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
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 15:09
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    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
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 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??] Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 7:48
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    @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
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 8:20
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    I asked a qualified posek in Israel regarding tapes who told me that if you are not going to buy it and you will not give it to anyone who would have bought it then it's a case of ze nehene veze lochaser and permitted by some. dont take this as a heter. ask your own Rav. each particular case may be different
    – ray
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 6:48

4 Answers 4


Yes, it is theft. The creator of the product (in this case the song) has agreed on his terms to provide the product for a set price. Instead of purchasing the song you are consciously resorting to other methods that the creator has not consented to in order to get hold of the product.

The more technical question would be as to what extent you own the song file. When you purchase a physical book it is obvious as to what you've acquired ownership of -- you've bought the physical book so you own the copy from cover to cover. But what about a song file? Does that mean you can upload your file to some site and essentially allow people to "borrow" it? This can be analogous to physical books. Can you put your book copy into a scanner and print more copies? Yes. Can you distribute these copies to others? No.

It seems that for most people the idea of property becomes conceptually blurry when it comes to the digital realm. It is very easy and virtually effortless to just click "copy and paste" and publish something online unlike printing and compiling a book, so it's very easy to not realize that something as simple as that would constitute theft.

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    Sources would add to the value of this answer, otherwise it is just the opinion of a RandomUser :-> who might well be a bot, kid or CEO of a music company
    – mbloch
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 3:32
  • @mbloch A simple application of logic does not require sources, it requires a functional brain.
    – RandomUser
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 7:11
  • Sources add credibility. Reason is sometimes not enough to differentiate between 2 answers. Maybe one will say he would never have bought the music so he is not stealing because there is no way the author of the song would have received any money from him. Or he will say this is "ze neene veze lo haser". He hasn't taken anything from anyone, the song can still be sold to others. Is this line of reasoning less valid than yours? Reason might suggest they are all valid... now if you tell me what R Moshe Feinstein says it becomes very different
    – mbloch
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 17:16
  • Many may argue with your logic, only authoritative sources will make your answer reasonable Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 22:02

The Rambam in Hilchos Geneiva v'Aveida clearly says that someone can't steal the smell of something. Simply, that's because the person you "steal" it from isn't lacking anything! So seemingly that would be the case here, since the original owner isn't losing any money / property just because one more person downloaded it, it's just like smelling something where even though the smell doesn't belong to you, and maybe the owner of the object that smells nice worked really hard on it, but it doesn't damage the owner at all.

  • Then those rabbanim that wrote against the copyright infringement of Ushpizin were terribly wrong (if I remember correctly, the Rishon leZion was among them)... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushpizin#Haredi_culture Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 8:14
  • @Kazibácsi yep, Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 16:54
  • I assume you don't understand sarcasm. Look at the film's disclaimer... Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 21:08
  • @Kazibácsi I don't have the film on me now, but is that only for a physical DVD or also downloading? Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 23:19
  • Note that this is not a direct comparison, as you don't just walk past something and get a download of it.
    – user15253
    Commented Jun 24, 2018 at 21:26

Your question needs a short clarification:

  1. Based on the Torah, the Gemmorah differentiates between Gnevah (גניבה), which is a robbery and Gzelah (גזילה) which is any other monetary damage either direct or indirect (e.g גזל שינה - sleep deprivation). The Gemmorah itself started (unfortunately) use those terms interchangeably and that continues through the Halachah till nowadays.

  2. Another point is the very definition of "the property" being stolen. The original, Talmudic Judaism has no idea of a non-physical property, and therefore no idea of stealing such property. Instead, it discusses ways of indirect damages, that can be evaluated in monetary compensation, e.g. blocking someone's view (היזק ראיה) is not considered stealing (גזילה), but damaging (נזק). Therefore, (originally) Judaism does not recognize any idea of intellectual property.

  3. Another important point is the ability to sue. Unlike stealing of the physical property that can be sued or damages that can be compensated, all other types of property cannot be sued. Therefore, as many already pointed, it falls under "general bad stuff" that can only be banned or excommunicated.

  4. "Dina deMalchutah" is the only loophole to allow our Halacha to embrace the idea of the intellectual property, just like any other monetary regulation, I do, however, doubt if any serious Beis Din would discuss such claims.


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
    Commented Aug 29, 2011 at 13:59
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    What about those otherwise machmirim who are particularly meikel on the subject of DMD? I think Zaq's question is about whether it is mutar outside of DMD. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 0:49
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt, as I alluded to in my first couple of paragraphs, it would depend on the definition of the word(s). If you have permission, it's not stealing. The question of Zeh Neheneh VeZeh Lo Haser (mentioned by Ray in the comments on the question) is an interesting one, though.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:16
  • Seth, the way that I read this, it really focused on DMD, rather than on the other relevant halachot. Admittedly, I don't know whether it would be geneiva, halachically speaking, and I'm not sure that I would know if I'd read your answer. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 16:01
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    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 3:58

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