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From this question What is the punishment for someone who pirates digital files?, the OP writes:

It is agreed upon that piracy is theft according to the question Where does Islam stand on Internet Piracy?

I'm respectfully contesting this claim in this question in the context of fiqh.

Question: Is piracy a form of theft for the purposes of fiqh?

In anticipation of answers which don't carefully read the question, I'm not contesting whether or not piracy is halal/haram; I'm contesting whether or not it's classed as theft (which may result in hadd punishment) or something else (not necessarily requiring hadd punishment).

The answers to the question Where does Islam stand on Internet Piracy? are all of the form "someone on the Internet said so" (specifically, "...this becomes copyright infringement, or stealing", "...it is still considered stealing" and "...you are not stealing anything"). Consequently, I'm looking for authoritative sources, e.g., fatawa. (Please back up responses and refrain from adding yet another "someone on the Internet said so" answer.)


Online fatawa generally seem to refrain from calling it theft. Here's what I've found via Google:

  • Islam Q&A 81614 quotes from fiqh councils; they declare it impermissible, but do not declare it theft. Indeed, they even go so far as to write:

    Some of our scholars think that it is haraam to do this (copy things) for the purpose of selling them, but if a person makes a copy just for himself, that is permissible.

    In other words, "some of our scholars" argue that it's halal for personal use, and therefore is not considered theft (which is haram).

  • IslamWeb 132937, 305998, 326746, 327097 also refrain from describing it as theft, instead using the far more tempered description "...the opinion adopted at Islamweb is that copyright ... are recognized and protected by the sharee'ah".

  • AskImam 949, 25083 likewise refrains from calling it theft, with 949 even quoting Mufti Taqi Uthmani's description of the attitudes of a "group of contemporary scholars":

    ...there is no precedent in the Holy Qur'an, in the Sunnah or in the juristic views of the earlier Muslim jurists where an intangible object has been subjected to private ownership or to sale and purchase. They further argue that 'knowledge' in Islam is not the a property of an individual, nor can he prevent others form acquiring knowledge, whereas the concept of 'intellectual property' leads to the monopoly of some individuals' knowledge, which can never be accepted by Islam.

  • IslamQA.org: DarulUloomTT.org, AskImam 15940, AskImam 19162 also refrain from calling it theft. Moreover, another fatwa listed on IslamQA.org writes:

    In our understanding, copyrighting (attaching the clause of copyright) in itself is an act of oppression and injustice. -- Muftionline.co.za

I found a single terse fatwa on IslamQA Darulifta-Deoband.org which described it as theft:

...a lot of piracy takes place and piracy is a kind of theft and it is considered illegal but still it takes [place]... Is it allowed or not in Islamic view?

...

Theft is not allowed in these matters also.

The following searches returned no hits: site:askamufti.com piracy, site:fatwa-online.com piracy, site:sunnipath.com piracy. Keep in mind that my search was limited to English-language fatawa.


This question is related to:

I found several other answers on Islam.SE which again take the form of "someone on the Internet said so":

(And a recent Islam.SE user comment indicated surprise at my attitude that "piracy" is a crime distinct from "theft".)

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With all due respect, if they (these various fatawa sources you quoted) have declared it impermissible, then on what basis other than it being theft is it regarded as impermissible? I think there are many (in my so far short amount of time here) getting caught up in semantics and blindly following what they consider fatawa, whereas the whole purpose of fatawa and scholarship is as I mentioned in my answer elsewhere is to point us to the knowledge of Qur'an and Sunnah. My approach to the religion is to look at the evidences and the spirit of the Religion (with the help of those who know more and can direct me to the evidences):

❶ - Having said that, if a person has expended effort and time (and probably expenses as well - tools and what not) to create something of benefit to others, is it reasonable to take what they have made for no monetary return, especially when they have done it for the express purpose of earning a living!? Not only will society collapse if we choose to ignore such rights, but it wouldn't even function to begin with because no one will create if it only means expenditure and effort with almost no return. It violates many very basic principles of Islam, such as trust, fairness, justice, etc. Very basic and essential aspects of Islam so much that I am surprised that it needs to be proven to some people that it is indeed theft!

❷ - Regarding your second question about whether it should attract the hadd, then the principle is as mentioned clearly in various hadith:

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ "‏ لاَ تُقْطَعُ الْيَدُ إِلاَّ فِي رُبُعِ دِينَارٍ ‏" - It was narrated that 'Aishah said:"The Messenger of Allah said: 'The hand (of the thief) is not to be cut off except for one-quarter of a Dinar."' (Sahih, an-Nasai)

Having said what I said above, I would now (to further this discussion) ask you about your statement: "I'm contesting whether or not it's classed as theft (which may result in hadd punishment) or something else (not necessarily requiring hadd punishment)" - What is this "something else" which would make piracy haram, if not theft? Is it hurting the feelings of the author? I am at a loss to imagine what could be the reason why the fatawa sites which you referenced consider it haram.

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