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On one of the frum news websites there is a disclaimer at the end of every article that includes the following wording -

Copying or reproducing our content is both against the law and Halacha

Is it really against halacha to copy someone's content? Does it matter if the content is made available online?

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    FWIW, copyright laws tend to allow personal, small scale usage of the content. You're not allowed to reproduce it in any serious way and propagate it though. Like print 100 copies of it, or use it verbatim on your website.
    – bondonk
    Commented Jun 20 at 10:07
  • Did they ask you not to do so?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 20 at 11:29
  • @DoubleAA I dont follow your question
    – Yoreinu
    Commented Jun 20 at 15:33
  • relevant: Is it allowed to copy seforim pdfs?
    – mbloch
    Commented Jun 21 at 3:13

2 Answers 2

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In general terms this Halachipedia article provides a good summary.

I would draw particular attention to the following:

For Commercial Use

1.  Copying copyrighted material for commercial use is absolutely forbidden.[1]

2.  It is forbidden to buy pirated or illegal software.[2]

For Personal Use
1.  Many poskim hold that it is stealing to copy someone else’s intellectual property or copyrighted material.[3] Accordingly, it is forbidden even for personal use.[4] Many other poskim hold that it isn’t actual stealing since intellectual property isn’t something tangible. Rather it is forbidden to commercial violate a copyright but for personal use it would be permitted to copy a small portion of something copyrighted.[5] Within the approach that permits copying for personal use the poskim qualify that it is only permitted to copy small portion such that a person wouldn't have anyway bought the book for that portion. But if copying portions prevents a person from buying the book it is forbidden.[6]

There are some poskim who are more inclined to allow copying small selections for personal or educational purposes if the material is Torah.[7]

2.  It is a pious practice never to violate the wishes of the copyright holder.[8]
3.  Some poskim write that a person may not violate a copyright because of chilul Hashem, desecration of God's name.[9] Otherwise disagree.[10]
4.  Some poskim write that a person must pay for the right to copy copyrighted material otherwise it is considered benefiting from someone else’s property.[11] But others disagree since once one bought the book it is completely his.[12]

In summary, it is potentially against halacha to copy someone's content where the content owner has made it clear that it is not public domain content. Making content available online does not waive rights in it, particularly where the content owner makes a statement such as: "Copying or reproducing our content is both against the law and Halacha".

Accordingly for a rabbi to state that

any content readily accessible online is considered available for the public and is not considered stealing.

is controversial.

It is instructive to read the copyright notice posted below which is copied (for what I believe to be a permitted use(!!)) from a hard copy ArtScroll publication

Art Scroll copyright notice

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  • Not only halachically but fair use laws allow using portions of copyrighted content even commercially Commented Jun 20 at 15:56
  • Fair use provisions differ in each country. This is a useful US resource copyrightalliance.org/faqs/what-is-fair-use/…. Including the following: What Is Fair Use? Fair use is an affirmative defense that can be raised in response to claims by a copyright owner that a person is infringing a copyright Fair use permits a party to use a copyrighted work without the copyright owner’s permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research
    – Edward B
    Commented Jun 20 at 16:03
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When asked about illegal downloads, Harav Chaim Schabes of Monsey paskened that any content readily accessible online is considered available for the public and is not considered stealing.

However, it is important to note that this topic is blurry in halacha and other poskim disagree, and you should ask your LOR.

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    It could be forbidden even if it's not stealing. The question wasn't only about stealing
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 20 at 12:24
  • @DoubleAA what other problem could be involved Commented Jun 20 at 15:56
  • @Awtsmoos--עצמות in addition to stealing there are potentially issues of deception - geneivas da’at - halachipedia.com/…
    – Edward B
    Commented Jun 20 at 18:50

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