Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

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

Post by Dhammanando » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:02 pm

ihrjordan wrote:two things: 1. The "creator" of the idea isn't losing mastery or control over their idea as is the point of the second precept, it is only being copied.
If people can with impunity use or enjoy his creation in a manner contrary to the terms on which he has made it available for use, and if the law provides no mechanism for him to assert his right as the owner, then it's as plain as a pikestaff that he has lost mastery or control over it. Luckily the laws of most civilised countries do provide means of redress for those abused in this manner.
ihrjordan wrote:2. YOU CAN"T STEAL IMMATERIAL THINGS.
The texts' definition of "the not-given" (e.g. Khp-a. 26) doesn't limit it to material things. Rather, it encompasses anything that's lawfully and blamelessly been taken possession of by another.

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Kamran
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Kamran » Wed Nov 04, 2015 5:30 pm

What about downloading books and pdfs ?

The unrestricted spread of knowledge might bring great benefits to everyone regardless of copyright laws.
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by ihrjordan » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:17 pm

Dhammanando wrote: The texts' definition of "the not-given" (e.g. Khp-a. 26) doesn't limit it to material things. Rather, it encompasses anything that's lawfully and blamelessly been taken possession of by another.
Regardless, I don't think the ancient commentaries or suttas could have envisaged that a non-material computer program would be under the umbrella of something susceptible to be "stolen" or even what any of those things are; it's like stealing magical energy or unlawfully reading anothers mind, like what does that even mean?... in my view that it isn't taking it is copying. The fact that the "creators" may dislike my copying does not thereby make my actions unethical either, it just shows how deluded they were thinking that one can or should limit the flow of information. As much as I may disagree with their ability to profit off of an idea, they still maintain the power to profit off of it even when I do copy it. They have not lost mastery or control over their "property", they may not profit as much (which is debatable) but that certainly doesn't make it unethical in a Buddhist sense. Pre-buddhism I've stolen material things before, there are few who haven't; the unwholesome mindstates that arise when violating anothers physical property and by extension their identity are 1,000,000,000 to a hypothetical .00001 when copying... of which I still think is unfitting and is in actuality.. zero.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Phena » Wed Nov 04, 2015 11:17 pm

If you borrow a DVD of a movie from a friend and take it home to watch it, is this a breach of the second precept?

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:11 am

Kamran wrote:What about downloading books and pdfs ?
Phena wrote:If you borrow a DVD of a movie from a friend and take it home to watch it, is this a breach of the second precept?
In their vagueness and paucity of stipulations, your questions in their present form are about on a par with asking: "If somebody were to say something to somebody, would he be breaking the fourth precept?"

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Anagarika » Thu Nov 05, 2015 1:30 am

I haven't read the entire thread but as I am tired and drinking coffee, I thought I'd punch out a few lines.

Intellectual property law exists to recognize that ideas, forms, designs, music, and digital creations have value to the owners and creators, and simply because a digital image or copy is easily copied does not make its theft without compensation to the owner of the intellectual property legal or ethically correct. Most countries have intellectual property laws for this reason: the law caught up with the idea that just because something is disseminated in digital form doesn't mean that it can't be stolen. If you download something that is not available freely, and its owner has released the property with the requirement or expectation that a fee or license is paid, then in my view, this act is no different than stealing a vinyl record from a record shop.

More importantly, precepts are training rules. Breaking a precept, per se, is not breaking a law, or committing a sin, such that you are (in theory) punished for the transgression. The real question, when we are doing all of the legal maneuvering, is: what effect is this thought or act having on my development away from defilements and toward moral purity? Even if I thought that an illegal download really hurts no one, or that the owner of the copyright is wealthy and doesn't need my money, is this ethically ambiguous act consistent with my development on the Path? Isn't it better, as Bhante put it, to consider whether this act would be wholesome and pure if I were the owner of the digital form, and someone wanted to illegally download it? Are my arguments that a digital form is not a "thing" that can be stolen maybe slightly specious?

I sometimes feel that the precepts are seen as laws that practitioners, like good lawyers, try to find exceptions/defenses to their violation. The precepts are training rules designed to give us the ability to create our own paths of purification. If there is even a minority argument in favor of avoiding an unskillful act, and you know in your heart and mind that there is some unwholesome aspect to the act, then best to avoid it.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by ihrjordan » Thu Nov 05, 2015 1:53 am

Anagarika wrote: I sometimes feel that the precepts are seen as laws that practitioners, like good lawyers, try to find exceptions/defenses to their violation.
All you said is well and good, but it's not stealing...it's copying...

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Anagarika » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:13 am

ihrjordan wrote:
Anagarika wrote: I sometimes feel that the precepts are seen as laws that practitioners, like good lawyers, try to find exceptions/defenses to their violation.
All you said is well and good, but it's not stealing...it's copying...
If I copy something I have no right to copy, have I then advanced myself along the path of purification? 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? Wouldn't you feel as though I had committed an unskillful/unethical act? Have I not copied something ( taken your essay), that was not freely offered to me to copy and use?

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by ihrjordan » Thu Nov 05, 2015 2:48 am

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.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Mkoll » Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:03 am

Zom wrote:
Downloading digital entertainment to indulge in is greed too, so what is your point?
No, this is not greed. There is a difference between greed (avarice) and desire to have some pleasure.
That is semantics. "Sensual desire" then.
Zom wrote:
Were you paying for your rent, your food, your electricity, etc. with the proceeds from your music?
Partly yes.
Could you have gotten by without it?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:39 am

well, if copying things is all well and good, then I've got a $20 note that is about to become $20,000.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:43 am

:oops:, the secret service already knocked on my door....

edit: oops, lied for a joke.
Last edited by Buckwheat on Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Phena » Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:08 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Kamran wrote:What about downloading books and pdfs ?
Phena wrote:If you borrow a DVD of a movie from a friend and take it home to watch it, is this a breach of the second precept?
In their vagueness and paucity of stipulations, your questions in their present form are about on a par with asking: "If somebody were to say something to somebody, would he be breaking the fourth precept?"
Actually Bhante, I think this is a very succinct question. I don't see anything "vague" about it. I wonder if I could get a straight forward answer to it though in regards to the second precept?

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:37 am

Phena wrote:Actually Bhante, I think this is a very succinct question. I don't see anything "vague" about it.
Vagueness and succinctness are not opposed qualities. Indeed it is precisely because of its succinctness that your question is vague. You are being succinct when what's needed is a little expansiveness.

All DVDs are not alike and you have stated nothing at all about the terms and conditions (if any) that accompany it, nor what country you and your friend are residing in. As such your question is hopelessly vague. In its present form it's as vague as "How long is a piece of string?"

Phena wrote:I wonder if I could get a straight forward answer to it
No, I don't think you could. As you may know from the Kathāvatthu Sutta a straightforward answer is just one of four ways to answer a question. Your question doesn't really lend itself to such an answer. Rather, it's a question that demands either a counter-question:
  • "What contractual obligations accompany the DVD? In what country?"
Or else an analytical treatment:
  • "It would be a breach of the precept if the DVD were accompanied by such and such terms and conditions and were borrowed in such and country, but not if it were accompanied by some other terms and conditions, or no terms and conditions at all, and not if the borrowing took place in some other country, etc., etc."

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Phena » Thu Nov 05, 2015 9:51 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Phena wrote:Actually Bhante, I think this is a very succinct question. I don't see anything "vague" about it.
Vagueness and succinctness are not opposed qualities. Indeed it is precisely because of its succinctness that your question is vague. You are being succinct when what's needed is a little expansiveness.

All DVDs are not alike and you have stated nothing at all about the terms and conditions (if any) that accompany it, nor what country you and your friend are residing in. As such your question is hopelessly vague. In its present form it's as vague as "How long is a piece of string?"

Phena wrote:I wonder if I could get a straight forward answer to it
No, I don't think you could. As you may know from the Kathāvatthu Sutta a straightforward answer is just one of four ways to answer a question. Your question doesn't really lend itself to such an answer. Rather, it's a question that demands either a counter-question:
  • "What contractual obligations accompany the DVD? In what country?"
Or else an analytical treatment:
  • "It would be a breach of the precept if the DVD were accompanied by such and such terms and conditions and were borrowed in such and country, but not if it were accompanied by some other terms and conditions, or no terms and conditions at all, and not if the borrowing took place in some other country, etc., etc."
Succinct: characterized by clear, precise expression in few words.

