Copyrights and wrongs

Q123 :How far is it permissible to obtain unauthorized copies of written material on Islam including books, tapes, videos and computer programs? Should not the propaganda of Islam be made easy by the distribution of such material. For example, I have a set of cassette tapes of the Qur'an in Arabic, with translation in English which is also covered by copyright laws. Is it unacceptable if I copy these tapes to give to others who are either unable to purchase them or cannot afford the price?

A123 : Indeed the propaganda of Islam should be made easy. But then, this has to be within Islamic rules. Islam does not allow that the propaganda or the efforts of others be taken away from them or be exploited without their consent. In order to explain this problem we should first ask ourselves why do authors, tape produces and computer program devisors resort to register their copyrights. The fact is that some unscrupulous people are always too ready to make pirate copies of these and sell them at a profit of which they give no share to the author. What someone has produced after putting a great deal of effort is thus used to bring financial gains to others who do not even bother to ask his permission. When you knowingly buy a pirate copy, then you are aiding such people whose piracy is certainly forbidden. To be an accessory to piracy is also censurable. There is a difference, however, between someone who produces a pirate book or markets pirate tapes and programs and someone who gives his copy to another in the sort of circumstances which you have mentioned. When you buy a book, neither the seller nor the publisher nor the author makes it a condition of the deal that you are the only one to read that copy. Therefore, when you lend it to someone else to read, you are not depriving anyone of earning any profit. It could be said, that had you not lent your friend your book, he would have bought a copy himself. The likelihood is that he might just as well not have bothered. Similarly, when you lend your cassette tape to your friend to copy it, knowing that he either would not have bought it or could not afford to buy it, then you are not violating the terms of your purchase. There is no restriction on how many people can use those tapes when you buy them. However, if you know that your friend who has borrowed it from you will make so many copies of it and offer them for sale or make profit out of them, then you are helping him in producing pirate copies. Therefore, when you lend your copy to him, you have to be sure that he copies it for private use only.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )