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HALACHA-----honesty/ napster etc

micah Posted - 01 September 2000 17:56

Does anyone know halacha view on downloading copyrighted material?

MODERATOR Posted - 01 September 2000 21:16

If you are not causing the owners of the music to lose any money, meaning (a) you are not selling the music and (b) you would not have bought it on your own, then it is permitted.

The reason is because you did not cause any loss of profit to the owners.

However, if you are downloading music that you would have otherwise purchased, then you may not do it because you are causing the owners a loss.

If music was sold to you "on the condition" that it not be reproduced, or the "rights to reproduce it" were withheld in the sale, you should not reproduce it.

The above applies if the person losing the money through your reproducing his material is a Yehudi. If he is an akum, it is permitted even if you would have bought the product otherwise.

aharon Posted - 26 September 2000 21:18

Which heter is it that you can pirate material if they were not going to loose money?

MODERATOR Posted - 26 September 2000 21:21

Because all possible prohibitions do not apply -- taking away someone's livelihood or stealing cannot apply if the person does not lose any money.

hopeful Posted - 27 September 2000 13:59

What about the mitzva to obey the laws of the country we live in?

MODERATOR Posted - 27 September 2000 14:03

So far, Napster is legal.

But in any case, the majority of poskim hold that Dina D'Malchusa ("Law of the land") applies only to laws regarding our relationship with the government, such as taxes, etc. But regarding what is considered wrong between two private citizens, Dina D'Malchusa does not apply.

aharon Posted - 27 September 2000 22:56

What about pirating Microsoft software

MODERATOR Posted - 02 October 2000 16:06

It is permitted, assuming there is no Chilul Hashem involved.

aharon Posted - 03 October 2000 22:14

Do you mind me asking who gives this heter because I have rabaim telling us that it’s completely assur?


MODERATOR Posted - 03 October 2000 22:23


Everything is permitted until there is some issur. you don't need a "heter" for that which was never assur.

So rather than ask what's the heter you first need to ask those who told you not to do it what's the issur.

Considering it’s perfectly legal and nobody gets hurt or sustains a loss, there is no grounds for issur.

aharon Posted - 05 October 2000 16:30

But it’s not legal

MODERATOR Posted - 05 October 2000 16:34

Yeah, it is. The record companies currently have them in court but as of now it is still legal; maybe it will always be.

Also, according to most poskim it won't matter if it's illegal, since the law of Dina D'Malchusa only applies to laws of the land that pertain to the citizen's relationship with the government, such as taxes. But issues of right and wrong between people is up to the Torah not the government.

That would be a heter provided no Chilul Hashem can take place, meaning, nobody will ever know. Because Mutar or not, if we are prosecuted for breaking the law, that is surely Chilul Hashem.

sarchie Posted - 18 October 2000 16:55

What if there is a book that is now out of print and I want to use it to help teach small children about Judaism?

MODERATOR Posted - 18 October 2000 16:57

I assume you mean to make photostats from the book.

If you would not have bought the book anyway (since it is out of print), then even if the owner is Jewish you may do it.

yossiea Posted - 19 October 2000 7:12


The challenge in court now is not if downloading songs is illegal.

The question is on Napster's role in helping people download pirated songs.

Napster's claim is that they are just a "shadchan" and that the users have the ultimate responsibility. You still can't download illegal songs.

- 19 October 2000 7:35

You are right about the court case. Thank you for the correction.

But as previously posted, the legality here doesn't matter, since according to the majority of Poskim, Dina D'Malchusa applies only to those laws that relate to the citizens' relationship with the government, such as taxes. Torts and other laws of "right and wrong" are the exclusive domain of the Torah. Which does not prohibit copying of another's material if the author incurs no measurable loss. And that's even if the author is a Yid.

So if you are not going to buy the song anyway, it would be permitted.

Also, making a private copy of a song in the privacy of your own home not for the purpose of resale is, even if technically illegal, never enforced because it's not worth it for them, and therefore may come under the category of one of those laws "on the books" that are not upheld, and therefore not binding, even according to the Poskim who hold Dina D'Malchusa applies even with regard to torts.

yossiea Posted - 20 October 2000 15:22

If you weren't able to download the songs from Napster, the only way to listen was to buy it. So they are suffering a loss.

