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Either way, it should be frowned upon as not a nice thing to do, but would it actually be assur?

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See [this discussion of intellectual property in Jewish law][1]. [1]: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1579/patents-in-halacha –  Shalom Aug 16 '11 at 15:09
That more directly relates to whether it's assur to upload pirated music. I think downloading is a different question than distributing. Would it be assur to read a book that was published in violation of the publishing ban? –  zaq Aug 16 '11 at 16:19
if someone takes something from someone else, without their permission, knowing that they are "not" meyayesh (do not forgive the debt) and would knowingly like to get paid, wouldn't that be considered as being possibly a theft?? pirkei avos?? [what is hateful to you, don't do to someone else??] –  mechoel zev Aug 22 '11 at 7:48
@mechoel, equating downloading pirated music to taking something from someone else, while quite possibly correct in the final analysis, is by no means obvious. If you can bring sources that make that equation, then you've probably answered the question at hand. –  Isaac Moses Aug 22 '11 at 8:20
Reasons I could say it's not theft: 1 - Perhaps it's considered public domain once it's released online where everyone can have access to it. 2 - it can be thought of as a lost item that the owner has given up hope of getting back. –  zaq Aug 22 '11 at 13:13

2 Answers 2

See http://www.businesshalacha.com/webfm_send/860 and http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/halacha/schneider_1.htm.

There are several reasons why copying tapes could be prohibited.

  1. Many poskim hold that "Intellectual property" is like real property. One who steals "intellectual property" is like real stealing.
  2. When one sells a tape, one could make a condition "This tape is sold on condition you do not copy it". (When one puts a copyright notice, it could be like making such a declaration.)
  3. Dina Dmalchusa Dina.
  4. Hasagas Gvul.

Igros Moshe ruled that it is forbidden as stealing.

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Yes, downloading "pirated" music is "stealing"*. Next question, please?

If you are asking about specific instances in which someone had permission (explicit or otherwise) to download music from someone who had permission (explicit or otherwise) to upload it, then you're not talking about downloading "pirated" music.

It is a very subtle difference, but it (potentially) makes all the difference in the world.

Ultimately, Dina DeMalchutha Dina. If you have no right in the eyes of the local/state/federal government to download that music because permission needs to be granted to you by someone who has not done so, then it is "stealing"** if you download it. If the person who uploaded it had no right to do so, then it is "pirated". If neither of you had permission to do what you did/are doing then it is "pirated" music and you are "stealing"* it.


*I'm using the word "stealing" here in the way I understand zaq to have used it in the original question - taking something that doesn't belong to you that was provided to the public by someone who didn't have a right to put it there. However, it may not be Halachically stealing; it might be more akin to the secular "receiving stolen property", which might be different. You might have to return it, but you might not face penalties. Or you might NOT have to return it, EVEN THOUGH you might have to pay penalties. That's a separate question. I think the question is about whether or not this is permitted, not about what the technical definition of the activity is.

**I'm using the word "stealing" here in the way I believe is most appropriate. If you are taking something from a domain in which the person who posted it had permission but you do not have permission to download it (eg., a paid, legal subscription service in which you use a hacked membership ID), this would be "stealing" (in some sense of taking something you're not allowed to take) even if it wasn't "pirated".

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And by the way, it need not be frowned upon unless it's actually a problem in Halachah. Most likely, it is a problem, because of Dina DeMalchutha Dina. If the courts rule it to be illegal, then you have a problem in Halachah. –  Seth J Aug 29 '11 at 13:59

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