9

Many magazines (in the United States, anyway) today find the main profitability is in having higher subscriber numbers to show advertisers and really don't care if the subscriber is paying. The main reason they require payment is to satisfy the Postal Regulations for 2nd class mail (which ensures timely delivery at a reduced cost). (Source - I worked for one, once.)

Given that, if someone has a magazine subscription that they let lapse, but the magazine keeps sending them, is he or she obligated to proactively inform them to stop mailing the magazine? And if so, how far do they have to go to get it to stop?

To avoid some potential leniency, please assume in this case the magazine owner is Jewish.

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    We've been getting a magazine for around ten years for free. They even kept updating every time we changed our address. I guess now i know why. – Scimonster May 14 '15 at 14:33
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    @Scimonster, is it supposed to be free? – Noach MiFrankfurt May 14 '15 at 14:37
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    @NoachmiFrankfurt No, we subscribed for one year. – Scimonster May 14 '15 at 14:40
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    @Scimonster, never underestimate the power of the Schwartz (or rather, the inscrutable management of the publishing industry, particularly when it's run by Jews)! – Noach MiFrankfurt May 14 '15 at 14:41
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    Are you assuming the magazine is (1) aware that you are not paying, (2) unaware, or (3) are you unsure? – Fred May 14 '15 at 23:04
5

The Business Halacha Institute discusses your very question about a Jewish newspaper:

“The magazine was aware that your subscription expired, yet knowingly sent additional issues,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “The Gemara (B.M. 23b, 25b, 31a) teaches that there is no obligation of hashavas aveidah when someone is knowingly reckless with his property (aveidah midaas). We do not have to take greater responsibility for his property than he does.”

“There is a dispute whether someone who is knowingly reckless with his property abandons ownership,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “For example, one who throws his wallet into the street and leaves it there. The Rambam maintains that you have no responsibility to return it to the owner, but it is not hefker (ownerless) and you may not take the wallet. However, the Tur understands that anyone can take the wallet. The owner effectively renounced ownership of the wallet when he threw it in the street, so it becomes ownerless” (C.M. 261:4). “The company has no interest in retrieving the magazine that was distributed. This is similar to a farmer who moved his grain and left some stalks behind, where everyone agrees that he forgoes them. He abandons them for takers, since it’s not worth his while to collect them” (C.M. 260:7; Bach, C.M. 273).

“Furthermore, often companies continue to send issues to a subscriber intending that he read them,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “either with the hope that he will renew or to maintain circulation numbers for advertisers. Thus you are allowed to read the magazine and are not under any financial obligation to them. Nonetheless, if the company is Jewish-owned, you should notify them that your subscription expired in case there is an unintended error.”

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