Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
Buckwheat
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat »

kudos, BB :thumbsup:
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
Maarten
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Maarten »

Hi Kim.

Sorry if my opinion insulted you in any way, this was not my intention.
Kim O'Hara wrote: To everyone that is crazy. In fact, it is a strawman argument.
Why do you think this is this a strawman argument?
I don't see the difference between “owning” one note or owning a sequence of notes. In fact, if owing a single note is ridiculous isn't owning a sequence of them even more absurd?
Kim O'Hara wrote: They do. Anything that anyone creates on their own is their own property, automatically. That does not mean that appropriating others' work is okay, any more than appropriating others' apples, instead of growing your own, is okay.
This is incorrect, I like to make tunes on my guitar, and after making one I often discover others have come up with this same idea. Once I also came up with a thought experiment that later turned out to be a thought experiment by David Hume.
Another example of this is when artists sue each other because they think the other one stole their tune. To me it is more likely they just invented the same sequence of notes. These artist should have listened to every copyrighted song ever composed to make sure they don't get into trouble for making a song.

May you be well and happy! :twothumbsup:
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Kim OHara
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Kim OHara »

Maarten wrote:Hi Kim.
Sorry if my opinion insulted you in any way, this was not my intention.
Hi, Maarten,
You did not insult me, but I do - still - think you are wrong. Can I suggest - again - that you read the whole of this thread so that we don't have to repeat ourselves?

:namaste:
Kim
Maarten
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Maarten »

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? If it was not for these copyright laws the hunger problems in the world would be solved and lives would be saved.
Imagine someone owning copyright on medicine they invented...
Imagine someone owning copyright on medical /psychological treatments they invented...
Imagine someone owning and selling the Dhamma...
All of these would cost lives.
Maarten
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Maarten »

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Maarten wrote:Hi Kim.
Sorry if my opinion insulted you in any way, this was not my intention.
Hi, Maarten,
You did not insult me, but I do - still - think you are wrong. Can I suggest - again - that you read the whole of this thread so that we don't have to repeat ourselves?

:namaste:
Kim
Okay I will read this later as it will take up quite a lot of time! :D
matais
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by matais »

I initially didn't want to post here, since this is a topic that I can get extremely argumentative about, but I feel there's some things that really need to be pointed out. Apologies in advance for a rather long post.

The second precept is to refrain from taking what is not given. So to see how this precept affects downloading and uploading copyrighted material (and copyright in general), we should investigate what it is that is given in the case of buying the material.
The obvious answer, that what is given is the actual file itself, is legally incorrect. The file, or more accurately its representation on the disk as a string of 1's and 0's, usually doesn't become your property. After all, if it truly became your property, you would be allowed to copy it, modify it, give it away, whatever you want really. But these rights are usually retained by either the author or some publisher, and doing those things is a crime. Though you receive the file after buying it in an online store like the iTunes store, it does not become yours.
What you're actually given is a use right. In the case of an audio file, it's the right to listen to it. In the case of a movie, it's the right to watch it. These rights are severely restricted too. For example, even though you're usually allowed to watch a movie you bought with friends or family, you're usually not allowed to watch this same movie with co-workers at the workplace.

So when you download copyrighted material, you're taking a use right. When you upload copyrighted material, you're taking a right to redistribute. Both of these rights are abstract entities which the copyright holder has in unlimited supply, and which only they are allowed to give away (though they can license others to do so as well).

With that established, lets explore what this means.

First the download case. Though you are taking the use right, you're not taking what is not given. After all, clearly there's someone giving it. A downloader doesn't sneak into someone's house to get it, they're offered the opportunity to download. I believe others in this thread have already pointed out that this is similar to the case in the monastic code where a groundskeeper of an orchard gives away fruit that was not his to give away, without the bikkhus receiving the fruit committing an offense.