Secondly, just to clarify, to make a private copy of music for your own use, is legal. The distribution of that is not. While, halachicly, copying of illegal material MAY be mutar, I would imagine that it's not a "yaharog v'loh yaavar."

MODERATOR Posted - 20 October 2000 15:28

They would not have a loss if without the option of downloading their song; you anyway would not have bought it.

Say I want to download MBD's "Someday." If I can get it for free, fine, but if not, I would not go out and buy a CD.

In such a case, MBD is not losing a penny if I download his song, because whether I download it or I don't, I would not buy the tape.

If, however, I would have bought the tape, and because it is available on Napster I download it instead, then MBD is losing profit because of my download.

So as I said, if you would not have bought the song anyway, you are not causing anyone a loss.

Please note that this heter is necessary only in the case of causing indirect loss of profit to a Yehudi. In the case of Akum, it is not necessary.

aharon Posted - 26 October 2000 17:06

What about copying a mbd cd even if you can buy it except its very expensive
is it Geneva?

MODERATOR Posted - 26 October 2000 17:08

If you would buy it but are instead copying it, it is prohibited under "yored l'toch umnaso shel chaveiro" (not geneva). If you would not have bought it anyway, then it depends. If you bought it under the condition that it not be reproduced, you may not reproduce it (sometimes it says this on the CD jacket). Otherwise, it is permitted.

aharon Posted - 01 November 2000 18:30

It always says you can’t reproduce it

MODERATOR Posted - 01 November 2000 18:35

Yeah, I know, but sometimes it gives a psak Halachah, like "It is prohibited Halachicly to reproduce this tape", which is a halachic opinion, not a deal with the consumer.

Other times it says "This tape is sold under the condition it not be reproduced," which is a deal that you agree to if you buy it.

Lizard Posted - 03 November 2000 19:11

I understand now why it’s not assur to download songs. But shouldn’t it be assur to make the songs you have available to others since you don’t know if their intention of downloading is to save money on the CD therefore stealing.

I would think this is lifney Iver or helping someone do an aveira.

As far as them being able to get it from another user this is not the case always by Jewish music as it is at least now limited on Napster.

BTW just read in NY times napster will begin charging soon so all napster users better get your songs free while you can.

MODERATOR Posted - 08 November 2000 20:34

I would say it is not assur to allow others to download the songs.

Reason: There are Halachic opinions that to violate Lifnei Iver you have to actively supply the michshal. In this case, you are merely passively allowing someone else to take it from you.

Add to that the possibility that they could get the song from another Napster user, and there are those who say that in such a case there is no Lifnei Iver (Really there is never Lifnei Iver when the "victim" could have acquired the michashal on his own. The disagreement here is because the "victim" would not be able to acquire the michshal unless someone - you or another user - provides it for him).

On top of all that, there's still an uncertainty if the person copying the song would have otherwise bought it, which would make it a sofek d'rabbonon. Especially if they are copying a song that it difficult to acquire in a store nowadays. There are those who say that Lifnei Iver, even min HaTorah, is only prohibited if the Michshal is a certainty; if you are uncertain if the item you are providing is prohibited, there may not be Lifnei iver in the first place.

Therefore, I would say there is no obligation to stop the user from copying the song.

Q1 Posted - 19 December 2000 17:07

If Jewish music is sold al tnay like a lot of it is that it won’t be reproduced how are you now allowed to put it on napster?

MODERATOR Posted - 19 December 2000 19:09

Please see my post of 1 November 2000 19:35. You are correct, but it would depend on whether they made a condition or they just decided the Halachah.

And this condition would not apply to those downloading the songs, since they did not purchase the CD and therefore never agreed to any such deals.

Q1 Posted - 19 December 2000 20:56

If it's bought al tnay not to reproduce and the person still put it on napster every time that music is copied the purchaser is responsible so how then could one download (even though HE did not make tnay) but he's increasing avaira of purchaser?

- 19 December 2000 21:00

Every time the music is reproduced the purchaser is not responsible. What this "condition" means is that the seller is not selling the rights to reproduce the tape to the buyer. If the buyer reproduces it he violated the terms of the agreement, but he is not responsible for the actions of others who did not agree not to reproduce the tape.

pinkshirt Posted - 01 January 2001 15:27

I asked my rabbi in school a similar question regarding bus passes. I did not get a bus pass since I live so close to school.

