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We're not responsible for checking that people have the rights to publish images and other third-party content here, nor for ensuring that users stick to the terms of service of third party sites (e.g. 'no lookups for anyone else') in part because that's an impossible task; the SE Terms of Service make it clear (for certain values of clear) that users are responsible for ensuring they have the rights to share anything that they post, which includes conforming to the ToS of other websites that they quote from - we as a community don't need to check or enforce.

Seeking Family Tree Maker version 10 to download asks implicitly how to break the terms of a software licence by downloading a copy of a cd. This would be in contravention of the (likely) licence terms which almost certainly state that a licence is not transferable and/or that copies of the software should not be made other than for backup purposes (those are pretty standard clauses for desktop consumer software). The question is certainly asked in all innocence and/or ignorance of the relevant licencing considerations, and I have sympathy for the situation that has prompted the question; I'm only referring to it here because it triggered this question.

In this particular case, the software manufacturer is unlikely to be substantially harmed by the availability of a pirate copy of an old version of FTM (especially as ownership of the product has changed hands since version 10 was released); yet, when formulating a general policy we can't assume that we can judge 'whether it really matters' or not, nor should we be trying to do so.

And so to my question:

In more general cases, should we be appear to be condoning or encouraging software piracy? Would we be relaxed if somebody asks next week where to download a copy of (say) RootsMagic 8 (released 2021) because "they'd lost their USB stick"? Would this fall foul of the Acceptable Use Policy as Illegal Use? And are we as a community responsible for dealing with it, or should we leave it to SE (similar to the situation with rights to publish content)?

Note: the topic has been discussed on meta.stackexchange but not recently: Dealing with questions that openly imply software piracy, Is it okay that questions mention illegal downloads?.

4 Answers 4

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I have added a comment to the question suggesting an edit to ask for how one could find a replacement copy of the CD without asking specifically for a download of the CD. If we don't get any response from the person who asked the question, I think we should edit the question accordingly.

I am willing to do the edit, and post my suggestion from the comments as an answer (adding content so it won't be a single-link answer).

I understand that it's a bummer to lose your install CD, and it's a bummer when you can't afford to upgrade your computer and buy new software.

All that being said -- when you are running obsolete computers and unsupported software, you are taking a risk, and you need to be even more vigilant about keeping track of your install discs and software keys, and backing up your computers. This case should be a warning to all of us: do you know where your install discs or your installers are? If you bought your software by dowinload, do you have an archival copy of the installer?

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If we wanted to avoid the appearance of condoning software piracy, one possible approach would be to edit such questions to be more open to solutions not involving piracy, e.g. from:

"Where can I download a copy of X software? I've had to replace/rebuild my PC and discovered that I've lost the original media!"

to:

"I've had to replace/rebuild my PC and discovered that I've lost the original media for X! What are my options for reinstalling X?"

It's possible that the OP will get a better answer to the modified question anyway.

Of course, we'd still have to deal with answers saying: "Easy-peasy. Download a copy from This Pirate Site"...

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  • I too would like to edit the question referenced above to remove any suggestion of downloading the program. My question would be, do we also need to add an explicit message to the help center that questions about how to pirate commercial software are off-topic?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Dec 31, 2021 at 19:33
  • I fear that some of our suggested alterations to questions will just confuse the OP. If the OP has no media and needs to install, surely the only option is a download? Or are we to be that site who asks, "You mean that you didn't...?"
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 1, 2022 at 15:27
  • "You mean you didn't..." is never useful as an answer, @AdrianB38, and Jan has already suggested an alternative (look on eBay) which can't be made into an answer because it doesn't involve a download.
    – user6485
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:43
  • ... "never useful as an answer". Quite so . I have to say that it never would have occurred to me that looking on eBay couldn't be made into an answer because it wasn't a download. To me, that would be a perfectly sensible answer if preceded by caveats of "assuming no other suppliers" and "assuming that the licence conditions allow". I don't personally see the need to edit the question but then again, I've never been wholly happy with editing other people's qns or answers.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 1, 2022 at 18:04
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Sorry but I disagree fundamentally with the notion that the triggering question implied breaking any licence condition. The question, as it reads now, asks where to download. If the question referred to, for the sake of argument, the software from Calico Pie that I know two of the previous respondents here use, then we could direct them to the company's website where previous versions are available for download. CP are, IIRC, not the only company to provide access to previous versions.

