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Partially inspired by this question, though substantively different (I hope).

There are many sites on the internet which contain pirated media (eg tv shows, movies) those sites allow anyone to view this pirated media by playing the video the same way you would play a YouTube video. The actual media is not hosted on the viewer's computer. Would there be halachic grounds to permit someone to view this kind of media? Would it matter if the viewer would not otherwise pay for the same media if it was not available through a pirated source?


Note: I am not interested in the ethics of such behavior or how it may contravene the laws of the land, this is a purely theoretical halachic question.

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  • 1
    Another interesting book about the issue: global.oup.com/academic/product/… Dec 23 '20 at 16:32
  • I have to imagine that while this doesn't fall under "literal" stealing (the taking of a specific item where only one exists) - illegal copies would have to count as a type of theft. You're denying an individual pay for their services. While you're not taking their product (since it's a copy) you're still taking their payment which is denying them their livelihood. That has to relate to this topic on some level.
    – Michael
    Dec 23 '20 at 18:06
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    @rikitikitembo While I can understand the functional argument of what you're saying (Streaming music is not like robbing a bank, obviously) Halachically, the minuscule nature doesn't change the situation. Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Anyone who robs another of an item worth one peruta (penny) is considered as though he takes his soul from him (Bava Kamma Daf 119a) - I get your argument. I'm just saying that if we're talking about Halacha, stealing is a problem. This gets complicated with streaming as I don't know the status Halachically but my belief is it would still relate even digitally.
    – Michael
    Dec 24 '20 at 6:01
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    I don't understand the difference between this question and the linked-to one. When you watch it on the pirating site, that is downloading it. Maybe you don't save a copy as a file on your computer, but you are downloading it, else you couldn't watch it.
    – msh210
    Dec 24 '20 at 8:39
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I don't understand why it's so complicated?

  • For those who Halachicly hold that "דינא דמלכותא דינא" ("the civil law of the country is binding upon the Jews of that country"): enter image description here

  • For those who hold that stealing is prohibited for gentiles, assisting in stealing is a prohibition (after all they profit from you watching it, so they steal more).

  • Some hold that preventing livelihood from Jews is a prohibition

  • Some fear Godly retribution for "דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד" (don't do to your fellow what's hateful to you, Sab 31a)

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EDIT (for @ba)

I'm a computer guy and I dealt a lot with software pirating Halachah. Turns out, Rabbis have no clear understanding of copyright rights, or intellectual property, as it has no straight comparison to material monetary rights known to our sages. Let alone computers, electronic sharing, etc.

Therefore they can't rule a straightforward prohibition, but only indirect ones, like those I mentioned above. For example, my Rabbi Z"l held that there is no immaterial property and therefore no intellectual rights.

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  • The question says "I am not interested in the ethics of such behavior or how it may contravene the laws of the land, this is a purely theoretical halachic question" (and also this particular law applies only in USA if we trust Google on this). I don't think you can just assume that pirating is stealing without considering laws against it. Preventing livelihood from Jews looks promising, can you bring a source for that?
    – b a
    Dec 24 '20 at 23:15
  • @ba Thank you , I elaborated in the answer.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 26 '20 at 16:59
  • Your google results discuss torrenting or downloading. Not streaming. Who says streaming is illegal? Maybe providing it is.
    – robev
    Dec 26 '20 at 17:04
  • @robev I wasn't thorough in my search as it is pretty obvious to me that once the content is rendered illegal all of its uses are prohibited.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 26 '20 at 19:09

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