Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

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

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:26 pm

it would be fitting then if i knew the origin of adinnaṃ like if it comes from a sutta, like did something happen for that to be lain down as a rule
kim, please don't make this personal. in my opinion you are both psychoanalyzing and inviting kammic retribution on another forum member. i'm just as interested in knowing what does/does not break precept and take practice very seriously. you just haven't provided a substantial argument in my opinion
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:54 pm

i was essentially going to say this, that copyright infringement isn't actually considered stealing by US law, but then i found myself reading well more about us law than i thought would benefit me so i gave up pursuing that
i was also going to say that copyright enforcement requires breaching the first amendment
but does the precept say 'do not violate the law of the land', no, it says dont take what is not given
do give and take change meaning with regard to the law? maybe if you compare primitive communist society to modern capitalist one. of course, earlier humans may not have even had a concept of theft
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Sovatthika » Mon Nov 06, 2017 10:23 pm

i have read now what i believe is the totality of ven dhammanando's argument

>you should consider the law of the land regarding taking what is not given, provided the context of the situation is not clear enough
>the law determines what is someones property
>intellectual 'property'
>wouldn't you feel bad if someone deprived you, via ip violation, of the money you'd have earned

well, in so many cases they wouldn't have gotten any money anyway because the person didn't deem the content worth paying for; if there were no way of 'taking' it (continually referring to it as such begs the question), then they would have just not consumed it

but that's beside the point

the ven has gone from the object that would be taken, the information, and switched to another object, the money that the royalty company would pay, which is not even being taken by the file sharer
the money still belongs to the royalty company as it was never taken by the file sharer; it didn't belong to the aggrieved party to begin with, it was only agreed to be paid to them upon certain conditions. one hasn't even prevented the company from giving to the aggrieved, the preventing of which would be a demerit. there is really nothing i can even identify as inherently unwholesome about file sharing.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Javi » Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:07 am

Interesting thread, I'm definitely more weary of infringing copyright after reading it! However I cannot say I agree that it violates the precept on stealing - even if it is possibly unskillful as many have argued.

Just wanted to share Venerable Sujato's blog post on this issue

https://sujato.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/copy-this/

He tends to fall on the side of the debate which says it is not stealing, but he also promotes open source software use and does not actually go as far as promoting copyright violation.

Also, keep in mind that he was a musician for some years so he knows what it is like to be on the side of the creator of content
Bhikkhu Sujato wrote:You’d think that it wouldn’t need stating, but evidently it does: Buddhism is about letting go, copyright is about holding on.

Even if we can accept a case for certain forms of copyright in certain spheres of life, how should that apply to Buddhism? After all, Buddhism not merely survived, but flourished for thousands of years before copyright came on the picture. Perhaps some historical perspective is in order.

The first question, which can be dealt with swiftly, is whether copying is stealing under the Buddhist precepts. The answer is no. Stealing in Buddhism requires that the owner be deprived of something. Copying is not taking. You could argue that the creator is indirectly deprived of income, but that is irrelevant. There are plenty of ways to indirectly deprive someone of income; I could set up a rival business, for example. I might even do that out of malice, to deliberately harm you. That may not be a nice thing to do, it might even be illegal, but it has nothing to do with stealing. Of course, breaking copyright is against the law, which is a separate matter; but it is not breaking precepts.

Incidentally, many monastics, like most people in developing countries, use pirated software all the time. If copying was stealing, they’d risk falling into an expulsion offence. However, even though there is no expulsion offence for using the software, it is still often illegal. This is one of the many reasons why monastics should use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), such as Linux. This also highlights one of the often-overlooked details of copyright history. Software is an unusual industry in that extensive copying has existed as long as the industry has. People have been using millions of pirated copies of Windows and other software as long as they have been around. Yet software companies are thriving, and making record profits.

For the Buddhist tradition, as indeed for most ancient traditions, there is no notion of intellectual property. People borrowed and copied all the time. Buddhist texts are full of cases where monks or nuns are quoting verbatim passages from the Buddha or others, and there is never an issue of ownership. That’s because the Dhamma is not about ownership. It’s about helping people let go of suffering.

The Dhamma was felt to be, if anyone’s, the Buddha’s. The Buddha encouraged his students to teach the Dhamma in their own language; so that, from the earliest days, the Dhamma existed in multiple translated forms, all of which were considered to be the words of the Buddha. When the texts were later translated into Chinese and Tibetan, they continued this tradition, regarding these texts as “the word of the Buddha” in exactly the same sense as the “original” scriptures (which were themselves translations from one Indic dialect to another).

However, in modern times agreements such as the Berne convention ruled that translations should be considered to be original creations. I think this is a mistake. I’ve done original writing, and I’ve done translations, and they are very different kinds of things. You can, for example, get a computer to do translation, albeit poorly, but no computer can write a meaningful original article.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by binocular » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:07 am

Ven. Thanissaro once mentioned in a Dhamma talk that even just thinking about someone without their permission constitutes stealing.

It can sometimes be difficult to define whether a particular activity breaks a precept or not. But one can have a sense that a particular activity breaks the spirit of the precept. Which, for me, personally, suffices.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by binocular » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:11 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:28 am
When gifts are replaced by rights, so is gratitude replaced by claims. And claims breed resentment. Since you are queuing on equal terms with the competition, you will begin to think of the special conditions that entitle you to a greater, a speedier, or a more effective share. You will be always one step from the official complaint, the court action, the press interview, and the snarling reproach against Them, the ones who owed you this right and also withheld it. Agape, the contagious gentleness between people, survives only where there is a habit of giving. Take away gift, and agape gives way to the attitude that Nietzsche called ressentiment, the vigilant envy of others, and the desire to take from them what I  but not they have a right to.
Roger Scruton, Gratitude and Grace
And conversely, that gentleness between people does not develop if people take what has not been offered.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Sovatthika » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:22 am

i see that a lot, 'spirit of the precept'; i think i recall seeing something like that in a sutta but can someone link to it for me
it seems too that people want the precepts to be more expansive than they are
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by binocular » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:00 am

Sovatthika wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:22 am
it seems too that people want the precepts to be more expansive than they are
It depends on the quality of interaction that one wants with others.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:22 am

Sovatthika wrote:
Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:26 pm
it would be fitting then if i knew the origin of adinnaṃ like if it comes from a sutta, like did something happen for that to be lain down as a rule
Adinnādāna, "taking what is not given", is the standard Buddhist term for what we call stealing. It occurs 385 times in the Tipiṭaka, so you really don't need to look very hard. Maybe start with the Vinaya's account of the second defeating offence for bhikkhus:
What has not been given: what has not been given, what has not been let go of, what has not been relinquished; what is guarded, what is protected, what is regarded as “mine;” what belongs to someone else. This is called “what has not been given.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-bu-vb-pj2
If something is dinnaṃ, "given", it means either (1) nobody owns it or (2) Smith, the person who owns it, chooses to give it to Jones without any coercion or deception on Jones's part. If Smith doesn't choose to do so, then it's adinnaṃ, "not given", and therefore an improper thing for Jones to take.

Where secular law comes into play is with regard to defining what counts as "owned" and "ownerless". This will vary from one society to another and one age to another, but whatever it happens to be when and where one is living must be accepted. For example, in the Buddha's time it was the custom for rag-robe-wearing bhikkhus to go into charnel grounds, remove the winding sheets from corpses and sew them into robes for themselves. This was a permitted practice because the laws of that time regarded the cloth on a corpse as ownerless. But as far as I know this is not generally the case today, and so if a bhikkhu went into a modern city morgue or funeral parlour, unwrapped the cloths from some corpses and then carried them away to use as robe-material, he would be taking what is adinnaṃ because such cloth is nowadays deemed to have an owner.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:41 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:22 am

Adinnādāna, "taking what is not given", is the standard Buddhist term for what we call stealing. It occurs 385 times in the Tipiṭaka, so you really don't need to look very hard. Maybe start with the Vinaya's account of the second defeating offence for bhikkhus:
What has not been given: what has not been given, what has not been let go of, what has not been relinquished; what is guarded, what is protected, what is regarded as “mine;” what belongs to someone else. This is called “what has not been given.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-bu-vb-pj2
If something is dinnaṃ, "given", it means either (1) nobody owns it or (2) Smith, the person who owns it, chooses to give it to Jones without any coercion or deception on Jones's part. If Smith doesn't choose to do so, then it's adinnaṃ, "not given", and therefore an improper thing for Jones to take.

