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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 5:40 am
by gavesako
Vinaya-samukkamsa: The Innate Principles of the Vinaya
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1996–2009

Now at that time uncertainty arose in the monks with regard to this and that item: "Now what is allowed by the Blessed One? What is not allowed?" They told this matter to the Blessed One, (who said):

"Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, this is not allowable for you.

"Whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, this is allowable for you.

"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, this is not allowable for you.

"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, this is allowable for you."


--> Indeed, in the discussion about stealing copyright different monks have taken sides: It depends whether one follows the principle that stealing is removing something from its righftul owner (e.g. someone who already wanted to buy the book is told to download it for free instead), or whether we must follow worldly law (which differs from country to country, e.g. in Thailand there are few copyright restrictions).

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:18 am
by gavesako
Here are some relevant articles about stealing:

http://sites.google.com/site/wikivinaya ... -on-vinaya" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:06 am
by Sylvester
Thank you, Bhante. I am surprised to hear that Thailand has few copyright restrictions, given its modern legal system being modelled on the Civil Law of Europe. My hazy recollection of European copyright laws is that it is certainly more "developed" than the Anglo-American systems. I wonder if Thailand is just a lax enforcer of its letters?

I suppose the Parajika question would need to be examined in the historical context of the economy from which the Vinaya sprung. I imagine the only form of "property" (ie the legal ability to exclude others from its use) recognisable by ancient Indian jurisprudence would probably have been no different from the limited types of real property and chattels that filled the universe of the feudal English legal system. Copyrights developed much later as a form of "monopoly" granted by the Crown in England, and the rest is history. Is this historical accident sufficient to sustain the argument that "property" and theft can only be applicable to tangibles, instead of intangibles such as copyrights?

If we are to assert that "property" or "rights" can only subsist in material things (rupa?), then why bother regulating and protecting human rights, mental distress in torts, privacy and confidentiality, freedom of religious belief and association etc? For that matter, debts are not material, but they can be assigned and are protected by law as property. Should we jettison the entire notion of banking based on immaterial debts, just because its cousin copyrights is also immaterial?

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:51 am
by Dmytro
Hello,

Thai laws regarding intellectual property have indeed been quite simplistic for a long time, and largely did not protect the rights of the intellectual property owners, but this situation has changed:

Brief Notes on Copyright protection in Thailand
http://www.itd.or.th/th/node/427/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


In the times of the Buddha, Dhamma was an 'intellectual property' of the Sangha.

"4. Should any bhikkhu have an unordained person recite Dhamma line by line (with him), it is to be confessed.

This is an offense with two factors:

* 1) Effort: One gets a student to recite Dhamma line-by-line with oneself (which, as we shall see below, means to train the student to be a skilled reciter of a Pali Dhamma text).
* 2) Object: The student is neither a bhikkhu nor a bhikkhunī."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... h08-1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Metta, Dmytro

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:30 am
by Sylvester
I might prefer to call the Dhamma the intellectual "capital" of the Sangha, rather than intellectual "property". "Capital" because it is for the Sangha's growth, rather than "property" because that would entail too many implications of "ownership". But that's just me possessed by the Mara of legalese.

Anyway, reading Ven Thanissaro's notes on the origin story of this rule, I get the feeling that the injunction was not motivated by the Buddha trying to reserve the Dhamma and its recitation to the Sangha as its right or privilege. Rather, it was to avoid situations where the lay disciple or novice spotted a recitation error on the monk's part, and thereby losing confidence in the monk.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:32 pm
by kc2dpt
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement? I am aware monks have rules regarding how they acquire requisites and how they should teach lay people, but I am not aware of any rule or teaching governing how lay people should teach each other. The teaching on right livelihood for a lay person doesn't say anything about teaching.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:42 pm
by Dhammanando
Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement?
A text sometimes cited in support of this opinion is the Jatila Sutta, though to me it seems a bit of a stretched reading to take it as implying an injunction against commercial publishing of Dhamma books etc.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 4:16 pm
by mikenz66
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Since major publishers of Theravada material (PTS, BPS, Wisdom) are NON-profit organisations this is not an issue...

