Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:31 am

Maarten wrote:Imagine scientists invented a device that could copy food. Would it not be highly immoral of someone to copyright the food and then charge money for the copied food?

All the foods that are currently distributed would be in the public domain, so nobody could copyright them. If however, a company does the hard work researching a new food that turns sunlight directly into a very nutritious substance, then they would be rewarded for discovering that new food with a copyright so that they could recoop the research costs. If the company had not done the research, there would be no substance to distribute, so why not give them some special rights for distributing the substance? This is not evil. It is progress.

This leads to some tough situations when it comes to drugs, where companies use patient's desperation to drive up demand and therefore prices skyrocket. One possible solution is to vote for things that would increase gov't funding of drug research so that the "patents" would be owned by the public and hopefully be distributed for a fair price. Otherwise, I can't think of an alternative to the current unfortunate price gouging that would not simply prevent the drugs from being developed in the first place (which is worse: an existent drug that is over-priced for ~7 yrs or a non-existent drug?)
Last edited by Buckwheat on Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:42 am

Maarten wrote:It is an interesting tread with many good points made. I would like to clarify that I am not arguing in favor of illegal downloading. I am arguing against Intellectual ownership. I have downloaded and must admit that it does give rise to some uncomfortable feelings and therefore I think it's better to refrain from doing it.
Intellectual ownership also does not feel quite right to me. I could not understand exactly why until I read the post explaining that all ownership is intellectual. This made me understand I am actually against ownership in general! :o This is because any kind of ownership is always the product of greed. I also think ownership is a delusion. Since all ownership is intellectual, it is a quality that we project upon the world. It's nothing more that an idea in our minds and it results in a lot of suffering.

Much metta :D


Hi Maarten,
Thanks for reading the thread. While one may indeed be motivated by greed, there is another reason for ownership. We decided as part of our social contract that society just works better when people are allowed to look at the world, see where they can improve it, take the gumption to do so, and be rewarded for it so that they may feed themselves and keep looking for more ways to improve the world. It just makes society function more smoothly.

However, if you have a revolutionary new system to keep society operating efficiently, propose it to the academics or lawmakers and that may be your contribution to make the world a better place, which you should be rewarded for either with money or rewards such as a Nobel Prize.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Hanzze » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:01 am

"Efficiently"?

The term efficiency means that a person or machine do good work without spending too much resources, that means energy, material, capital and labour. Machines are efficient when they can do their task without wasting energy. An efficient car can go farther with less fuel; an efficient spacecraft can fly in space without bringing a heavy tank of rocket fuel with it.


What would that mean in regard of peace and real happieness (good work)? Or where is/should the "maschine" sociaty be directed to?
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:22 am

Hanzze wrote:What would that mean in regard of peace and real happieness (good work)? Or where is/should the "maschine" sociaty be directed to?

I think origianally and not too far into the past, the goal of society was to keep people fed, clothed, sheltered, and healthy. We are probably getting off-track in the obsession for iPhones and boob-jobs, and that is sad. At least we are eating well enough to worry about those other things. Plus, so much of the population is fed up with consumerism, maybe this is a good age for the dhamma to spread. I hope so!!
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Maarten » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:28 am

Buckwheat wrote:We decided as part of our social contract that society just works better when people are allowed to look at the world, see where they can improve it, take the gumption to do so, and be rewarded for it so that they may feed themselves and keep looking for more ways to improve the world. It just makes society function more smoothly.


In this scenario people aren't improving the world because they want to improve the world, they are “improving” it because they are greedy for rewards (at least partially). In a system without greed the improvement itself would be the reward people work for. Examples of this are the open source software movement and volunteering work.
I agree that a greed based system functions more smoothly than for example communism, but this is only because people are greedy. It would be nice to slowly move from a greed based system towards a generosity based system. Abolishing intellectual ownership would be one step in such a direction. But of course greed is not conquered from the outside by laws, it is a burden we all have to conquer ourselves from within.

Much metta for you! :smile:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Radman622 » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:08 pm

I have always viewed downloading and file-sharing very lightly in the past, although I am beginning to reconsider this stance. Bear with me for a moment please while I play Devil's Advocate with these illustrations of my previous opinions:

Suppose you bought a CD, and your friend wanted to download it onto their computer? Most people would say this is a fairly reasonable request, but is it stealing for them to do so because they have not bought their own copy? What if they just come over to your house and listen to the CD instead of downloading it? They still haven't bought it, but they get to listen to it whenever they want. Is that stealing? Should you tell your friend that they cannot come to listen to music at your house, because it is stealing if they do not own the CD themselves? What is the real difference between them coming over to your house and listening to the music or borrowing it to import it to their computer and listening to it in their own home? I think you would agree there is little difference.

And if this is not wrong, what if you just transferred the purchased files from your computer to theirs and didn't use the CD at all? Did they steal then simply because it is now digitally transferred instead of physical? What if you sent them the files over the internet instead of by direct transfer? Is it stealing now simply because you weren't present physically when you loaned them the files?

What if it wasn't your friend, but some random stranger that you loaned the CD? Is it stealing now just because you don't know them? What if you invite this random stranger into your home to listen to the music? Now is it stealing? What is the difference between loaning this stranger the CD and allowing them to listen to it in your home?

What if instead of meeting them in person, or allowing them to borrow the CD physically, this random stranger downloaded the files from you on the internet? Is it stealing now because you didn't physically loan them the CD, or physically meet them in person?

As far as I can tell, this ^ is the best possible argument for "file-sharing." Copy-rights have legal sway, but when you think about it, you cannot own an idea, a song, etc - even attempting to force people to pay for it individually in order to use it is sabotaged by radios, libraries, people allowing others to listen to music in their homes... and copyright is simply an attempt by the producers to generate more profit and revenue for themselves.

The same could be said for books, and a library. Are all people who check out books at libraries stealing the book? They won't buy the book because they have already read it for free, so it is, for all intensive purposes, the same as if they had downloaded the file of the book online and read it, and then deleted it from their computer when they were done.

Are candid photographs stealing someone's image? Obviously if they have explicitly forbidden their picture to be taken, one should respect their wishes, but if they have not said this, their image is not considered their "property" is it?

I consider these arguments valid, but because I think that the Buddha would encourage obeying "the law of the land" except in cases where it specifically contradict or forbids the Dharma, and that this amounts to "Right Livelihood," living honestly and lawfully. However, if there were not copyright laws in place, I would not consider there to be any grounds for determining this to be an amoral practice since you cannot have ownership over an idea, a song, etc and in reality, I question one's ability to have ownership over things in general.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby convivium » Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:49 am

if you would otherwise have no chance of buying it does it make a difference materially to download information? no. i would make use of free data pretty much exclusively (i bought pages and a few apps) if i couldn't freely download certain things. i don't really care about this issue but i'm procrastinating.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby tobes » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:22 am

I think we need to ask 'what is a property right?' in the contemporary, liberal-market sense of the term - and how does that connect (or not) with the 2nd precept?

People who argue that downloading is "illegal" are predicating those claims on a concept of intellectual property. Such a concept clearly did not exist in ancient India.

Such a concept is a modern European invention, which has its roots in the Lockean idea of natural rights. In many ways, this notion does not cohere with Buddhist metaphysics and ethics, most notably because it assumes a substantial self. The very notion of a right is not something easy established using Buddhist concepts. So we need to be careful to distinguish rights and laws with precepts. These are not synonymous terms.

We need to recognise that we're at quite a considerable disjuncture - because those of us who live in modern liberal states, implicitly accept all of the Lockean predications about private property. These predications are not insignificant, because the very legitimacy of such states is only preserved if it upholds these conceptions of private property (i.e. makes it unlawful for people to violate the property rights of others).

It does not follow that this grants an ethical reason - that is, a reason premised on the logic of the precept - to justify problematising pirated downloads.

To put it in a very uncouth way, I could not imagine the Buddha copyrighting his teachings, and considering them to be 'his' private intellectual property.