Where secular law comes into play is with regard to defining what counts as "owned" and "ownerless". This will vary from one society to another and one age to another, but whatever it happens to be when and where one is living must be accepted. For example, in the Buddha's time it was the custom for rag-robe-wearing bhikkhus to go into charnel grounds, remove the winding sheets from corpses and sew them into robes for themselves. This was a permitted practice because the laws of that time regarded the cloth on a corpse as ownerless. But as far as I know this is not generally the case today, and so if a bhikkhu went into a modern city morgue or funeral parlour, unwrapped the cloths from some corpses and then carrying them away to use as robe-material, he would be taking what is adinnaṃ because such cloth is nowadays deemed to have an owner.
Many thanks for this, as it seems to settle the argument entirely. The point from the Vinaya about
what has not been let go of, what has not been relinquished; what is guarded, what is protected, what is regarded as “mine;” what belongs to someone else.
obviously relates to copyrighted material and would seem to deal with Sovatthika's objection, and the points made by Sujato above. Software is jealously guarded and protected and regarded as subject to ownership according to legal convention. The answer is in the title of this thread: the fact that the downloading in question is illegal means that someone has taken the trouble to publicly register their ownership, guardianship, and protection of whatever is to be downloaded.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Javi » Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:22 am
Sovatthika wrote:
Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:26 pm
it would be fitting then if i knew the origin of adinnaṃ like if it comes from a sutta, like did something happen for that to be lain down as a rule
Adinnādāna, "taking what is not given", is the standard Buddhist term for what we call stealing. It occurs 385 times in the Tipiṭaka, so you really don't need to look very hard. Maybe start with the Vinaya's account of the second defeating offence for bhikkhus:
What has not been given: what has not been given, what has not been let go of, what has not been relinquished; what is guarded, what is protected, what is regarded as “mine;” what belongs to someone else. This is called “what has not been given.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-bu-vb-pj2
If something is dinnaṃ, "given", it means either (1) nobody owns it or (2) Smith, the person who owns it, chooses to give it to Jones without any coercion or deception on Jones's part. If Smith doesn't choose to do so, then it's adinnaṃ, "not given", and therefore an improper thing for Jones to take.

Where secular law comes into play is with regard to defining what counts as "owned" and "ownerless". This will vary from one society to another and one age to another, but whatever it happens to be when and where one is living must be accepted. For example, in the Buddha's time it was the custom for rag-robe-wearing bhikkhus to go into charnel grounds, remove the winding sheets from corpses and sew them into robes for themselves. This was a permitted practice because the laws of that time regarded the cloth on a corpse as ownerless. But as far as I know this is not generally the case today, and so if a bhikkhu went into a modern city morgue or funeral parlour, unwrapped the cloths from some corpses and then carried them away to use as robe-material, he would be taking what is adinnaṃ because such cloth is nowadays deemed to have an owner.
Hello Venerable,

Doesn't this give too much moral authority to the state over and above the Buddha's Dhamma?

Let's say that I lived in a totalitarian state whose laws made it clear that the state owns all intellectual property, including the words of the Buddha (not a far fetched premise, given several 20th century events). By this logic, even reciting or writing down from memory and distributing Dhamma without state permission would constitute as breaking the precept and one can easily see that the state would take this interpretation on board against monastics who sought to distribute Dhamma without state sanction.

Likewise as has been mentioned before there are other absurd conclusions from copyright law if we take it seriously, like not being able to sing the happy birthday song or a disney tune in public, etc.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Dhammanando » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:01 pm

Javi wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm
Doesn't this give too much moral authority to the state over and above the Buddha's Dhamma?

Let's say that I lived in a totalitarian state whose laws made it clear that the state owns all intellectual property, including the words of the Buddha (not a far fetched premise, given several 20th century events). By this logic, even reciting or writing down from memory and distributing Dhamma without state permission would constitute as breaking the precept and one can easily see that the state would take this interpretation on board against monastics who sought to distribute Dhamma without state sanction.
In a scenario like this, Buddhaghosa's qualification of the obligation to conform to the wishes of kings would come into effect.
Vinaya

Now at that time King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, desiring to postpone the rains, sent a messenger to the monks saying: “What if the masters could enter upon the rains at the next full-moon day?” They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “I allow you, monks, to obey kings.”

Buddhaghosa:

I allow you, monks, to obey kings – here it is permitted for a bhikkhu to obey [the king] because delayed entry into the rains retreat causes no decline for bhikkhus; therefore in regard to any other kind of righteous act (dhammika kamma) a bhikkhu should obey, but never in regard to an unrighteous one.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Javi » Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:30 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:01 pm
Javi wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm
Doesn't this give too much moral authority to the state over and above the Buddha's Dhamma?

Let's say that I lived in a totalitarian state whose laws made it clear that the state owns all intellectual property, including the words of the Buddha (not a far fetched premise, given several 20th century events). By this logic, even reciting or writing down from memory and distributing Dhamma without state permission would constitute as breaking the precept and one can easily see that the state would take this interpretation on board against monastics who sought to distribute Dhamma without state sanction.
In a scenario like this, Buddhaghosa's qualification of the obligation to conform to the wishes of kings would come into effect.
Vinaya

Now at that time King Seniya Bimbisāra of Magadha, desiring to postpone the rains, sent a messenger to the monks saying: “What if the masters could enter upon the rains at the next full-moon day?” They told this matter to the Lord. He said: “I allow you, monks, to obey kings.”

