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I think it is similar to stealing, but not exactly, so the same rules may not apply here. The difference is that, in stealing, you move a property from its owner to yourself, but in internet piracy, you are copying something. In a sense, you are making a copy of something that belongs to someone else without the owner's consent. Also, you are not making a material gain, but a digital one, so that might not count. Because, no matter how much illegal downloading you do, you are not getting any wealthier in the sense of goods you have. On the other hand, you are being unjust toward another human and his/her rights.

So the question is, Can internet piracy be considered stealing or committing injustice? Is there any source talking about similar issues that we can relate to internet piracy?

  • Some consider it at least an immorality, and we are to refrain from immorality. – user2350 Jun 9 '13 at 1:54
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    Why don't you just use Free and Open Source Software, right now I am using Linux as the Operating System. You will find FOSS alternatives for all your needs, they will be free and even better trust me ;) – Sameer Shemna Oct 10 '14 at 17:45
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It is the prerogative of the author to apply a copyright on his/her work for whatever reason, whether it is to support themselves or anything else. Once this condition is applied, it is treated as a contract and Islam respects copyright 100%. Some people claim that this is not true, because copyright is "preventing knowledge from the people." This is an absurd claim; copyright details the specific format (eg. this particular lecture recorded by this person), not the knowledge.

With that said, I asked several shuyookh about this, and the answer was essentially what you said: Islam respects copyright, so this becomes copyright infringement, or stealing. It doesn't matter that it's digital, the same way that interest in your bank account is digital, but it's still interest.

You can find a nice, detailed answer by Islam-QA here:

Firstly:

Trade names, trademarks, copyright and patents are all rights which belong exclusively to their owners. In modern times they have come to have a considerable financial value. These rights are recognized according to sharee’ah, and they should not be violated.

Secondly:

It is permissible to buy or sell a trade name or a trademark, and to transfer any of them in return for monetary compensation, so long as there is no cheating or deception.

Thirdly:

Copyright and patents are protected by sharee’ah. Their owners have the right to buy or sell them and nobody has the right to violate these rights. And Allaah knows best.

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    As per the Berne convention, an author has legal copyright merely by publishing a work. Is this an oversight or is the matter actually different for Islam? – Praxeolitic Jul 24 '14 at 6:55
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And eat up not one another's property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully. (2:188)

Assuming that we see a file as the original creators property, then I believe that this ayat applies.

Whether it is digital or real, it is still considered stealing. For example, a musician spends hours in a studio, writing and recording songs. The way he makes a living is you buying his records. You are stealing his product, therefor he makes no money. This is haram.

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    File-sharing is not considered stealing. Furthermore, it has been shown that piracy is actually beneficial for the artist and helps them as much or possibly more than if no one pirated their works. [Most] artists actually get a minuscule percentage of you buying their work, and by file-sharing you propagate their content, and make them more popular. Popularity usually means more income. – Mateen Ulhaq Jun 24 '12 at 7:17
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    @muntoo Perhaps this answer could do with a source or details for his definition of stealing, but I don't think that TorrentFreak's definition is particularly valuable here. – Guest Jul 5 '12 at 4:39
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Bukhari : Volumn 001, Book 008, Hadith Number 446.

Narated By 'Aisha : Barira came to seek my help regarding her manumission [freedom from enslavement]. I told herself you like I would pay your price to your masters but your Al-Wala [right to inherit] would be for me."

Her masters said, "If you like, you can pay what remains (of the price of her manumission), (Sufyan the sub-narrator once said), or if you like you can manumit her, but her Al-Wala [right to inherit] would be for us. "

When Allah's Apostle came, I spoke to him about it. He said, "Buy her and manumit her. No doubt Al-Wala is for the manumitted [i.e the one who sets free]."

Then Allah's Apostle stood on the pulpit (or Allah's Apostle ascended the pulpit as Sufyan once said), and said, "What about some people who impose conditions which are not present in Allah's Book (Laws)? Whoever imposes conditions which are not in Allah's Book (Laws), his conditions will be invalid even if he imposed them a hundred times."

The General rule about purchases in Islam is the buyer become owner of the entity and can do whatever he wants to do with it.

The fact Bill Gates abstaining you from reselling your Windows 7 cd on the basis of copyright has no justification in Islam.

Copyright purchases are an altered form of transactions (lately invented), and they do relate to the above case.

Wallaho Alam (And Allah knows best)

  • Reselling is not quite the same as piracy (assuming you remove your own copies first) – Marc Gravell Jan 26 '13 at 21:15
  • Though they're not they same, many companies forbid even such transfers (in the name of copyright). I'm assessing such claims in the light of this hadith. – Abu Abdullah Feb 21 '13 at 7:29
  • Copyright was possible in the times of Rasoolullah (saww) but it never came into existence. e.g. a person may have patented his secret cooking recipe. These later innovations in transactions have very little backing. Perhaps thats the reason one barely finds any evidence that regards "Intellect" as ones own "Property" and that he can impose whatever conditions on it. Another case, (consider) the inventor of Pi declares $ 10 million fees for its usage. Thats a sure progress showstopper. – Abu Abdullah Feb 21 '13 at 7:43
  • technically pi would be discovered, not invented – Marc Gravell Feb 21 '13 at 14:39
  • I would disagree: Microsoft licenses the operating system to you for your perpetual use. There is a difference between licensing and selling. Since it is licensed, Microsoft retains the IP rights of the software. The implications of this are that you cannot resell the software or reverse engineer it. – Najeeb May 2 '13 at 17:14
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In short, it is tantamount to stealing. So things like copying, burning a disc are not permissible. Also laws regarding copyright in individual countries must be respected.

