Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Clarence » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:46 pm

saltspring wrote:Did anybody here make copies in the 1980's or 90's using cassete or VHS tape? I hope not. Three Hail Mary's and two Our Father Who Art in Heaven's for all the Buddhist stone casters in the crowd.


I am surprised noone responded to this. Nowadays, one can stream most tv-series and movies for free through the internet. I have been thinking about this a bit and think that comes very close to using VHS tapes. Back in the day, and probably still today, noone would think it was stealing to tape a tv-show for a friend. Since I pay for cable, through which I will see all those shows (only later), I think the library friend had a good point when he said he was only cheating time. :tongue:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:59 pm

I think this answer is most appropriate:
Kare wrote:Ask yourself: Is this given by someone who has the right to give it? Or am I taking something which is not given?

The precepts is something we undertake voluntarily as part of our training. Obsessing over the "letter of the precepts" seems to me to be completely missing the point. My advice is that if you have a doubt about something being against the precept, avoid it.

And legality or not seems to me to also miss the point. Killing (some beings), (some) sexual misconduct, lying (in many circumstances) and getting (somewhat) intoxicated is legal in most places...

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

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:13 pm

This thread is most interesting. We now know those who can manufacture justifications for stealing when it suits their agenda and those who possess moral integrity.

*Keeps hand on wallet in case someone wants a CD they can't afford.* :guns:

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby pilgrim » Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:55 am

Just because an act is illegal, it does not make it immoral, just as there are immoral acts which are not illegal. There are laws which I disagree with and care little about.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Jaidyn » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:53 am

mikenz66 wrote:And legality or not seems to me to also miss the point. Killing (some beings), (some) sexual misconduct, lying (in many circumstances) and getting (somewhat) intoxicated is legal in most places...


Yes, laws in a country does not have precedence over the Buddhist moral and will not excuse actions. However, I find it hard to ignore the local laws entirely in this debate, as they declare what things can be regarded as objects for possession. If an object cannot be regarded as "possessable", then it cannot be stolen. However, it may be that the “creators/owners” own wish is the only thing that matters to judge if it is theft or not, but then some people may have insane wishes like “do not copy my dressing style”. Would copying a dressing style be a violation? We know teens are having such problems: “she copies my dressing style ... and she is a dork”. The style is informally declared owned and the teen does not wish it to be copied. I would say it is a violation, but it can not be a violation if 70% of the school adopts the style and the particular teen still wish to wear it exclusively. Or can it? A parallel may be drawn to copying music... if 70% copies the music ...

Metta-4 wrote:This thread is most interesting. We now know those who can manufacture justifications for stealing when it suits their agenda and those who possess moral integrity.


No, we do not know who does “manufacture justifications” to steal when it suits their agenda. We do know that people are trying to “manufacture understanding” and we know that current understanding can be used as justifications to steal, but current understanding must not necessarily lead to justifying actions like stealing. You declare “We now know those who can [do bad things]” but I doubt your ability to judge that by looking at a thread.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Jaidyn » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:21 am

mikenz66 wrote:[...] Obsessing over the "letter of the precepts" seems to me to be completely missing the point. My advice is that if you have a doubt about something being against the precept, avoid it.


Sometimes I really do not feel like downloading and copying is against the percept, and I suspect I am right. If I would think otherwise it would maybe be like 'Obsessing over the "letter of the precepts"'. I am sure many of us did not break the percept "back in the day":

Clarence wrote:[...] I have been thinking about this a bit and think that comes very close to using VHS tapes. Back in the day, and probably still today, noone would think it was stealing to tape a tv-show for a friend. Since I pay for cable, through which I will see all those shows (only later), I think the library friend had a good point when he said he was only cheating time. :tongue:


:popcorn: And looking within sounds like the right path:

daverupa wrote:I think you can only know your intention, so look to that - Buddhist morality is centered thereon.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:17 pm

Perhaps I should clarify for those who see this as an abstract. I have friends who are professional authors and musicians. They are free-lancers; self-employed and self-producers, which this cyberage has made possible. The make their living on royalties from sales of their products. Probably not three days pass when I don't hear one of them rail about Internet piracy affecting their income.