Buddhaghosa:

I allow you, monks, to obey kings – here it is permitted for a bhikkhu to obey [the king] because delayed entry into the rains retreat causes no decline for bhikkhus; therefore in regard to any other kind of righteous act (dhammika kamma) a bhikkhu should obey, but never in regard to an unrighteous one.
Ah I see, that makes sense, thank you
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by binocular » Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:04 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:41 am
Many thanks for this, as it seems to settle the argument entirely. The point from the Vinaya about
what has not been let go of, what has not been relinquished; what is guarded, what is protected, what is regarded as “mine;” what belongs to someone else.
obviously relates to copyrighted material and would seem to deal with Sovatthika's objection, and the points made by Sujato above. Software is jealously guarded and protected and regarded as subject to ownership according to legal convention. The answer is in the title of this thread: the fact that the downloading in question is illegal means that someone has taken the trouble to publicly register their ownership, guardianship, and protection of whatever is to be downloaded.
I suspect that an underlying issue here is that there are or should be such things as "public goods", and that they aren't or shouldn't be limited to air or water. (However, even with air and water, the matter is far from settled, given the recent legislations around the world regarding the ownership of water and the responsibility for air pollution.) The idea seems to be that if something is as readily available as air, then taking it shouldn't be considered stealing. Many digital contents do seem "as readily available as air," which is probably why some people don't consider taking those digital contents to be an act of stealing.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:17 am

binocular wrote:
Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:04 am

I suspect that an underlying issue here is that there are or should be such things as "public goods", and that they aren't or shouldn't be limited to air or water. (However, even with air and water, the matter is far from settled, given the recent legislations around the world regarding the ownership of water and the responsibility for air pollution.) The idea seems to be that if something is as readily available as air, then taking it shouldn't be considered stealing. Many digital contents do seem "as readily available as air," which is probably why some people don't consider taking those digital contents to be an act of stealing.
Agreed. The fact that someone has taken time to register ownership of digital content is the sign that we can't treat it as a "public good" without further investigation. The water issue is interesting. Where I live, I would laugh at someone who claims ownership of untreated water, but the purified stuff in tanks or bottles is another matter.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by binocular » Wed Nov 08, 2017 11:24 am

Javi wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm
Doesn't this give too much moral authority to the state over and above the Buddha's Dhamma?
/.../
Likewise as has been mentioned before there are other absurd conclusions from copyright law if we take it seriously, like not being able to sing the happy birthday song or a disney tune in public, etc.
The flip side is that copyright implies responsibility for what is copyrighted, and respecting copyright on principle protects the would-be thief of any negative consequence that can come from perusing the copyrighted material.

Note the principle "caveat emptor", in the generalized form implying that the potential buyer/obtainer must beware of the effects of anything they acquire. The assumption in taking (stealing) is that the taken (stolen) item will be good for you. But it is far from a given that it in fact will be good for you -- just think of the negative effects of using drugs. (Leaving aside all the issues connected to stealing being illegal, having to pay fines or face criminal charges and imprisonment.) Would not singing a Disney tune (whether in private or in public) really decrease the quality of your life? Would watching an illegally downloaded movie really increase the quality of your life?
If even many of the things that one can obtain legally aren't good for one, how much worse for one are the things that one cannot readily obtain legally.

Copyright and property laws protect worldly things. Dhammically, seeking pleasure in worldly things is problematic to begin with.
Let's say that I lived in a totalitarian state whose laws made it clear that the state owns all intellectual property, including the words of the Buddha (not a far fetched premise, given several 20th century events). By this logic, even reciting or writing down from memory and distributing Dhamma without state permission would constitute as breaking the precept and one can easily see that the state would take this interpretation on board against monastics who sought to distribute Dhamma without state sanction.

Personally, I actually would welcome such a situation because it would make matters of responsibility much clearer. As things stand, anyone can say anything and call it Buddhism or Dhamma, and people sometimes get into deep confusion and suffering because of that. This is not to say that the (secular or religious) state can be or is the adequate guardian of the Dhamma, but it would place an additional system of checks and balances in place.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:06 pm

Javi wrote:
Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm
Likewise as has been mentioned before there are other absurd conclusions from copyright law if we take it seriously, like not being able to sing the happy birthday song or a disney tune in public, etc.
Those 'absurd conclusions' are incorrect conclusions.
Some creative work is 'in the public domain', meaning that no-one owns any copyright in it, e.g. folk songs, books written a long time ago, etc.
And some creative work which is not in the public domain may be used freely under certain conditions, e.g. unpaid informal performance, private study, etc.

The details vary from one country to another and get very tricky but the bottom line is that copyright covers only specified rights in specified works - even specified attributes of works. (Attributes? A particular printed edition of (e.g.) Robinson Crusoe may be copyright although the text isn't.)

:namaste:
Kim

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