Anagarika wrote:If I copy something I have no right to copy, have I then advanced myself along the path of purification?
Depends on what you copied. If it were an insightful essay on the Buddha's doctrine I would give a definitive yes, if it were something else then perhaps not, but then again does washing the dishes or driving a car adavnce one any farther on the path?
If you wrote an interesting essay, which I then copied and published under my own name to academic accolades, would you feel neutral about my act?
It's important to take note of what you did there. You started off with copying, then went on to publishing it under your own name. That of course is lying and perhaps stealing (though I'm not too sure) but nevertheless that is completley different from downloading something to read, study or enjoy.
Wouldn't you feel as though I had committed an unskillful/unethical act?
Yes but only because you lied, not because you copied.
Have I not copied something ( taken your essay), that was not freely offered to me to copy and use?
You copied my hypothetical essay which was fine, but then you lied about who actually created it so they're different scenarios, if you downloaded it to simply read it or even publish it with due credit to moi or not listing the author then I would say that no harm is done.