:anjali:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby iforgotmyname » Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:09 pm

Then what if you were watching a live stream that was showing content freely, one after the other? The thing is, the stream is free, the guy streaming it is doing the illegal thing by taking something (i.e. downloading it when it is not given freely) and re-broadcasting it. Then are we the viewers still breaking the 2nd precept if we are watching the stream which is in a sense given to us by the broadcaster but not the original author of the content?
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Digity » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:00 pm

tobes wrote:I think we need to ask 'what is a property right?' in the contemporary, liberal-market sense of the term - and how does that connect (or not) with the 2nd precept?

People who argue that downloading is "illegal" are predicating those claims on a concept of intellectual property. Such a concept clearly did not exist in ancient India.

Such a concept is a modern European invention, which has its roots in the Lockean idea of natural rights. In many ways, this notion does not cohere with Buddhist metaphysics and ethics, most notably because it assumes a substantial self. The very notion of a right is not something easy established using Buddhist concepts. So we need to be careful to distinguish rights and laws with precepts. These are not synonymous terms.

We need to recognise that we're at quite a considerable disjuncture - because those of us who live in modern liberal states, implicitly accept all of the Lockean predications about private property. These predications are not insignificant, because the very legitimacy of such states is only preserved if it upholds these conceptions of private property (i.e. makes it unlawful for people to violate the property rights of others).

It does not follow that this grants an ethical reason - that is, a reason premised on the logic of the precept - to justify problematising pirated downloads.

To put it in a very uncouth way, I could not imagine the Buddha copyrighting his teachings, and considering them to be 'his' private intellectual property.

:anjali:

You sound like someone who's just trying to rationalize theft with clever arguments. In the end you're only fooling yourself.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:51 pm

Digity wrote:You sound like someone who's just trying to rationalize theft with clever arguments. In the end you're only fooling yourself.



It is questionable what counts as theft from Buddhist POV. Copying is not theft because it does not deprive someone of original copy. It is not like you sneaked in someone's house and took pieces of gold thus depriving that person of this tangible property.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:06 pm

It should be pointed out that the second precept is actually "I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what is not freely given," not "I undertake the precept to refrain from stealing" or "I undertake the precept to refrain from taking another's property." Just a point in this discussion.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby tobes » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:06 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Digity wrote:You sound like someone who's just trying to rationalize theft with clever arguments. In the end you're only fooling yourself.



It is questionable what counts as theft from Buddhist POV. Copying is not theft because it does not deprive someone of original copy. It is not like you sneaked in someone's house and took pieces of gold thus depriving that person of this tangible property.


Yes that's right - the issue is not ambiguous at all if we are speaking about material entities.

However it is very ambiguous if we are speaking about conceptual entities. Can you really steal a concept? Can you even own a concept in the first instance?

I think where people fool themselves is where they take laws and rights which are geneaologically rooted in recent European political thinking, and assume they are precisely commensurable with ancient Indian Buddhist ethics.

For better or for worse, clever arguments are needed here, whether they justify one conclusion or another.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:12 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:It should be pointed out that the second precept is actually "I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what is not freely given," not "I undertake the precept to refrain from stealing" or "I undertake the precept to refrain from taking another's property." Just a point in this discussion.

So I can take things from a store without paying and get done for theft and keep my sila is intact then?
Adinnādānā is a compound of Adinna + adānā not given + not offered it means thievery, taking what is not given in any way by the one who has ownership/right to give it. The worldly includance of anything as a form of theft would make it a breach, just as adultery and Bigamy are considered a breach of the third due to social norms now.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Billymac29 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:29 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Digity wrote:You sound like someone who's just trying to rationalize theft with clever arguments. In the end you're only fooling yourself.



It is questionable what counts as theft from Buddhist POV. Copying is not theft because it does not deprive someone of original copy. It is not like you sneaked in someone's house and took pieces of gold thus depriving that person of this tangible property.


So I guess you dont consider stealing someones identity a theft? Since it is copying down someone's information and using it without his/her consent and/or knowledge... Not depriving them from using it...

Let's not lose our logical common sense here.. If someone takes something that is not his/her's without consent from the other party then that is theft (stealing).
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:45 pm

Cittasanto wrote:So I can take things from a store without paying and get done for theft and keep my sila is intact then?
Adinnādānā is a compound of Adinna + adānā not given + not offered it means thievery, taking what is not given in any way by the one who has ownership/right to give it. The worldly includance of anything as a form of theft would make it a breach, just as adultery and Bigamy are considered a breach of the third due to social norms now.