I needed to go over to my friend’s house one night, and my other friend offered to lend me her bus pass since she would not be using it.

I wasn’t sure if it was right according to halacha, so I asked a rabbi in school, and he said, that even though the other girl is not using it and I wouldn’t be going to my friends if I had to pay, so the mta would not be losing money it is still ussur.

By reading your answers regarding napster I think I received a wrong answer. was I allowed to use the bus pass?

MODERATOR Posted - 05 January 2001 5:31

No, you heard correctly about the bus passes. The difference between that and Napster is firstly, using someone else's bus pass is Genevas Daas, fooling the driver into thinking you own the pass (if he knew you didn't he would not let you on). By Napster you do not have to resort to misleading anyone.

Also, the bus is owned by the bus company, and they can say we do not let you on our bus unless you meet our conditions. Whereas by Napster, when you buy a CD the artist no longer owns it. It's your and you can do with it as you like. Including copying it. Except, of course, if you cause them a loss.

However, I should point out here that it is not simple as to exactly what sin you commit when you trespass on someone else's property. Since you are correct, you are not causing them any loss; you are not stealing or damaging them. Although they do have a right-of-ownership to say they do not want you there, if you ignore their orders, what sin have you committed? It seems from the Urim V'Tumim (Tumim 4) that in fact there is no prohibition of trespassing in the Torah unless the property owner specifically says "koman alechah baisi", which is a formula that prohibits you to use the property similar to a Neder, but here nobody made such a Neder against you.

Whatever. But Geneva Daas definitely applies here so it's Assur anyway.

Another issur in this case would be halanas schar, meaning you hired someone and did not pay him. By stepping on the bus there is an unwritten contract - minhag hasochrim - that you are hiring the transit authority to take you somewhere. Part of that agreement is that you pay them their buck fifty. if you don't, it's like you hired someone and didn't pay. That's assur as well.

Saadia Posted - 18 June 2001 18:34

Moderator - You mentioned in your post of 2nd October 2000 that pirating software would be permitted if there is no Chilul Hashem - what would be a Chilul Hashem in this case. I've also seen several articles prohibiting it.

There's a particular one from Ohr Somayach that has been put up around the computer lab in my school, which can be found at:

I do lend and borrow CDs which is technically pirating, and would like a clear-cut P'sak. Thank's for a great site!

MODERATOR Posted - 26 June 2001 22:51

I don't agree with the Ohr Someach article. I explained why above. Chilul Hashem would be if let's say people would find out you broke the law and people will think Orthodox Jews are crooks.

Teshuva Posted - 10 July 2001 22:08

About the Napster, thing, My Rebbi was a talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein Shlita and he told me that it says in Igros moshe that to copy tapes from let's say a Torah shiur, is Asur. If you really want to argue and are going to do it anyway, at least only download Goyish songs because Gezel Akum could be mutar.

How can you say that is mutar to do it from a Jew, Rav Moshe rules otherwise?

MODERATOR Posted - 10 July 2001 22:10

Rav Moshe is "zatzal", not shlita, gezel akum is assur not mutar, and I can find no such psak in igros moshe. please ask your rebbe what psak he is referring to.

MODERATOR Posted - 10 July 2001 22:10

Rav Moshe is "zatzal", not shlita, gezel akum is assur not mutar, and I can find no such psak in igros moshe. please ask your rebbe what psak he is referring to.

Goy Posted - 21 August 2001 19:05

So is it permitted to kill a goy if it does not involve Chilul Hashem?

Would you rob me and beat me up if Chillul Hashem wasn’t involved?

MODERATOR Posted - 21 August 2001 20:50

Nobody said it is permitted to harm a goy, certainly not kill him, chilul hashem or not.

Where'd you get this info? And why are you making believe you're a goy?

green Posted - 28 August 2001 0:22

goy-the mod is just saying that with napster, this would be the only issur involved, so if there is no issue of chilul Hashem, it’s ok.

Teshuva Posted - 11 September 2001 1:36


I asked my Rebbe about where it says it in Igros Moshe and it is in Chelek Daled of Orach Chaim, Amud Samech-Zein, Shaila Yud-Tes.

He says that if no writing is on the tape, then you must assume the person didn't want you to copy it.