This IS the same as stealing money from their pocket. Yes, the original copy still exists. But the income derived from the sale of the product is lost.

A married couple I know constantly scans the Internet looking for torrents of the fruits of their labors. When they find them--or those of their friends--they send the torrent hosts a DMCA takedown notice (a legal notice to remove the torrent which is in violation of copyright law), and sometimes they have to do this several times before the torrent disappears. Before going into business for themselves, my friend's wife was an accountant for Chase Manhattan. She tracks their royalties. She say after blitzing the torrents, their royalties increase. In other words; when free downloads are not available, people who want the item somehow find the means to buy them.

It's not as if the stuff downloaded from torrents are necessities for life. These are luxuries; ornaments. Indulgences. We don't NEED them. But the musicians and authors depend on the income to survive. What I'm sensing/hearing here is an attitude of entitlement; that many of you feel you have a right to the fruits of other people's creative effort's without recompensing them for it; without any effort or payment from you.

When I was in school (the first time; I have three different degrees and am going back for a fourth :tongue: ) going for a BFA, I was on fire with an idea for a painting. I was going to save it for the end of the class. I told everyone about it. Another student took my idea and ran with it, added a couple of minor points, and used it as his own in another class. I couldn't' use my idea because it would look as if I were copying him. The good news was that I can always come up with new ideas. The bad news was that a part of my trust in human decency died that day. Not the last time that happened. I'm not sure much of it remains. Especially when I read on a "Buddhist" forum people defending the idea that it's okay to steal income from others simply because they want to benefit from their efforts without paying them for it.

Attention Venerables: Bhantes, you have your work cut out for you here. HELP.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Jaidyn » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:55 pm

That is an observation you have made and I can not say it is invalid. If it is generalizable, and to what degree; that is another story. I posted a link earlier about Switzerland allowing downloading. They based their decision on research. The research concluded that piracy is not hurtful and that people do not spend more or less because of piracy, but the money people set aside to entertainment remains constant. The quality of the research, however, I do not know because I havn't read the paper. Also the study may apply to society at large, and not for every small case.

Metta-4 wrote:In other words; when free downloads are not available, people who want the item somehow find the means to buy them.


Speaking with base in my own observation, this is not true at all. By downloading people increase their knowledge of artists and they actually want to pay to the artists they like, because they want to support them. When they are not able to download they do not go and buy the stuff. This is my observation of a limited set of people. I am not saying it is true for all. Maybe this pay-if-you-want-model is more unreliable then the current model, but with enough change in our views of copyright and with better technology for payments I think artists still can benefit the same. Maybe some artists gets hurt by piracy, and maybe a new kind of artist will benefit in the future.

For today: to decide the Buddhist immorality of downloading I think we need to consider situations like the one you describe, but for me it is not a clear cut that all downloading-activity (of copyrighted material) results in violation of the percept.

I myself think that artists should get paid, but I think the current model is partly outdated.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Reductor » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:32 pm

If I stole a loaf of bread from the baker it would then be impossible for him to sell it. It is materially gone.

The same is not true of intellectual property or of media. The person that would support themselves through its sale still has his own copy.

But he has been deprived an income dependant upon what has been distributed, right? Seemingly every person has a right to an income? If so, then any reduction in their income must be a violation of this right.

So suppose a brick and morter store sold a particular kind of pancake. They have a thousand customers a week. Then a drive through opens down the road which sells the same style of pancake, and it's a hit thereby reducing the first stores customer base from thousand to six hundred. Does the first store have a legal right to shut down his competitor? Or may they prohibit them from selling that kind of pancake? Or may they prohibit them from selling pancakes of any kind, since all derivitive pancakes must share the common base recipe originated by the first store?

All kinds of implications when we assume the first store has a right to an income. Never mind that the new store is likely a success because they originated a new service model (drive through) and not because they sell pancakes.

So, perhaps the original store shoild embrace a new service model rather than threaten everyone who goes to the drive through.

