I noticed a question about getting ESPN online content via "unofficial" feeds. It reads:

I just canceled cable (Yay!), but with college football season coming up, I'd like to be able to watch games on ESPN, either on the laptop, or ideally on the big screen using the Windows Media Center HTPC.

I heard there used to be lots of people that would broadcast "unofficial" feeds, but I can't find anything by googling around.

I read this as requesting potentially illicit or illegal means (hence the "unofficial" part) for obtaining copyrighted material.

  • Should this type of question be allowed?
  • What about questions that have answers providing both legal and illegal solutions?
  • Should the illegal answers be deleted or downvoted?

3 Answers 3


It's against the StackExchange content policy.

Illegal Use. Stack Exchange may not be used for illegal purposes. Examples of this include using Stack Exchange for fraudulent purposes or operating a phishing site (used to obtain account and password information).

  • 3
    I agree, such questions should be closed. Oct 4, 2010 at 15:22
  • Thanks, I didn't think to review the policy before posting. I am a fool.
    – Jeff Yates
    Oct 4, 2010 at 18:34
  • 1
    Operating a fishing site is illegal in most countries, but not all. Some things are illegal in some countries (political blogging in China, soft-pornography in Muslim countries) - are they to be banned to?
    – Ralph Rickenbach
    Oct 7, 2010 at 12:15
  • @Ralph: Let's see. Political blogging on Web Apps...yep, banned. Soft-porn on Web Apps...yep, also banned. Bad spelling and grammar? Should be banned but I can see why it isn't.
    – Jeff Yates
    Oct 26, 2010 at 19:17
  • Criminal activity should be summarily removed. Questions about how to violate terms of service, whether intentionally such or not, should not be deleted. Perhaps the answers should be vague and should remind users that following through will violate terms of service. Nov 5, 2010 at 2:28

Let me point to the discussion about this made on meta: should an answer that encourages illegal activity be marked as offensive.

As I pointed out in my anser there, I would be very conservative with that, as not all people in SO are from the same country and laws can be very diverse. I would comment on the answer that it breaks these [laws] in [country].

  • That's a reasonable argument. However, I believe that it isn't so cut and dried. for example, citizens of any nation can take people to court under the UK's libel laws. I expect that regardless of who streams ESPN illegally, ESPN will attempt to emply the US courts and US law. StackOverflow is also under US jurisdiction and even if the law isn't being broken in the country of the OPs residence, it may be unlawful under US law for the SO site to be involved. It's a difficult area and I think we're best staying well away.
    – Jeff Yates
    Oct 7, 2010 at 14:25

Personally I think such queries should be permitted. Odds are the person will be told their behaviour is not generally tolerated if that is the case.

The law, however, is frequently wrong. And the law changes. What was legal is no longer, and what was illegal is now condoned. So this site will, whether it likes it or not, contain requests for illegal information purely based on what year the site the viewed.

In the USA, in particular, freedom of speech is highly valued. Surely in the scientific communities, too: just because a popularist moral view is being taken by the majority doesn't mean the issue should not be debated.

Obviously content sharing is a hot bed of legal action at present. But the fact is that content sharing would never have become an issue if media companies had not set the precedent of controlling distribution and extracting the maximum profit possible from it - once media companies lost control of distribution they then initiated waves of legal action somehow claiming rights to something they never had.

I would be extremely disturbed if this website started making decisions about what knowledge is legal and illegal.

  • Freedom of Speech is one thing, but no one is exempt from the consequences of saying something out loud. There are laws about planning a crime, even if it isn't committed.
    – Jeff Yates
    Oct 7, 2010 at 14:22
  • I don't believe the site will make the decision on what is legal or illegal - the law does. I'm not going to murder or rob someone under the argument that it might be legal one day. That's ridiculous.
    – Jeff Yates
    Oct 7, 2010 at 14:23
  • 1
    The law technically says everything you could possibly say or do is potentially wrong; in truth only when cases come to court is a decision made about what is right - and even then, in civil cases, which almost all copyright disputes thus far have been - there is no "crime" but rather remedies the accusatory party can request.
    – PP.
    Oct 8, 2010 at 12:30

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