There are a fair number of legal issues related to music. Examples are downloading copyrighted songs and performing music you obtained "unofficially".

Should questions about legal issues be allowed?

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think these questions should be off-topic.

Questions about legal issues are either too localized (asking about laws in a specific area) or too broad (we can't answer well without knowing your specific area), and rely on legal expertise and not musical expertise. Most of these issues are only tangentially related to music; downloading a book illegally or reading it aloud in public have largely the same implications as the issues mentioned above in the question.

While answering these questions could be helpful to musicians, I don't think they are questions about musical practice, performance, theory, or history (the scope of the site). The scope should not be expanded to include them because we are music experts / enthusiasts, not legal experts. There may also be legal ramifications of giving advice on legal issues, which we don't want to deal with.

I've made a more expansive post on this subject for Gaming, which I think largely applies here as well.

For what it's worth, I would vote for legal questions to be off-topic. We can't answer them with any certainty, and we can't provide legal advice in this context. The asker can go to and possibly get an answer. – Andrew May 2 '11 at 4:26
I agree, music law should be discussed on Intellectual Property Law, in order for that site to become big enough they should allow music law questions. :) – Tom Wijsman May 8 '11 at 20:44
I think there is a clear majority in favour of keeping them off-topic. I've marked this as the accepted answer. In the event we wish to re-consider, I propose holding a discussion in the chatroom. – Matthew Read May 10 '11 at 1:33

I think these questions should be permitted and on-topic. There is a great deal of bad information out there on this vital subject, particularly among the younger generation, who tend to be scofflaws. As a musician, I think it's important to uphold the law and to educate others about what the law is and how to apply it. I try to discourage piracy and theft of intellectual property wherever I see it, and to educate others about combatting piracy and theft. The laws exist to provide a framework for musicians to earn a living, and Internet piracy has decimated the incomes of so many musicians that I know and work with.

I'm certain that my post here will be unpopular, but I've registered my opinion on the subject.

And, in the course of answering questions on Music.SE, whenever I see this sort of thing come up, I'll write about it.

I don't think allowing legal amateurs (at best) to give legal advice is a good way to combat bad information. Editorializing also makes for bad answers, regardless of the subject. – Matthew Read Feb 8 '12 at 17:49
Duly noted. I disagree. And I'm not a lawyer, but I do have a bachelor's degree in music business and I have worked in the major label record industry. I'm a published professional music journalist as well. Sorry, but I'm militant on this issue. – Wheat Williams Feb 8 '12 at 17:55
I'm afraid while I agree that theft of IP is wrong and should be discouraged, more and more studies say that music piracy (bad use of the word, but anyway) is not harming musicians, although it may be harming the big labels. See for a sample. – Dr Mayhem Feb 28 '12 at 23:56

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