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We've started to get questions about legal issues (warranty and EULA), for example Will I void my warranty if I run Samsung service codes?.

Many other SE sites have rule such questions off-topic, including the Android site (likely the most similar in scope to this one). What should we do with them?

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I've adapted this answer from a similar post I made on Gaming.


Most legal issues that are otherwise within our scope (Windows Phone) have to do with warranty and licensing issues. Legal issues are obviously jurisdiction-dependent in general, but licencing especially so (unlike, say, murder — I can safely say that's illegal). The answer to "Can I legally do X?" is always "Maybe, where do you live?".

For example: In the U.S. jailbreaking was made legal, but in Canada the issue hasn't really been decided from what I understand. Other countries vary as well.

The "real" answer to any legal question we might have here is a long and complex version of "Well, maybe." This is basically useless, and any other answer is probably wrong. Most answers (that don't exceed the length limit) will only apply to a specific area with a specific device, and possibly to a specific user in a specific situation. Too Localized, anyone?

You also run into the problem of the illegality of offering legal advice. In the States at least a non-lawyer can provide "legal information" but not "legal advice". Is someone saying "You should do X" crossing the line? I don't know. And are we really going to police all the answers?

Another issue is that of expertise. I went to law school for one semester, just enough to realize I know very little about the law — and, more importantly, that I know even less about interpreting the law. No matter how much you've studied the issue before hacking your phone, I can virtually guarantee you that you interpreted something important incorrectly. Even informed users are not experts here. How many users of the site are lawyers (or judges, etc.)? Maybe some, but not enough, and note also that lawyers in some places are barred from practising online. We do not have the relevant expertise to answer or otherwise handle these questions appropriately.

Circumventing copyright protection is often criminal whereas breaking a licence agreement may be wrongful under civil law but not criminal. I do not expect any asker or answerer here to know the distinction, or which is what in who's jurisdiction, or the penalties for breaking a contract, and so on.

Take Will I void my warranty if I run Samsung service codes? for example. Tom has an HTC phone and not a Samsung one; his experience with Windows Phone, while useful elsewhere, is worthless here because Samsung's warranty and EULA are not the same as HTC's. For all I know the asker's agreement says that merely accessing the system code menus voids the warranty; perhaps Tom's answer is wrong. A verifiable, objective answer would be "Here's a link to that licence agreement you should have read already." I don't think we should cater to questions that deserve that kind of answer.

TL;DR:

  • We cannot answer these questions even remotely accurately.
  • We cannot answer these questions in a manner that is more than superficially helpful.
  • There may be legal consequences for answering these questions.
  • Most of them cater to people who don't read the licence agreement they already possess or have been shown.

I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Any information you take from this post is up for you to interpret, and I will not be held responsible for any actions you take based upon it.

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  • can't help but think this question is a dupe of meta.windowsphone.stackexchange.com/questions/9/… Also, this answer seems to contradict the one you gave there. What am I missing? – user131 May 1 '12 at 21:21
  • Is the difference "if asking for legal advice, close it" vs "if asking how to do something in a great area, its ok, but warn it could be wrong in your area"? – user131 May 1 '12 at 21:23
  • @Joe Asking for legal advice is entirely different from asking how to do something with your phone. I think if you want to warn someone about something potentially dangerous that's OK, but I think this site should be focused on "How do I do X with Windows Phone?" and not "If I did X would it be against the terms of my EULA?" – Matthew Read May 1 '12 at 21:40
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    OK great, then I 100% agree. – user131 May 1 '12 at 21:43

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