For more information, see Ayatullah Sistani's Q&A Section, here

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  1. You don't OWN software you buy. You own a license (which can then be revoked for whatever reason: date expiration / or company shutting down) you then lose access to the license which is something you once BOUGHT. (Google it)
  2. Using software whether pirated or not isn't haram, because you are not stealing anything. You do not own anything to begin with. You are simply using it without a license or in some cases a forged or shared license.

Unless you STEAL the CODE within the SOFTWARE, rework it into your own program and RESELL IT as your own. THAT would be stealing. Because you are making profit from other peoples work that clearly doesn't belong to you.

I remember once buying a few tapes from iTunes, it charged me 5 times for 1 copy and they said they wouldn't refund me my money. I lost access to my account, so if I go and pirate the copy I got charged for 5 times, would I be stealing? Nonsense.

I don't like talking on these touchy subject matters, but people need to understand the difference between pirating and stealing. And between what's haram and illegal. You can drive a car without a license, who says you cant? (It's illegal, but it isnt haram because you are not stealing anything) call it unethical, call it shameful, call it illegal. Just don't call it stealing.

  • Just google "define:Pirating" and tell me what is mean by pirating ..consider you have developed a software in three months for selling it but before you could sell it somebody hacked into your system pirate your copy of software and uploaded it on the internet free of cost what it will be considered pirated or stealing? – Ali786 Aug 21 '15 at 4:56
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there may be some cases in which it is permissible to make copies without permission of the owners. That applies in two cases:

1 – If it is not available in the marketplace and one needs it, and the copies are for personal use or charitable distribution, and they not going to be sold or profited from.

2 – If there is a great need for it and the owners are demanding more for it than it is worth, and they have already made enough money to cover their costs with a reasonable amount of profit, and that is something to be decided by experts. In that case it is permissible to copy it for personal use, not with the aim of selling it.

3 – If it belongs to someone who is not protected by sharee’ah, then there is nothing wrong with copying it. The one who is protected by sharee’ah is the Muslim or dhimmi (non-Muslim living under Muslim rule) or musta’min (the one who been granted safety by the Muslim ruler), in contrast to the harbi (non-Muslim who is in a state of war against Islam).

https://islamqa.info/en/102352

  • The last two points are not correct, the owner of Sayyadina Bilal (R.A) asked for more than what was the usual amount but Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) paid. Dhimmi, Muslim, Non-Muslim as long as you have contract with someone you need to follow it. You can't steal from someone regardless of whoever he is – Muhammad Apr 5 at 7:16
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I think , Muslims should try to avoid making israf, and making harm by self-restricting from using something without respectful reasons is making israf.

And forcing/compelling somebody to make israf is sinful.

So, Muslim who makes useful digital content or software must put it in internet to be downloaded freely and usable without payments, unless it is some private/personal data which should not be published, or maybe other respectful reasons (another example is if it is not useful so it makes extra work for search engines and publishing that is israf). > 2016 july 14: i cannot easily do what i said. so i strike out that my words, but do not delete, because it is good idea, maybe somebody finds proofs for it. i am making a program (site) and i hope i can earn money with that site, and i am afraid that if i publish that program, i cannot earn money with it, or i have to go to court. and i believe that if i do not publish that program, i can keep it in secret. are using of know-hows allowed in islam? is not it something like gold, which is priceful because rare people has it, and seems usage of gold is allowed in islam. july 24: i think i keep it in secret before i achieve some [amount of] money or [count of] users, and then publish it, maybe except most recent development. <

In other hand, if somebody already made such data/software and put it with such license/agreement , not allowing to use it without paying for it, it seems that the agreement/license should be fullfilled/complied, (should not be violated). but that can contradict the policy of trying to not make israf. i think in some cases avoiding israf can really overweight in front/view of god, and every person in every case makes decision what he should choose, taking in account what he could pay etc.

A counter-argument: if people strictly follow the licences, somebody could buy software and give it for rent to many people, so he would get money enough to buy the software and function as money gatherer for software companies. - answer to it: it would be also quite unoptimal, israf, wasteful, if people would have to go to its office. - answer to it: that is possible through internet nowadays...

Also i and you should take in account that breaking the license is breaking country law. breaking country law by itself usually is a sin.

And we should take in account that usually software licence is not a regular agreement, it is an offer, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offer_and_acceptance , and in case we use the software, we automatically make, by country laws, and by license, an unilateral contract.

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