Consider the case of Louise C.K. he recognized that the distribution method currently established was not the only way for him to make money. Perhaps there was a better way?

http://thenextweb.com/media/2011/12/14/ ... in-3-days/
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The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby fragrant herbs » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:56 pm

I have to agree with Metta-4, copying prevents those who made the material to not be able to make the money they deserve, and therefore it feels to me like stealing. If I made a movie and put it out, and everyone then copied it, I would have lost a lot of money on making the movie and would actually gone in the hole. Artists of all kinds do a lot of work on their projects, be it movies, books, music, computer software, etc. They desire to get paid.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:05 pm

Here is the logical problem with the "pancake paradigm." :tongue: The pancake is a public-domain concept: flour, water, baking soda, egg. Anyone can make them. This is the free-enterprise system. However, if shop #1 develops a proprietary recipe, copyrights or patents it, and shop #2 steals it and markets it, then shop #2 is committing ethical and legal malfeasance and can (and should) be held liable.

There is a finite market for a creative product such as a literary work or piece of music. I supose software is the same. How much demand is there for Photoshop? My parents would have never had a use for it. My brother writes fiction and has been trying to sell it for over a decade. One agent told him the problem with fiction was that 20,000 people a year write fiction but only 10,000 people a year buy it. Non-fiction is a much bigger market apparently. So when the finite market is saturated with free copies, the overall revenue to the original creator goes down. This is just common sense.

However, I can tell that few, if any of you have personally felt the bitter anguish of having something which you personally created,something into which you poured your heart and offered to the world, stolen from you as if it were everyone's right to own a piece of you. May you never feel this pain. It's like having your heart eaten out alive by jackals.

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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:41 pm

I want to make two points: First, the code of law should not necessarily follow directly the code of what is ethical. My primary example here is abortion, which I find highly unethical, yet I think laws restricting abortion are ineffective and only compound an already tragic situation. The same can be said for many drug laws. The other end of the spectrum are the countless laws that don't really have so much to do with ethics as they do with agreement among society, such as deciding we shall stop on red and go on green, or drive on the left/right depending on what country you live. Those aren't really based on ethics, it's just an agreement. Laws are a society determining that if a person does X then they face consequence Z.

Second, I think it is unethical to break laws once they are established, unless the law itself is unethical. I see nothing unethical regarding copyright laws, which are intended to ensure payment for creative efforts. Art and invention would not exist in a capitalist society without such laws, and I think art is an overall positive force in our culture worth protection. Therefore, we have agreed upon laws to protect such things, and breaking those laws is unethical for the mere fact of breaking the agreement. This includes accepting shady software because we all know we are hurting somebody's bottom line. We try to justify it by painting the picture of the big bad corporation, but it's still a justification of breaking an ethically sound law.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Moggalana » Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:03 pm

Entertainment lobbying groups in Switzerland have been pushing for stricter laws on 'copyright infringement'. But before the government was going to meet their demands they wanted to know more about the matter at hand so they commissioned a study to look into the impact filesharing has on the society. You can have a look at the results over here. There are only German, French and Italian versions, so I'll give you a short summary in English. The study concluded that:

    - Up to a third of the 15-year and older citizens regularly download music, movies and software without paying for them and they don't seem to know what online services are legal respectively illegal.
    - The budget they spend on 'entertainment' is largely constant and downloading is only complementary.
    - Therefore, the entertainment industry as a whole doesn't lose any money but the distribution of that money changes.
    - Instead of buying CDs or DVDs they spend their budget on live concerts, movie theater tickets and merchandising.

In most cases, the musicians themselves don't have a disadvantage, some even benefit highly from the free promotion of their material. Pretty Lights is an example that comes to mind. They have been offering their music for free on the internet and are now very popular on festivals. Additionally, it has always been hard to make money with music and blaming file-sharing is an easy cop-out for some.