You misunderstood my point. I am saying that, while all theft or thievery is a violation of the 2nd precept, so are some actions that do not technically fall under the term "stealing" in modern life. Even if it isn't "theft" to download a song, if the person who created it does not offer it freely, it is still a violation.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:56 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:So I can take things from a store without paying and get done for theft and keep my sila is intact then?
Adinnādānā is a compound of Adinna + adānā not given + not offered it means thievery, taking what is not given in any way by the one who has ownership/right to give it. The worldly includance of anything as a form of theft would make it a breach, just as adultery and Bigamy are considered a breach of the third due to social norms now.

You misunderstood my point. I am saying that, while all theft or thievery is a violation of the 2nd precept, so are some actions that do not technically fall under the term "stealing" in modern life. Even if it isn't "theft" to download a song, if the person who created it does not offer it freely, it is still a violation.

I agree with what you say here but

What you say it is
LonesomeYogurt wrote:"I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what is not freely given,"

what you say it is not
LonesomeYogurt wrote:"I undertake the precept to refrain from stealing" or "I undertake the precept to refrain from taking another's property."


However..
I normally just think of it as one phrase "stealing, thievery..." and although this can and does have quite a nuanced definition, it may put too much emphasis on the adinna part, when it is the adānā part that is probably the part involved here.

One thing that comes to mind is the "gift of Dhamma" this could be described in a broad loose was as concepts that match reality, so when it involves other concepts (which maybe true, ideas, or not related to Buddhist goals) taking possession of its external manifestation (sound recording, words....) would still be a violation as it breaks the intended scope of availability the person had for it.
but that is just an initial thought on it from that specific angle.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby tobes » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:51 am

Billymac29 wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
Digity wrote:You sound like someone who's just trying to rationalize theft with clever arguments. In the end you're only fooling yourself.



It is questionable what counts as theft from Buddhist POV. Copying is not theft because it does not deprive someone of original copy. It is not like you sneaked in someone's house and took pieces of gold thus depriving that person of this tangible property.


So I guess you dont consider stealing someones identity a theft? Since it is copying down someone's information and using it without his/her consent and/or knowledge... Not depriving them from using it...

Let's not lose our logical common sense here.. If someone takes something that is not his/her's without consent from the other party then that is theft (stealing).


I find the appeal to 'logical common sense' and in the post before the appeal to 'social norms' pretty unsatisfactory.

One needs to consider that a lot of the people who got the internet up and running were working for free with the ideal of creating a global commons. The social norms and logical common sense associated with that were about the free and easy exchange of information for the betterment of humanity.

In recent years, particularly the last three or four, there has been a very strong reassertion of intellectual property rights/laws - with states such as the US acting on these - and the internet has steadily become capitalised.

Now whose internet is it to capitalise and make subordinate to the dictates of (a particular kind of) sovereign law? Whose norms are we riding with here? And why are we riding with them?

There is the assumption here that just because a liberal-sovereign system is normative materially, it also 'ought' to be so virtually. And that it therefore has the implicit right to control what has been previously in the domain of the people.....and then, that somehow or other, Buddhist ethics will be perfectly in tune with that.

But I don't think this case is clear cut at all. There are very least, good arguments both ways.

:anjali:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:53 pm

Billymac29 wrote:So I guess you dont consider stealing someones identity a theft?


It is fraud and lying, I believe.

Billymac29 wrote: Since it is copying down someone's information and using it without his/her consent and/or knowledge... Not depriving them from using it...


It can be used to directly steal money from Bank accounts or credit cards, access confidential information, or it could be used to mess up someone's life.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:58 pm

tobes wrote:
I find the appeal to 'logical common sense' and in the post before the appeal to 'social norms' pretty unsatisfactory.

Can you show how social norms does not apply to the precepts and would not be covered here. as an example the intellectual property rights.

The internet is a privilage not a right btw, and although it is free to use the content is not necessarily publicly owned.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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