software police" fine but we know how to contact the software(and hardware) police ourselves anyway.Crimestoppers offer rewards for successful prosecutions but not (yet) in BTC.

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    They're not the regular police either Nov 22, 2013 at 22:57

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