I have heard from numerous people that there are opinions within Orthodox halacha that permit using pirated computer software. I have never seen this sourced or printed anywhere but only things like "I spoke to a rabbi once" or "my friend researched this extensively and it's ok.".

Can anyone share sources or names of poskim who are on record allowing use of pirated computer software?


3 Answers 3


In the Talmud, it is stated that if you lose something that you know cannot be returned to you (e.g., if a river overflows or if it had no identifiers), even though you know it's yours, you lose all hope of getting it back and therefore, it's as good as gone.

If I find something like that, I could safely assume that the owner lost hope of getting it back and I can use it.

Some Rabbis (like Rav Dov Lior), assume that anything that was uploaded to the Internet is the same as a lost object.

Therefor, you can download anything from the internet (even though uploading is prohibited).

edit: source in Hebrew for this answer

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    Thanks for the sourced answer and welcome to Mi Yodeya! I hope you stick around and enjoy the site.
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 14:31
  • It seems that this approach is all wrong Halachicly-wise. There's no similarity bw physical lost and intellectual property. A book can be printed in mils of copies but the author keeps the rights. Intellectual property is all about losing profits, not losing the property.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 12:03

I cannot provide the name of a posek allowing the use of pirated software. Most Internet references to rabbanim allowing this are anonymous and along the lines of "a friend has told me", "I heard from", etc.

@thepoosh cites R Dov Lior as allowing it but it is not at all clear that the laws of asheivat aveida (lost objects) apply to this case as the publisher didn't lose the software; instead it was stolen from him. The analogy with iyush (abandon) may not apply either as the publisher would very likely ask the site to take down stolen software if he was aware of them. R Dov Lior has a history of controversial statements (cf. his Wikipedia entry) and without taking away from his greatness in Torah he is not a mainstream posek.

Instead, and for the avoidance of doubt, there are many poskim who explicitly forbid downloading copyrighted software, music or video.

For instance R Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC vol 4 40:19), prohibits copying physical items of music, movies, art, etc. to prevent others from losing money (see comments below for possible limitations to the analogy with online media).

The Rabbinical Council of America came out against this very clearly stating

Whereas the Internet has also enabled people to illegally download intellectual property covered by copyright, particularly music, thereby depriving record companies and artists of royalties due them by law; and whereas such downloading and deprivation of royalties constitutes theft which is clearly prohibited both by secular law and Halacha for both Jews and non-Jews

Therefore, the RCA hereby calls upon our entire community, including Jews of all ages, to desist from illegally downloading music, Jewish as well as secular, and other forms of entertainment, in order to comply with the requirements of Halacha and the law of the United States.

See more sources coming out against pirating software

  • Ohr Somayach listing a number of reasons this would be prohibited: gezel (stealing), hasagat g'vul (reducing the developer’s rightful share of the market), mazik (inflicing monetary damage), ma’avir al da’at (violating the developer’s stipulations), dina d’malchuta dina (violating civil law)
  • R Israel Schneider in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society expanding on many of those concepts
  • R Yirmiyohu Kaganoff on copyright specifically
  • R Shlomo Brody.
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    What R' Moshe said in that responsum is that you can't physically take someone's tape to make a free copy because you are (temporarily) stealing his physical cassette in order to do something with it that he doesn't want (and kofin 'al midas S'dom doesn't allow you to grab his tape and make a copy, since he could make money by only giving out his tape to people who pay him). This doesn't appear to apply to digital media or software.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 8:14
  • @Fred of course R Moshe (who passed away in 1986) didn't rule specifically on digital media but I think the analogy holds: it is forbidden to take someone's stuff to make a copy if he disagrees or loses money. Arguing that people wouldn't buy what they steal from the Internet is weak in my view because surely they would buy some music if they didn't steal it. Not that you said that of course but it is an objection commonly heard
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 15:15
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    Reading the t'shuva carefully, I don't think the analogy holds at all. R' Moshe was bringing up the owner's potential loss of money to offset a potential justification for taking the Torah tape without permission to make a copy (namely, כעמ"ס - "He's withholding the audio shi'ur for no reason, so I can forcibly take his tape and copy it so that Torah is spread!"). R' Moshe says nothing to suggest that gezel would apply if you never appropriate a physical item. Hasagas g'vul (damaging someone's business) would be an issue with software, but that prohibition has different parameters.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 19:52
  • Thank you @Fred. I will not remove the quote in my answer above otherwise the comments wouldn't make sense anymore, but will edit to reference your comments. I still feel very strongly about the answer if only based on the RCA statement
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 19:54
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    As far as dina d'malchusa dina, there is a dispute as to its scope, but it is certainly a factor to consider. Likewise, potential for chillul HaShem could be a factor where there is a risk of that happening.
    – Fred
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 20:26

It's a question of birur ha'metziyos. Your published knowledge does not belong to you but your public utilisation of that knowledge does.

Since utilisation of computer software is ubiquitiously done only on computers, you should measure the chiluk between knowledge and utilisation relative to computer use.

Therefore software piracy is assur, or 'if it sounds krum it probably is'.

  • 1
    First of all, consider dejargonifying this. Second, consider citing sources. W/o them we have little more that your personal opinion. In reality, not everything that seems krum is. If the OP wanted to rely on his own intuition he would not have needed to ask the question. Consider conveting this answer to a comment.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 2:44

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