Even though you don't want to buy it anyway, this guy has made the tape to sell, why would anybody want to buy it when you could get your favorite song(s) for free.

Can you please respond to this?


MODERATOR Posted - 11 September 2001 1:45

Rav Moshe there says the reason it is assur is because you are causing the maker of the tape to lose money, since he made the tape to sell. Therefore, Rav Moshe is talking in a case where you would have otherwise bought the tape, since in a case where you anyway would not have bought the tape, how could you say that you caused the owner a loss? He would not have made a penny more had you not copied his tape.

Teshuva Posted - 11 September 2001 18:32

It is not g'shmak to take someone else thing, even if you wouldn't have bought it anyway. I asked Rav Shalom Kaminetsky Shlita, and he said it shouldn't be done. This thing was made by a person, you don't want it, don't buy it.

You can just take part of it and say I only wanted this part, not the other, so I wouldn't have bought it. You can say what you want, but this is what I was told.

613er Posted - 22 January 2002 22:37

Hey Teshuva, Do some!

1. There are different opinions in Halacha.

2. You seem to insist that you understand the Gedolim's Psakim better than the Moderator yet he has supported his opinion successfully.

3. You come across sounding rude. Do you have a vendetta?

Moderator - Most music labels and software are actually produced by corporations or other types of contracts that often involve Jews as partners or shareholders.

Would that mean that with most music and certainly software that we have to apply the stricter Halacha as if the product was totally produced by a Jew?

justafriend Posted - 04 February 2002 21:35

The Microsoft license agreement states that you can not copy (or share) there software.

That is the deal you are making with them. Please explain how it is Mutar to copy....

MODERATOR Posted - 04 February 2002 21:39


Unless Jews are majority shareholders it is not a Jewish company.


The license agreements pops up asking you to agree after you already bought the software and are using it. Such an "agreement" is Halachicly invalid.

Imagine if I buy a box of cereal from you, I bring it home, and when I open it up, I get a not that says "If you eat this cereal you owe me another $100, plus you are obligated to stand on your head in the full moon and howl".

Of course, I can throw such an "agreement" paper away. I bought the cereal. Its mine. Unless the agreement was on the table when I bought it, it means nothing.

So too with Microsoft. When I buy software, I signed or agreed to nothing. I bought a box of software, fair and square. Now when I use my software - my software, I get a message that says if I use it I agree to XYZ. Uh, no. All conditions have to be made prior to purchase. After purchase, they are not binding.

LovLe7 Posted - 07 March 2002 17:05

This has absolutely nothing to do w/ the subject at hand, but what makes you so sure that Goy is really not a goy?

I was wondering abt. non-Jews checking out this site and being totally blown-away (not that it's a bad thing). Would you be obligated to explain the halachos? Could you tell him that it really isn't his business?

*flower* Posted - 17 November 2002 10:56

When you say it's mutar do download music from napster from a goy even it would cause him a loss, isn’t that the same as stealing?

I mean I know that if the owner of a store gives you back too much change you have to return it only if the owner is a yid, but does that mean we are allowed to steal from goyim? And my teacher in school is a goy, and he's very interested in Judaism, and he heard about this halacha and asked us about it, we tried to explain it to him, but he said, I think it's very racist to return the change only to a yid, how do you explain this to a goy?

MODERATOR Posted - 17 November 2002 11:03

Well the best thing is to try to avoid talking to goyim about this. But if your teacher brought it up, you cannot change the Torah's law. I explained at length how to explain these things to goyim (it you must) when discussing the law of killing amalek. Please refer.

Beautman Posted - 20 November 2002 13:08

“Rav Moshe there says the reason it is assur is because you are causing the maker of the tape to lose money, since he made the tape to sell. Therefore, Rav Moshe is talking in a case where you would have otherwise bought the tape, since in a case where you anyway would not have bought the tape, how could you say that you caused the owner a loss? He would not have made a penny more had you not copied his tape.”

This sounds like a dangerous psak to rely on. One will no doubt have a yetzer harah to say to themselves "Well, I wouldn't get this [tape, software] if I had to pay" when presented with the opportunity to take it for free.

MODERATOR Posted - 20 November 2002 13:21

It is dangerous. You need intellectual honesty to use it. But that’s the halachah. If someone feels they cannot trust their own judgment, they should be machmir, as better safe than sorry.

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