Mike

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:34 pm
by kc2dpt
Dhammanando wrote:
Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement?
A text sometimes cited in support of this opinion is the Jatila Sutta, though to me it seems a bit of a stretched reading to take it as implying an injunction against commercial publishing of Dhamma books etc.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Thank you Bhante. I can see how the very last line, taken out of context, could seem to support such an injunction. But it seems to me unwise to take a line out of context like that. The way this line seems to me, when seeing it as linked to the rest of the sutta, is an injunction against making a living by imitating ascetics. :spy:

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:28 pm
by DNS
mikenz66 wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Since major publishers of Theravada material (PTS, BPS, Wisdom) are NON-profit organisations this is not an issue...
Hi Mike,

Correct, those publishers are non-profit, but the upasaka / upasika authors . . . well some of them make profit.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:35 pm
by DNS
Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement? I am aware monks have rules regarding how they acquire requisites and how they should teach lay people, but I am not aware of any rule or teaching governing how lay people should teach each other. The teaching on right livelihood for a lay person doesn't say anything about teaching.
The source Bhante provided, plus:

"The gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts" (Dhp.354) implies that the Dhamma should be a gift, not something to be sold.

All that is requested from those hearing the Dhamma is "respect and attentiveness" not any fees (AN V. 347).

And the fact that in the Buddha's time there were upasakas and upasikas who were very devout and knew the Dhamma and did teach, but did not make it their principal livelihood, more like Goenka, on the side for no charge.

The remainder of the teachings (almost all) were done by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who basically live with almost no possessions and no income.

But I admit that times have changed and in the interest of spreading Dhamma and providing more views and insights from upasakas and upasikas, there may need to be some charges as long as they are not excessive.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:37 pm
by Individual
It's important to separate three issues here: first, whether people have a "right" to own copies (whether violating copyright is theft), second, the ethics of actually producing copyrighted material, and third, the efficacy of using copyright for dhamma materials. Bhikkhu Bodhi, the BPS, PTS, etc., all do good work, motivated by goodwill; they aren't thieves, motivated by greed, to the best of my knowledge. However, this doesn't mean that ignoring or opposing copyright is "theft," when the second precept seems to only apply to physical items of material value, not ideas or information. Violating copyright may be unskillful (it's not difficult to see how downloading music, movies, etc., illegally can be unskillful), but not "theft" in the sense of the second precept.

And even though copyrighted material can be easier to produce when a person has a publisher, with financial backing to support further publishing and translating, it is not impossible for translations to be done without a publisher or financial backing (it was done in primitive times with far less resources), and in the long-term, public domain translations provided for free are more beneficial because they proliferate more widely, can be cross-checked against one another, and combined with study materials or commentaries.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:43 pm
by Individual
TheDhamma wrote: The remainder of the teachings (almost all) were done by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who basically live with almost no possessions and no income.

But I admit that times have changed and in the interest of spreading Dhamma and providing more views and insights from upasakas and upasikas, there may need to be some charges as long as they are not excessive.
Times have changed: Now, instead of having to chant the Tipitaka and write it on palm leaves, we have computers.

It is now much easier, not more difficult, to produce and publish translations.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:29 pm
by DNS
Individual wrote: Times have changed: Now, instead of having to chant the Tipitaka and write it on palm leaves, we have computers.

It is now much easier, not more difficult, to produce and publish translations.
:thumbsup:

I look forward to the day when the whole Tipitaka can be downloaded in one single PDF. Imagine how great that will be -- you could do a word such for anything, for example, upasaka or householder and then the search will show you every sutta, every line where "householder" shows up and what they were talking about.

Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 10:43 pm
by jcsuperstar
TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma

And the fact that in the Buddha's time there were upasakas and upasikas who were very devout and knew the Dhamma and did teach, but did not make it their principal livelihood, more like Goenka, on the side for no charge.
i think it'd be cool to have a thread about this to see examples from the suttas etc.