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).

Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Moth » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:56 pm

One monk I asked said yes, and wouldn't even take offered software if it wasn't legitimate. Another said it was a type of sharing and did not break the precept. What do you folks think?
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby PeterB » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:00 pm

I think it does.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Kare » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:01 pm

Ask yourself: Is this given by someone who has the right to give it? Or am I taking something which is not given?
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Nyana » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:03 pm

Yes, illegal downloading is both illegal and a break of the second precept.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby PeterB » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:07 pm

The actual wording as Kare says is.. "I undertake the rule of training to refrain from taking the not-freely- given."
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:22 pm

Downloading (copying) does not take (replace) the original from the owner (in fact it increases the amount of possession), so at best, it is incomplete akusala kammapatha. It is also sharing (dāna), especially if you give it to others. So maybe some kusala is possible.

Furthermore, what is "taking another's property"? Being the one who rips the original DVD or CD and gives copies to others for free?
If one downloads what is given for free (by the ripper) what is broken? The owner (the uploader) can give it for free. So from him, it is not "taking what is not given".


"There are five constituents of this act: another's possession, awareness that it is another's possession, the mind to steal, the activity, and the carrying off (of the object) thereby."
Commentary to Samma-Ditthi sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#fnt-8

3 first factors are possibly fulfilled.
4th factor is questionable.
5th factor is not fulfilled.

But if you give this copy to others for free, isn't it dāna (generosity) on your part?

This brings to another question. I understand how personally ripping the DVD to hard drive and posting it could fulfill first 3 of 5 factors. But those who download the file, they are not taking the real owners property. They copy what is freely given by that original DVD ripper? So maybe there isn't even any breaking of 2nd precept. This is digital world of 21st century, not 5th Century BC.


(we can replace DVD with CD from which one rips mp3 music files).
Last edited by Alex123 on Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:32 pm

What is the intention of illegally downloading. What I mean is, why not just buy what it is you want? If the intention is to avoid paying money, then you are choosing to act in a way that causes someone else to lose money (or should that be 'potential money'?)

There might be times it is somehow not unwholesome to illegally download, but none spring to mind right now. For me, the important thing is the intention, and if you intend to get something for nothing when you should have to pay for it, that is stealing.

(I'm not squeaky clean when it comes to illegal downloads)
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:45 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:What is the intention of illegally downloading. What I mean is, why not just buy what it is you want? If the intention is to avoid paying money, then you are choosing to act in a way that causes someone else to lose money (or should that be 'potential money'?)


A) copying does not make owner lose money. The owner just doesn't get additional $10 (or whatever).
b) The 5 constituent factors of stealing do not provide for owner losing money.
c) Copying may or may not be considered to be wrong activity (4th factor)
d) The original copy is not touched. So there is no carrying off the object (5th factor).

So,at best,few parts are fullfilled.

There are five constituents of this act: another's possession, awareness that it is another's possession, the mind to steal, the activity, and the carrying off (of the object) thereby."


As for lobha, we may have it for many things, and until one is Anagamin, one still has sensual desire, active or latent.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby andre9999 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:58 pm

As much as I would feel it is stealing and not do it, I don't have any Buddhist-specific backing for that. Thanissaro Bhikkhu agrees with Alex.

Copying computer software.

The agreement made when installing software on a computer, by which one agrees not to give the software to anyone else, comes under contract law. As such, a breach of that contract would be treated under the category of "deceit," described above, which means that a bhikkhu who gives software to a friend in defiance of this contract would incur the penalty for a broken promise. As for the friend — assuming that he is a bhikkhu — the act of receiving the software and putting it on his computer would be treated under the precedent, mentioned above, of the bhikkhus receiving fruit from an orchard groundkeeper not authorized to give it away: He would incur no offense. However, as he must agree to the contract before installing the software on his computer, he would incur a penalty for a broken promise if he then gave the software to someone else in defiance of the contract.

BMC1 Ch4
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch04.html
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:05 pm

Also from Thanisarro Bhikku

I had the good fortune last night to attend a talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu of Metta Forest Monastery, who is also known as “Than Geoff” or “Ajaan Geoff.” Speaking at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center on the subject of “Noble Wealth,” he said many things that I found helpful (he always seems to), including the following about dana, or generosity:

“When you sell something to someone else, you’re putting up a barrier: if they don’t pay that money, they don’t get it. But if you actually give that thing… there’s a connection created. …There’s an old riddle that they tell in Thailand: ‘Suppose you catch one fish. How do you get to eat it all year?’ …The answer is, you take it and you divide it up and you share it with your friends and neighbors. And when your friends and neighbors get a fish, they’ll share it with you. This creates a society [where generosity is at the fore].”