If the question had asked for a download site "because the company doesn't supply previous versions" then it would be a different matter entirely. But, looking at the question as I see it, right now, it doesn't ask that.

Yes, there is a possible piratical answer. But there might be a perfectly legitimate answer as well. I really cannot agree with the notion that questions should be edited just because they have not specified "legitimate answers only please". To my mind, therefore, the triggering question is legitimate.

If the only possible interpretation of the question were to condone software piracy, that would be entirely different. But it doesn't. Someone who understands the FTM situation might know that piracy is the only option but it is wholly unfair on the moderators of this site to expect them to know that.

If someone has edited the question already to remove any explicit implications of piracy, then I apologize for misunderstanding.

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  • 1
    I did some research before I posted my question. The company that wrote Family Tree Maker 10 back in 2002 only supplied it on CD, no longer supports it and doesn't have a web presence as a software developer. FTM has passed through at least one other pair of hands if not two before reaching its current owners, who don't support the older versions. If the OP wants a download, there is no legitimate way to do this -- unlike the other software you refer to. However, as I said, the OP of the question concerned probably doesn't know all that and would never dream of software piracy.
    – user6485
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:55
  • P.S. I wouldn't expect anyone else -- moderator or not -- to do the same research, (unless perhaps they were trying to locate a copy for the OP) which is why I'm open to a conclusion that says 'Nowt we can do unless it's a blatant 'Were can I get a pirate copy of X?' question.
    – user6485
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:58
  • "I'm open to a conclusion..." Yes, that seems to be my instinctive response, which is why I took against the notion that the Original Question implied any licencing issues - there are just too many possibilities for non experts to consider to reach a conclusion about the legitimacy of the exact proposal.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 1, 2022 at 18:14
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    Maybe what we should be doing is keeping an eye out for questions or answers that are blatantly encouraging software piracy and giving everything else the benefit of the doubt).
    – user6485
    Jan 1, 2022 at 18:48
  • I would agree with that. I don't think anything else is feasible.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 1, 2022 at 19:01
  • Adrian, as it happens, no research was required. I bought FTM (remaindered) in 2006, a few versions later than the edition the OP is asking about; it prompted the review of available software which led to my purchase of FH3. I have been following the progress of FTM over the years, and bought the last Ancestry-owned version of FTM on sale (a cheap way to extend one's subscription, since FTM Deluxe editions generally come with a sub.) TL;dr The Wikipedia article with the chart of all the FTM versions is an old friend, in part because of Qs here.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Jan 1, 2022 at 20:11
  • @JanMurphy - thanks. Nevertheless, and trying not to dismiss any similar contribution, I'd just like to say that that sort of knowledge can't be guaranteed and that user104 's suggested protocol has to be the fall back in the absence of personal knowledge.
    – AdrianB38
    Jan 1, 2022 at 20:38
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The question being discussed currently has 4 downvotes and 0 upvotes so I think our community agrees that such a question is not useful on our site.

If an answer appeared that suggested where to obtain a pirate copy then I suspect that it to would be downvoted.

If I saw a flag suggesting deletion for a heavily downvoted answer on a heavily downvoted question, then I would feel comfortable deleting that answer. On this site I think anything at -3 or lower would qualify as being heavily downvoted.

I do not think that we need to codify what should happen when pirate copies of software are asked for, deliberately or unintentionally, when they can be easily identified and dealt with by generic community/moderator voting, flagging and deletion. If I thought pirate software was being asked for deliberately, then I would be happy deleting the question too.

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