I confess I'm not really a member of the GraphicDesign.SE community, I just read your top questions newsletter. But I've noticed several times you have what are really legal questions, and am curious if you consider them on-topic. I've seen Are licensing questions wanted? which seems to general "idea" legal questions are allowed, but what about:

Legally use UI design of iOS platform as website design

That's a question about a particular use of specific potential intellectual property. That's not a general "idea" question; its fairly specific. And it seems that the answers here don't really reflect that—e.g., there has been litigation on copying user interface elements (another famous one even involves Apple), but the answer seems completely unaware of that. Of course, the answer is different in different countries.

And also, in the case of Android, the Apache license that much of Android is distributed under must be considered, but it wasn't.

I'd suggest all this is a good reason legal questions should be directed to lawyers, not graphic designers.

Additionally, these specific legal questions are country-specific, and often very fact-specific. That argues they may well be too localized.

3 Answers 3


This is an excellent question.

I absolutely think that questions whose core is about legality as opposed to design should be off-topic. (A while back I even posted Can you help me with a font licensing question (AKA what is the licensing for my font)? as a response to a few font-licensing questions that had popped up.)

Popular Demand summed up the situation pretty well a while back on MSO. I suppose based on this rationale, they've always been off-topic but perhaps this was not well enforced.


My overarching answer is No, and here is why.

Simply stated: I doubt any of us can provide legal counsel. I know someone who sought a community similar to GD.SE asking if they were in the wrong prior to court arbitration - and all available evidence, even from very informed sources, supported their case. But when the ruling came to pass they lost nearly $4,000 - this person was dumbfounded over the loss, since the judge gave no reasoning for the judgement and everything appeared to be in their favor.

So it is best to get legal advice / counsel from someone who can really help you.

With that said - I think there is clearly a desire from the community to have these questions answered or at least to learn how to avoid specific mistakes. I think a sub section would serve these people well, in limited capacity of sharing outcomes and experiences so that no true legal advice is given, but still can be helpful to others.

  • 1
    There's a law stack where professionals can really answer these questions. I agree with your answer, I just don't think a sub in graphic design will be better since it's still designers who will answer these questions... and unfortunately lawyers don't hang around here. I totally agree with your example, and I find it dangerous when I see advice claiming there's a 100% legal protection while there's way more details to consider when facing legal issues (eg. negligence, keeping track, oversea work, costs, etc.).
    – go-junta
    Oct 30, 2015 at 23:34
  • I did not know there was a law stack - thanks for the heads up on it!
    – user51113
    Nov 4, 2015 at 15:58
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    law.stackexchange.com - At least the people on that stack actually have some knowledge & experience of the legal system; if one of them blindly repeat a myth, he might quickly get told by 5 others he's wrong. That's not something happening here on that topic and unfortunately not all designers here 1) have a business, 2) have legal experience and 3) have the decency to remain silent when they are not 100% certain about their claims (often quoting no source or only quoting obscure reference.) That's being respectful to send legal questions there & refer to them instead.
    – go-junta
    Nov 5, 2015 at 5:28
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    Where the hell do judges give verdicts without there also being a detailed writ describing the legal basis and reasoning behind the verdict available? Not a place I'd like to go, I think… Nov 6, 2015 at 19:45
  • @JanusBahsJacquet right?! clearly was a level of corruption involved in the verdict... but that's besides the point of this question
    – user51113
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:44

Specific legal questions should of course be answered by specific lawyers with access to the specific details of the poster's situation.

That said, I'd argue general questions about law-related aspects of business should certainly be allowed, as long as it's made clear it's not legal advice, but rather general business advice (which will likely also include "follow up with a lawyer...").

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    sorry for the down vote, but you just repeated what was stated in the same answer above yours...
    – user51113
    Nov 4, 2015 at 15:56
  • @user51113 maybe I'm not reading the other answers correctly, but it sounds like they are saying they shouldn't be on-topic. I'm suggesting it should be.
    – DA01
    Nov 4, 2015 at 16:31
  • The problem with the "follow with a lawyer" template formula is that it's meant to protect the designer answering the question, not the OP. That sentence is worth as much as reading the line "ask your doctor" on an Aspirin bottle. The OP wouldn't ask on an online forum if he/she could simply go straight ask a lawyer at $200+/hr and because of misleading advice, that OP might not go see a professional no matter the template line you add to the answer... because OPs trust the person answering the question has some legal knowledge. GD is simply not the best forum for a lot of legal questions.
    – go-junta
    Nov 5, 2015 at 5:38
  • @DA01 I am the one who is mistaken. I misread your advocation for inclusion of these posts. I argue these posts are not concerning graphic design in nature - but business and law applied to the graphic industry. You could easily swap out graphic design elements from these questions and replace them with architectural, musicianship, or coding elements without actually changing the question. They still get funneled back to is it legal to do XYZ and therefore of the business / legal realm. But this is an opinion poll - so I would love to hear more of why you think such topics are pertinent.
    – user51113
    Nov 6, 2015 at 16:57
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    @user51113 I don't think that's always true that you can swap out the industry and still have the same question. Or maybe that should be the litmus test..."is this business/legal question unique to this industry?". I'd agree that generic questions ("How do I incorporate?") wouldn't be all that useful. But I do think questions that tend to be particular to graphic design should be considered as on topic. I'd like to see more GD business questions on here, myself.
    – DA01
    Nov 6, 2015 at 17:36
  • @DA01 Agreed, that should indeed be the standard to which questions are ruled on/off topic.
    – user51113
    Nov 9, 2015 at 16:46

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