Far more interesting is the case of the uploader, or more generically, the redistributor. It is interesting because the law here leads to situations that few people would recognize as theft, but which would be a break of the second precept anyway if we consider rights as objects that can be taken and given.
Let's start with the basics. Suppose someone uploads a copyrighted movie to a website. What they're taking is the right to distribute and, for each download, the right to watch for the downloader. Both of these can only properly be given by the copyright holder, so the second precept is broken. So far so good, right? But now lets extend that logic.
  • Translating a book (or converting it to braille script) and giving it to someone else is copyright infringement, even if said person owns the original. Only the copyright holder may create and distribute a derivative work, so this would be the taking of a non-given right and therefore it breaks the second precept.
  • Printing a website creates a copy of a copyrighted work. Only the copyright holder may give one this right, so doing so without permission breaks the second precept.
  • Drawing Mickey Mouse and putting the result on your homepage is copyright infringement. Disney owns the image of Mickey Mouse, and they're the only ones allowed to create derivative works and distribute them. Even if you drew this picture yourself it is still illegal, and if we accept that this constitutes the taking of rights that were not given by Disney, this clearly breaks the second precept.
  • Public performances are copyright infringement. The use right generally granted when you buy a copyrighted work does not grant the right to use this however you please.
    • As I wrote briefly above, watching a legally bought movie at the workplace with your coworkers would be breaking the second precept. After all, you were only given a use right for watching at home, not for a public screening.
    • Playing copyrighted music at an office party is breaking the second precept as well for the same reason.
    • Reading a children's book aloud in the library for the entertainment of children is also a public performance and thus breaks the second precept.
    • Choreography is also covered under copyright law. Suppose that a class wants to perform some dances from High School Musical for their family. If they do, they're breaking the second precept.
    • Singing the song 'Happy Birthday' at a restaurant would also break the second precept. The lyrics and melody of this song are copyrighted by Warner Music Group (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birt ... ght_status" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;), and unless you obtain a license from them, a public performance would be taking this license without it being given.
All these cases, both those generally seen as piracy and those that aren't, have in common that they involve a right being taken without being given. That which would make downloading a break of the second precept would make all of them a break of the second precept.

Now, I have a big problem with this. If we say that the above indeed breaks the second precept, not only do we stretch the definition of stealing to the point of it being unrecognizable, we also say that what is and is not covered by this precept can be changed. It means that the word of the Buddha and the precepts can be superseded by the demands of the likes of Disney Corporation and Time Warner. Let's not forget that copyright did not exist before the 18th century, and has changed a lot since then, often under corporate pressure. Inevitably there'll be new laws in the future too, turning an ever-increasing amount of abstract objects into property. Will the second precept change accordingly? Furthermore, since property laws are different in different countries, does that mean there are actions that would break the second precept in one country, but not in another?

In my opinion, 'taking what is not given' can not refer to something abstract like a right. And by extension, I don't think that the second precept covers copyright infringement.

That is not to say that copyright infringement can't be unskillful. But in fact, lots of things not covered by the precepts are unskillful. Punching someone in the face is unskillful, but unless the punch kills someone, none of the 5 precepts are against it. Calling someone harsh names is unskillful, but unless a lie is spoken, none of the 5 precepts covers this. Copyright infringement can in fact hurt. Calling it theft though is ridiculous.
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Hanzze
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Hanzze »

Dear matais,
since this is a topic that I can get extremely argumentative about
honest, not at all but if caught in a thicket of thoughts of possession endless.

From a Dhamma viewpoint, there is neither something that can be called a generally right on anything (there are given things), nor is there something that can becalled possession.

A right would be something given, if it is given, then it is a right. From a worldly aspect, if one tolerates autorities, chiefs, leader, that there is the possibility for a right. So as long as somebody is involved in worldy business, he needs to look which right is given, which means that he should carefully know the laws in regard of the construction ownership to get no problems.

A struggle between precepts and usually use begins when the main problem the root is not well observed: intention. IF somebody understands that it is not very just to do something, has doubt or bad feeling in regard of it, that it is because he simply still wants to have it (intention).
To walk a way of much likes while trying to obsere precepts very eagerly is not possible and that is good so, as the also should minimize wants. So a good portion of letting go as well as creativity in regard of using what is already given or freely given is nessesary. One should not meassure with usuals.

I refered mostly in regard of livelihood, to speak in regard of entertainment, I guess does not need any argument at all as there is no need to break his head at all. Simply unwholesome from the very beginning and not worthy for thought at all.
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 _()_
Maarten
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Maarten »

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Maarten wrote:Hi Kim.
Sorry if my opinion insulted you in any way, this was not my intention.
Hi, Maarten,
You did not insult me, but I do - still - think you are wrong. Can I suggest - again - that you read the whole of this thread so that we don't have to repeat ourselves?

:namaste:
Kim
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
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Kim OHara
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Kim OHara »

Maarten wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Maarten wrote:Hi Kim.
Sorry if my opinion insulted you in any way, this was not my intention.
Hi, Maarten,
You did not insult me, but I do - still - think you are wrong. Can I suggest - again - that you read the whole of this thread so that we don't have to repeat ourselves?

:namaste:
Kim
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
Thanks for reading, Maarten, and I am glad it clarified your thinking. :smile:

:namaste:
Kim
Buckwheat
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat »

Maarten wrote:I don't see the difference between “owning” one note or owning a sequence of notes.
Then I suggest studying some music theory.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
Buckwheat
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat »

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.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
Buckwheat
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat »

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.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Hanzze
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Hanzze »

"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 _()_
Buckwheat
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat »

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!!
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
Maarten
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Maarten »

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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