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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:06 pm

Hello Andre,


Thank you for your quote. I like this part "the act of receiving the software and putting it on his computer would be treated under the precedent, mentioned above, of the bhikkhus receiving fruit from an orchard groundkeeper not authorized to give it away: He would incur no offense. "
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch04.html


So there is no breaking of the 2nd precept. And if you share for free, then there may be dana (sharing/generosity) done by you.



With metta,

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:42 pm

The price of software is the license to use it, not the cost of downloading it or the cost of a CD. One could perhaps argue that downloading a pirated copy to see if it worth buying, with no intention to use it for real work without payment, would not be breaking the precept of stealing (though you are breaking the license agreement just by installing it), but as soon as you go beyond trying it out, and use it for some real project, even writing a quick letter, then the precept is broken.

Even if you buy a legitimate copy of some software, and have an installation CD, certain terms and conditions apply to its use — usually one computer only, or one desktop and one laptop used by one user. Use it to install twenty copies on twenty PCs in your school or college, and you're breaking the second precept.

These days, there is barely a legitimate reason to pirate software. There is so much freeware and low priced software available that there is almost always an alternative that can be used. If you cannot afford PhotoShop, use the Gimp or IrfanView, or a free version of PhotoPlus. If you cannot afford Word, use OpenOffice, etc.

Stealing is the karmic cause of poverty in future lives. Whatever you do it is your own decision, and the results you inherit will always depend upon your intention, manufacturing lots of clever excuses will only make you more devious. Delaying the day when you pay off your karmic debts only heaps up the interest payments.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:16 pm

All,

Regarding precept of "not taking what is freely given" even if it is freely given by someone who took it illegally or by force:

Did native Americans (Indians) freely give their land to Europeans who conquered them?
Are American people (descendants of Europeans) breaking 2nd precept merely by living in North America, land taken by force from native Americans?

Same question regarding Mexico, Canada, and other countries where the land was taken (or conquered) from original owners and used by someone else.


It seems to me that the question of downloading software/movies/music that was ripped by someone else is even less blameworthy than the above cases.
Software, music, videos, pdf books, are not stolen (as a tangible object taken from the owner) but merely copied (increased in number). They are also freely given by the "pirates". While pirates themselves did whatever they did, the pirates do freely give their copies.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Fede » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:41 pm

All I know is, that if I want to download something and know it's illegal, I feel very uncomfortable doing it.
That's within myself, to myself.
I think personally, it depends on whether the person themselves feels they are compromising their own principles.
I feel that way.
so I don't do it.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Mr. G » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:44 pm

I have a friend who downloads music and movies. However he justifies it by saying he pays taxes which affords his local library to purchase movies and music to be lent out. So he says it's not that he's cheating companies, but he's cheating time (the time it takes for a DVD to get purchased by the library and get lent out). :juggling: :lol:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:12 pm

All,

I wonder from a Buddhist POV:

Lets say person A copied (movie, music, online text, etc), and freely gave it to person B.

Has Person B technically broken the 2nd precept ("don't take what is not freely given")? He took what was freely given to him by person A.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby andre9999 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:25 pm

Alex123 wrote:All,

I wonder from a Buddhist POV:

Lets say person A copied (movie, music, online text, etc), and freely gave it to person B.

Has Person B technically broken the 2nd precept ("don't take what is not freely given")? He took what was freely given to him by person A.


Does person B know it was stolen?
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:30 pm

andre9999 wrote:
Alex123 wrote:All,

I wonder from a Buddhist POV:

Lets say person A copied (movie, music, online text, etc), and freely gave it to person B.

Has Person B technically broken the 2nd precept ("don't take what is not freely given")? He took what was freely given to him by person A.


Does person B know it was stolen?



Is copying = stealing from Dhamma (not worldly) POV? The original physical item is not taken from the owner. The owner still has his physical item intact.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:19 pm

I think there needs to be made a distinction between stealing and copying. If you steal you deprive the owner of the object from it. If you copy it, you don't deprive the owner.

Is it skilful to copy a CD? I think not, but I also think it's not a serious offense. In the vinaya there's an exception for monks that allows them to eat fallen fruit. Strictly speaking, this would normaly be considered stealing, since the owner is deprived of the fruit, which could still be used for making something. Still, this is allowed to do in time of famine and if the fruit is laid on the floor and a lay person picks it up and gives it to the monk. So I infer that a lay person is allowed to do this directly without having to lay the fruit on the floor for anyone to give it to him. I think downloading files has the same level of severity as this exception in the vinaya.

I may, of course, be wrong and I sometimes feel uncertain and somewhat guilty for downloading files.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby andre9999 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:42 pm

Okay, sure there's a distinction between stealing and copying.

I have another distinction to consider. You need to eat. Do you need copied software, music, movies, etc.?
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