I think that describes my question quite well, but I can see Bhante you are getting caught up in the "laws of the land" aspect rather the ethical dimensions. Laws of the land are a often a shallow representation of ethics and indeed can run contrary to sound ethical positions. It's a poor yardstick.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:52 pm

Phena wrote:Succinct: characterized by clear, precise expression in few words.
For several centuries now, the primary senses of the word have had chiefly to do not with clarity, but with shortness, whether in connection with terseness of expression, brevity of time, or even the skimpiness of one's garments...
  • “Apollo himselfe loveth brevitie, and is in his oracles verie succinct and pithy.”
    (Holland, tr. of Plutarch’s Moralia; 1603)

    “With the rope round their neck, their destiny may be succinct!”
    (Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution; 1836)

    “She exchanged her stole, or loose upper garment, for the more succinct cloak and hood of a horseman.”
    (Walter Scott Castle Dangerous; 1831)
Phena wrote:I think that describes my question quite well,
Given your failure to supply the necessary stipulations that would make it answerable, I submit that the adjective that best describes your question would be ṭhapanīya — “to be set aside”.
Phena wrote:but I can see Bhante you are getting caught up in the "laws of the land" aspect rather the ethical dimensions.
Then you must have overlooked the fact that in my maiden post to this thread (in reply to Steve’s query about how our forum members decide what’s right for themselves) I took my stand upon the ethic of reciprocity — an unimpeachably ethical criterion and one of which the Buddha himself was clearly an advocate (e.g. in chapter 10 of the Dhammapada).

Furthermore, throughout my posts the fallibility of secular human law is something of which I’ve been fully cognizant, hence my drawing attention to the commentators’ prioritising of the judgment of the wise.
Phena wrote:Laws of the land are a often a shallow representation of ethics and indeed can run contrary to sound ethical positions. It’s a poor yardstick.
It is undoubtedly an imperfect yardstick but nonetheless a basically rational one. The second precept is broken only when what is taken is truly the property of another. To whom or what, then, should we turn for our definition of what qualifies something as being someone’s property? The laws of the state are prima facie the most obvious answer, given that the existence of a state (i.e. of a set of enforceable legal rights) is a precondition of property in any form.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Mkoll » Thu Nov 05, 2015 4:56 pm

A final, blunt word to those who download entertainment illegally before I bow out of here.

You should look within yourselves and be honest about what you find. The fact that you have doubts about it and feel the need to conceptually justify it to yourselves and others should be a sign that something is awry. False equivalencies and semantic contortions are the only arguments that you can put forth. They only stand strong to yourselves in your collective delusion, propped up by a sense of false righteousness. To those who understand the principle of reciprocity, they're seen as what they are: weak excuses from thieves who don't want to experience the consequences of actions that they know, deep down, are wrong. Or at least wisdom knows, even if egos do not.

BTW, this is coming from someone who almost certainly has more experience (i.e. gigabytes downloaded, or in my case terabytes) in illegal downloading than most, if not all of you. And who has stopped doing it and is much better off for it.

That's it then, I'm done here. Best of luck to everyone.

:namaste:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by No_Mind » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:48 am

Anagarika wrote:
ihrjordan wrote:
Anagarika wrote: I sometimes feel that the precepts are seen as laws that practitioners, like good lawyers, try to find exceptions/defenses to their violation.
All you said is well and good, but it's not stealing...it's copying...
If I copy something I have no right to copy, have I then advanced myself along the path of purification? 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? Wouldn't you feel as though I had committed an unskillful/unethical act? Have I not copied something ( taken your essay), that was not freely offered to me to copy and use?
Anagarika, forgive me for interrupting a conversation between you and ihrjordan ..

This is a sample of copyright information found in every book -

"All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher"

Have you never photocopied a friend's book in college? Does every library take permission from the publisher before providing photocopies of the books they possess?

Legally speaking you have absolutely no right to photocopy a book or parts of it. Ethically .. well nothing is wrong with it.

Although I do not support illegal downloading .. why cannot same argument be extended to exchange of stuff over internet? What if I argue that the person releasing the torrent and website hosting the torrent link is acting as a library? (If a site hosting torrent files is not a library what is it?)

No one has objected to photocopy machines in libraries for decades and how they deprived authors and publishers of income. Why the brouhaha over movie studios, actors and singers being deprived of income?

If it is not ethical error for me to photocopy 180 pages of a medical textbook, why is it an ethical error to download 180 songs? What is the substantive difference between the two? The only difference is that medical textbooks provide their author an income of at most $80,000 every year and movies provide actors $8 million every year.

No one (Buddhist or otherwise) ever thought twice in 1990 about photocopying a book.

:anjali:
I know one thing: that I know nothing

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by Buckwheat » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:31 am

again,
Buckwheat wrote:... if copying things is all well and good, then I've got a $20 note that is about to become $20,000.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Post by No_Mind » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:52 am

Buckwheat wrote:again,
Buckwheat wrote:... if copying things is all well and good, then I've got a $20 note that is about to become $20,000.
Counterfeiting currency is with intention of profiting from it. Who copies or downloads with intention of profit?
I know one thing: that I know nothing

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