Related: What's our policy with answers advocating piracy (accidentally or not)?

Links to "D&D Tools" / dndtools.eu and similar sites

So, I posted the question Why do Crawford's tweets seem to be treated on par with the actual rules? , and got an excellent answer. That answer, in part, addresses the disjoined nature of the books and Sage Advice/Twitter by explaining that the results of PDF ctrl+F's were the empty set. This information is useful, directly related to the question and answer, and does not improperly provide any copyrighted information.

Nonetheless the answerer has attracted the comment "Why do you possess pdfs of the rule books?" and then a request by SSD that the answer be edited. Namely:

Hey there Artemis. We don't condone piracy here, though I am aware that certain countries don't outlaw copying of copyrighted works. For the sake of operating in polite company on a US-hosted website though, please don't casually drop mentions of how you're consulting D&D 5e books that many of our members and readers would consider “pirated” regardless of local laws. Could you please revise your post?

in response to my question regarding the assumption of piracy from a US-law perspective (there are US-legal ways to have a PDF, just they are very unlikely), the following clarification was provided:

Legal PDFs are not available (barring the vanishingly unlikely case of someone hand-crafting their own PDFs from legal private scanning). Pirated PDFs are abundantly available though. As sometimes happens too, I'm also operating from some additional context not necessarily publicly available.

For the purposes of this question, let's assume that additional context makes it unambiguously clear that a given user, were they in the US and not somehow immune to its laws, would have committed piracy.

What is our stance on such behavior? Do we want to take the stance of explicitly disapproving of piracy? Do we define piracy the same way as US law does if we do?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "It's illegal to have a searchable PDF of a book you own, shunnnn, shunnnn" is the craziest thing I have heard on any stack besides IPS. Possession of such a thing is the very definition of Fair Use, and if you're entitled to it, it really doesn't matter where you got it. A lot of ASCAP and BMI licensees copy their music off borrowed media. They can do that, they have a license. The license doesn't require they buy it on the iTunes store also. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 1:10

3 Answers 3


It's a bad look to openly talk about using pirated materials here, and so easily avoided. As a poster, one should studiously avoid it. As stewards of the site we should actively discourage it.

This is primarily a matter of who we want to attract as our audience. If we wink and nod and look away from overt piracy, we signal to the large pirate community that we welcome them in their role as pirates specifically. We are our audience, so that's no trivial thing. And that's not a "slippery slope" argument — that's a fact of how website audiences are made.

Attracting the pirate community and increasing open discussion of pirated materials is not a situation that I think SE would approve of. We are here as stewards of the site. Creating a situation where Staff and Legal might need to intervene would be a failure on our part.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie hey, I made a room so we can talk about that. I don't think I was blowing things out of proportion, but I also don't think you did hate speech or anything like that-- I'm sorry it came across that way. I really am not sure what I did that came across as needless escalation and I figure chat is a better format for that sort of thing: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/56333/talking-things-out-time \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to let this discussion go to chat instead of being here then. Probably for the best. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 0:47

As usual, this is being made way more complicated than it needs to be. As already cited,

What's our policy with answers advocating piracy (accidentally or not)?

Links to "D&D Tools" / dndtools.eu and similar sites

Which means RPG.SE doesn't want to be associated with illegal activity (pirating). So we prefer not to have links to pirated content or content advocating piracy. Yes, this is illegal in most countries not just the US, and while there are a handful of non-Berne Convention countries, the bulk of the site is not from those and the site is not run there. Sometimes, it can be useful even to avoid the impression of piracy. We present RPG.SE as a civilized, SFW place suitable for professionals - to be blunt the sewers of *chan and reddit and whatnot are all there for those who want to go there. To distinguish ourselves from them, we try to look respectable.

So in some cases where those two things seem to come up, we may edit or otherwise act to remove the association. This can be done by many site members, or escalated via flags to diamond mods. Sometimes this requires judgement calls.

In this particular case, was an edit needed? Maybe. I personally probably not have done so had I happened across the question and answer with that language in it. I might by the time there were comments starting to escalate the issue. I for sure would by the time there was a big ol' off topic comment thread arguing about the ins and outs of PDFs and piracy in a place where that discussion doesn't belong; comments aren't for discussion. Not "comments aren't for discussion of points you don't have strong opinions about." And I for sure would by the time it gets to this point.

So I think you're running down a pointless rabbit hole with SSD's answer about "pirates," turning it into a referendum on whether pirates are bad people or not and whether they should get that bad bad discrimination. I'm not going to argue about any of that because it's pointless and irrelevant.

It's very simple. We remove stuff that seems to associate the site with piracy. On the answer in question, the technical details of owning a PDF are not germane to the factual heart of the answer, so it's a poor hill to choose to die on.

It doesn't mean "we should start a pogrom on every mention of a pdf." But as is frequently a problem with meta questions like this, it conflates asking about the specific situation with What Shall We Do Globally About This Forever.


  1. We try not to be associated with piracy, by direct links and direct reference but also by stuff that "looks bad."
  2. In this case it was marginal whether an edit was needed, until things escalated making it necessary for sure. SSD has the diamond because he has the experience to make judgement calls, so he made one.
  3. Nothing else. This isn't a complicated issue, don't make it one.
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You could just replace pretty much all of this answer with "We remove stuff that seems to associate the site with piracy". That's a fine position to hold, and the answer would be a whole lot more on topic and a whole lot less offensive if you did that. The way you present it now, it almost sounds like you think that's somehow already our policy, and even asking about it is an affront to moderator authority. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 4:22
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ That is already our policy. And if I don't sound happy, I'm very much not happy about how this conversation has gone so far. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 12:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. Where was that policy established? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's clear from the previous Q&As. If it's not to you, that's fine, here's the clarification. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 2:18

We should not punish piracy as a matter of site policy

Different countries define piracy differently, and different people have wildly varying ethical stances with regards to copyright. While I or another user may approve or disapprove of copyright-violating behavior alluded to in a question or answer, that is a matter which can be addressed by our voting habits.

Use of copyright violations in an answer usually makes that answer worse, and most of the posts 'advocating piracy' amount to very unreliable link-only answers. Obviously those are 'very low quality' and reasonably deleted.

However, in the case mentioned here and presumably other future cases, the information meaningfully contributes to the site and enforcement of US copyright law, even were it to result in the user's incarceration or assassination, would have no legal basis on which to damage the answer. The material should thus be allowed and subject to review by the community through the normal, vote-based channels.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be confusing the issue. There's a difference between punishment, legal liability, and just not wanting to give a certain behaviour a voice in a privately owned space. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 0:22
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW our preexisting rationale in similar situations has consistently been "no, because it's bad for the site". I figure it makes sense to extend that to "if it's not bad for the site it's not bad" since I think our definition of piracy (i.e. 'violates US copyright law') is kinda a terrible one and wouldn't like to see that applied in a discriminatory way. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 0:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Then you might want to actually explain that in your answer, with examples of previous situations you consider precedent-setting. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 1:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Oh, I already went ahead and linked those in the question. Besides, there's too much people screaming over this already. At this point I'm more interested in trying to talk about process; this thing isn't important enough to me to get people even more angry over. Thanks for the help, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 4:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .