The way we approach "Where can I watch?" questions has bothered me for a while. Usually, we easily get five people to vote to close every one of these questions as "requesting illegal or copyrighted materials", but not one person who bothers to edit the word "legally" into the title, even though that's typically all that's needed to make the question on-topic.

I would even argue that in most cases the question doesn't need to explicitly ask for a legal source, as long as it doesn't explicitly ask for an illegal source. But when I've made such edits, I usually make it look like "Where Can I Legally Watch Legal Copies of Legal Legally, Legally Only, Must be Legal (legally only)?" since some people seem deeply disturbed by the absence of that word.

Where can I legally watch the legal dubbed version of "Kimi no na wa" ("Your Name") (legally only)? is the most recent example, that spurred me to say something. In its original form, that question did not explicitly ask for a free or illegal source. It did ask for a download, which we might infer means illegal, but all someone had to do was edit that out and maybe change the title to specify "legally". Instead, we had five people vote to close, and now it's sat closed for five days, and no one could be bothered to take the thirty seconds to edit.

I don't love "where can I watch" questions, but they're one of the few question categories on this site that helps a lot of people solve a practical problem they're facing. And in 99% of cases, all you really need to do is edit them so they're asking for legal sources. I'm not even sure what kind of post would fall in that remaining 1%; maybe if the OP keeps on rolling back edits, that would be a case for closing the question and re-asking it. Answers that provide illegal sources should of course be nuked immediately, but that doesn't make the question itself off-topic.

I get it: here on A&M we've got lots of posts that are impossible to salvage through editing, either because the OP's writing skills are so poor that you can't make heads or tails of what they're saying, or because they didn't include any detail, so fixing the answer would basically be equivalent to writing your own answer, but with all the gains going some rando who couldn't be bothered to put in any effort. I get that that's what we mostly review around here. But everyone, please try to be more aware when a tiny edit can completely fix a question, and don't immediately reach for the close vote button.

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    related: anime.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/795/…. Sadly it seems my suggestion there is rarely followed.
    – Logan M
    Jul 23, 2017 at 19:25
  • @LoganM Yeah, you also pointed out in your answer that if we edit the question to ask for legal sources, it doesn't really matter if the OP only wanted illegal sources because other people might have the same question but be willing to accept legal sources, which I agree with.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:29

4 Answers 4


I'd like to propose to not add the word "legally" into these questions anymore to "make them ask about where to get it legally". Let's just assume we're only interested in legal sources because that's how things actually are. There's no need to assume everybody is a filthy pirate if the word "legally" isn't present. We just delete illegal requests fast anyways.

So, no more "legally".

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    I definitely agree with this. As long as they don't explicitly ask for illegal sources, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Even asking for "free" sources doesn't necessarily mean they want an illegal source as there are legal free sources like Crunchyroll. IMO it's answers giving illegal sources that we should bring the hammer down on right away.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 24, 2017 at 20:43
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    In my opinion, the real reason to add "legal" is not to force this onto the OP, but to try to limit the inevitable, undesirable "It's on streamanimefree.com" type answers. In practice I don't know how effective this is. A moderator notice could serve the same purpose without being so intrusive but needs to be approved by SE, or protecting the question would drastically reduce such answers (though protecting every such question is fairly heavy-handed).
    – Logan M
    Jul 25, 2017 at 23:03
  • we might want to implement a filter which doesn't allow users to post links to sites which are 99% of the time used to share pirated episodes or chapters with a red popup explaining it to noobs so they would understand that their answer will be deleted quickly if they try to obfuscate the url
    – Hakase
    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:24
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    There are way too many such sites to keep a list updated, let alone one that SE will use internally for the code. New anime/manga piracy sites seem spring up almost daily. For the number of answers of this type that get posted, it just isn't worthwhile.
    – Logan M
    Jul 27, 2017 at 3:59

Personally I don't think we should want these kind of questions, not even if they state legal. Mainly due to the broad variety of the term legal in different countries.

We have a list of generally accepted legal source How can I tell if a site is Legal?. Which is a very good source to refer to, if somebody wants to stream anime or manga online.

We also have a fairly nice list of resources if you want to download for offline usage Apps for offline manga reading

Now we get to the dubious part

Switzerland, Spain: Downloading copyrighted content for personal use is perfectly legal. You cannot distribute the content or use it to make profit though.

Canada, Mexico and Netherlands: Known to tolerate downloading copyrighted contents for personal use.

So this would mean the sites that distribute said content are still illegal right, case closed?

Frankly no, or at least not always.

In Spain, file sharing and torrenting of copyrighted content for private use has been repeatedly declared legal by the courts multiple times.

There have also been cases where distribution for private use was allowed, if the original distributor at the very least owned a copy.

Take note that private use covers both online and offline usage of said resource.

Great, so any source can be legal. So lets only support franchised (paid for) alternatives. This way we support the creator, and we know it's legal for sure for everybody

Leaving the fact most people that ask these questions won't be to happy with that, that sounds like a solid plan!

This does however come with one more flaw, fan dubs/subs. Which are glorious legal gray zones, as they most often can fall under either

A: Fair use

Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship., however, similar laws exist in other countries as well.

Or B: educational purposes

Activities that are integral, immediate, and proximate to the education of students, or in the case of libraries, integral, immediate, and proximate to the provision of library services to library patrons, qualify as "educational purposes."

Both of which may or may not be always legal.

So, to actually answer your question. No, I would rather close a question than just add the word 'legal' to it. As it carries closely to no meaning or difference, as opposed to without it.

Yes I would accept a re-open at this point in time if the OP himself takes the effort to add legal to the question at this point in time, like i did here. Where can I legally watch the dubbed version of "Kimi no na wa" ("Your Name")?

And to be frank, I think all such questions should be closed as off topic. We can't properly tell legal sources apart for each individual user. However, when we close it, we can link them our resources of generally accepted legal sources to at least push them in the right way.

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    This is again a separate discussion. It was previously decided to allow these questions. If you want to argue that they should be banned, please make a new question where we can discuss that.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 24, 2017 at 15:00

I think Hakase's point here is a strong one:

...[I]n this case I have to ask myself and other editors: do we want to put effort into something that isn't hard to find answers to by googling "watch|stream [anime title]"?

...so the TL;DR of my answer here will be:

Are these the kinds of questions we really want to answer?

I make as much reference to this struggle in an earlier post asking about release dates for dubs. But I suppose that we should take a step back here.

Let me be clear, in terms of procedure that is what should've happened - we should edit out the references to any requests for illegal sources - and it's regrettable I didn't take the time to do that, but I have a rationale for it which has been weighing on my mind for a bit.

The anime fanbase is pretty well pigeonholed. We've got a lot of forums and discussion boards dedicated to anime of all kinds and subjects, and quite frankly, asking where to find these sources is a question that comes up very common. Enter A&M; if someone were to ask the same question here and expect an equivalent reception to it, and then get slapped with, "oh no, we don't do that here", then chances are they're not going to get what they want from us, and they just up and leave.

To tie that back to this question, it was asked and phrased the way it was because the user either didn't know or didn't care of any legal sources, and there's little that our words can do to sway them of either notion. Further, any information we could provide would regurgitate a well-timed and thought out Google search.

It seems I made that mistake again in answering this question; it's something that can be found on the Internet, but it isn't particularly insightful or interesting. An idle moment while taking a breather at work allowed me to look things up and get an answer in while referencing legal sources, but...again, that's still a Google search that we should encourage others to be doing.

I personally don't feel like we should be answering these questions. Providing a resource to users looking for specific shows through legal channels and avenues - and more importantly, a resource we don't have to maintain - would be the more ideal approach.

We actually have a list of legal sites available; it suffers from an acute lack of visibility. If we were to make this kind of resource more prominent, we'd likely get more users looking things up for themselves in that regard.

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    Again, most of this answer is about whether we should or should not take these questions at all, which is a separate discussion. I have no complaints about your conduct on that Kimi no Na Wa question; you provided an answer with what legal sources you could find instead of jumping to close the question.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:22
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    As to the issue of whether that user, or any specific user, was asking for a legal source or not, I actually don't care; we're not going to start allowing questions looking for illegal sources, so they'll either get legal sources or they'll get nothing, and that will have to be good enough for them. I suspect a lot of these people are outside the US and Western Europe, and can't access or afford legal sources anyway, but there are still cases where the question could be useful to someone.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:24
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    @Torisuda: Fair point. I do admit that this was a bit of a sidebar, but I still think it's relative to keep in the back of our minds. Perhaps I'll start up a separate question asking what we really want to focus on as a community.
    – Makoto
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:58
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    Please do. If your and Hakase's immediate reaction to this was "Wait, we allow those questions? Seriously?", that seems like a conversation the community should have again. I have my arguments for and against keeping them, but if we do have them I don't think it serves anyone's interest to immediately close them all like we've been doing.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 24, 2017 at 2:32

Additional questions from me.

Assuming OP wants a list of legal sources, will this turn into a "shopping advice" type of question which is generally disliked on other SE sites? Will it eventually lead to basically every popular title having a "where can I legally watch it today" and a lot of the links becoming obsolete over the years as licenses end and the item is removed from streaming sites, and discs are removed from shop listings?

Assuming OP wants an illegal source and we turn the question into asking about legal sources, and then OP becomes disinterested (and comments about it, and maybe tries to delete their question), what use is it to anyone on the site? Are you okay with putting effort into answering a question the OP didn't ask?

I also don't like that we don't try as we should to salvage potentially useful questions generally, but in this case I have to ask myself and other editors: do we want to put effort into something that isn't hard to find answers to by googling "watch|stream [anime title]"?

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    The first question is more about whether we should allow these questions at all, which is a separate discussion. The fact is we have been allowing them, but we've been closing them all unless someone spams "legally" all over the question, which I find obnoxioius.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:17
  • For the second point, perhaps if the OP is asking where they can watch Mamotte Shugogetten and will only accept illegal sources, then editing the question makes it useless to everyone, but for a popular title like Kimi no Na Wa I'm assuming there will be other people who have the same question. Under that assumption, the effort put into answering the question will help someone, even if it's not the OP.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:17
  • As far as your last point, if it were a lot of effort, I might agree, but editing these questions is a very small amount of effort, and the moderation load on this site was hugely lightened by removing id requests. We also don't really get that many of these questions. FWIW, I'm also confused that people don't just Google "Mamotte Shugogetten streaming" when they want to watch something, but I don't think supporting those questions is a huge deal.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 23, 2017 at 23:33
  • @Torisuda regarding your last comment, SE had a close reason like "this question can be easily answered with a simple search query" which might be applicable to a lot of those questions (assuming legal, of course). If it's an obscure anime which isn't being streamed or sold on discs everywhere, then I guess we could answer it. In any case, I don't see any harm (right now) in answering with amazon links, but it may turn into a problem in a year or two.
    – Hakase
    Jul 24, 2017 at 19:38
  • That sounds reasonable. Since everyone's response seemed to be like "WTF, we allow those?" it seems like we should have a larger discussion at some point about whether to stop accepting them.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 24, 2017 at 20:46

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