Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

DOWNLOADING AND COPYING MUSIC

QUESTION 76: DOWNLOADING AND COPYING MUSIC

I argue with people about the ethics of downloaded music files from the Internet. I say that downloading songs or copying your own songs to give to someone else, without a copyright owner's permission, or not compensating the owner, is stealing. What do you say about this?

RABBI BELSKY

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ztl said that it's not permitted to copy any item that is being sold by the creator of that item. Every time you copy it, you're taking away sales from him. Anybody who downloads it, copies it, or does something else is really just turning someone else's money into ashes. And that's really the bottom line. It's taking something from someone else.

This is one of the areas where people say, "Everyone does it, and it really should be mutar (permitted)". People copy tapes and download from the Internet. Everything becomes "public domain". There's nothing private. People just download it and copy it and they'll wipe the owner out.

But even if everyone does it, it's wrong. You're taking away something from someone and you're harming him.

Sometimes people object to this argument and say, "Well, in that case, I'm probably not even allowed to copy down a shtikel (piece of) Torah that I heard." But that's not true - the Shach says "Ein gezel b'divrei Torah (there's no stealing when it comes to Torah)", that is, if you copy it down for yourself.

The guideline here involves whether or not what you're doing is taking away a sale from the owner. One might say, if asked this question, "Oh, I would never have bought that anyway." But in fact you shouldn't say that. You do like it ... and you would have bought it.

However, if you buy one and make a copy for yourself so that you can have, say, one in the car and one at home - that kind of copying is permitted. No one buys two of something for such a purpose, so copying the merchandise in this case doesn't take the place of a sale. If you told a person who wanted one copy for the house and one for the car that he had to buy two, then he wouldn't buy two. He would figure a way to carry it back and forth each time.

Since buying two copies for such a purpose is never done, then making a copy for yourself for two locations is not taking away a sale.

QUESTIONER

Is copying music a different type of stealing than any other type of stealing? Or is it just like any kind of stealing? Is there a principal that stealing is stealing and there are no distinctions? Is it just like walking over to someone with a gun? In this case we're talking about intellectual property. So is that a lesser degree of stealing?

RABBI BELSKY

The concept of 'stealing' intellectual property has limitations because in certain cases it is permitted to copy an idea. For example, if someone comes up with some idea about how to sell something, that idea is probably not subject to being copyrighted or patented. But a song is copyrighted, and people do business by selling records or tapes with songs. This is an item that brings a livelihood to people. Therefore, if you're taking it, you're taking away the livelihood of a person.

That's very important to remember. Someone sweated nights and invested money and time in order to create a certain item that the public is interested in, and then he's ready to sell it. And then it turns out that some Napster type of enterprise gets its hands on it, and people end up paying zero for it.


NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 77: LEAVING MAGNETIC STRIPE PARKING GARAGE TICKET

The municipal parking meter requires that you add money to a magnetic stripe ticket for as long as you expect to stay. If I'm ready to leave, and there is still time left on my ticket, can I leave the ticket in or near the machine for the next person to add money to it, so they can use the money I have left on the ticket? Or is that stealing from the city?


Participate in the Honesty Forum, and discuss the issues we confront in this class!

Subscribe to Honesty and receive this class via e- mail.

Honesty Archives

Honesty, Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yisroel Belsky Shli"ta and Torah.org.


 


ARTICLES ON VAYIGASH AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

Rough Beginning, Easy Ending
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5771

Don't Rehash The Story of My Sale To Egypt
Rav Frand - 5768

Yosef Provides Us With A Lesson In Etiquette
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

> A Spiritual Holiday
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

It's MY Business
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

A Little Background Information
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

ArtScroll

For Shame or Pride
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5766

Feel My Pain
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

Liar Liar
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Horns and Hedonism
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

Success by Whose Standards?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Chanukah: A Postscript
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Jewish Identity Through Jewish Education
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757

Love Conquers All
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

The World of Learning
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Not Just a Nutshell
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5762



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information