There are some losers of course and those are the record labels. They rely heavily on CD sales and they missed the chance to use the internet to their advantage so they resort to the only thing they have left - power and political influence. But only because something is illegal (in some countries) doesn't mean it is illegitimate, and what is illegitimate is often a very personal matter. For me personally, I don't think that file-sharing violates the second precept because I wouldn't, for the most part, spend money for the things I download if I couldn't download them. I would have never known about some of my favourite bands if I hadn't downloaded them or if a friend hadn't given me a copy of his mp3s and I would have never visited their concerts as a result.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Jan 09, 2012 11:46 pm

Moggalana wrote:
    - Up to a third of the 15-year and older citizens regularly download music, movies and software without paying for them and they don't seem to know what online services are legal respectively illegal.
    - The budget they spend on 'entertainment' is largely constant and downloading is only complementary.
    - Therefore, the entertainment industry as a whole doesn't lose any money but the distribution of that money changes.
    - Instead of buying CDs or DVDs they spend their budget on live concerts, movie theater tickets and merchandising.

So I'm allowed to steal from one person as long as I buy something of equal value from somebody else? Stealing music so that you can afford to go to the movie theater is not even close to ethical. I'm sure a quick Google search would quickly indicate if a download site is legit or not. Laziness is no excuse.

Moggalana wrote:In most cases, the musicians themselves don't have a disadvantage, some even benefit highly from the free promotion of their material. Pretty Lights is an example that comes to mind. They have been offering their music for free on the internet and are now very popular on festivals.

That is "given freely", it is a business model, and it works for them. That is far from "illegal downloading", which is the topic of this thread.

Moggalana wrote:But only because something is illegal (in some countries) doesn't mean it is illegitimate,

If you are within the jurisdiction of the law, then yes, it does.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby chownah » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:19 am

"Second, I think it is unethical to break laws once they are established, unless the law itself is unethical. "

What this is saying is that I only have to obey the laws I agree with........which is actually what people do.


I see nothing unethical regarding copyright laws, which are intended to ensure payment for creative efforts. Art and invention would not exist in a capitalist society without such laws,

This is absolutely and completely rubbish....I can not overstress how wrong this is......art and invention have, do, and will exist regardless of whatever is written into law......
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:30 am

chownah wrote:
"Second, I think it is unethical to break laws once they are established, unless the law itself is unethical. "

What this is saying is that I only have to obey the laws I agree with........which is actually what people do.

I intended this exception to be rare, and not based on "agrees with" but based on a law forcing one to commit heinous acts.
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.
Mohandas Gandhi


chownah wrote:
I see nothing unethical regarding copyright laws, which are intended to ensure payment for creative efforts. Art and invention would not exist in a capitalist society without such laws,

This is absolutely and completely rubbish....I can not overstress how wrong this is......art and invention have, do, and will exist regardless of whatever is written into law......
chownah

You still have not shown how copyright laws are unethical.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby chownah » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:54 am

Buckwheat wrote:
chownah wrote:
"Second, I think it is unethical to break laws once they are established, unless the law itself is unethical. "

What this is saying is that I only have to obey the laws I agree with........which is actually what people do.

I intended this exception to be rare, and not based on "agrees with" but based on a law forcing one to commit heinous acts.
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.
Mohandas Gandhi


chownah wrote:
I see nothing unethical regarding copyright laws, which are intended to ensure payment for creative efforts. Art and invention would not exist in a capitalist society without such laws,

This is absolutely and completely rubbish....I can not overstress how wrong this is......art and invention have, do, and will exist regardless of whatever is written into law......
chownah

You still have not shown how copyright laws are unethical.

You are correct, I have not shown that......but on the other hand I have not implied that Van Gogh cut off his ear in protest of some law or other......
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:02 am

:jawdrop: :rofl:
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby Moggalana » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:28 pm

Buckwheat wrote:
Moggalana wrote:But only because something is illegal (in some countries) doesn't mean it is illegitimate,

If you are within the jurisdiction of the law, then yes, it does.

Legal and legitimate are often used as synonyms but there is some difference. Legal means that something is right according to the law (lawful), legitimate can mean the same but it can also mean - especially when used in contrast to legal - that something is right according to moral or ethical norms. An example: Death penalty is legal (lawful) in some countries but it is not legitimate (ethical). From now on, I will use ethical instead of legitimate to prevent further misconceptions.

I forgot to mention in my previous post that the Swiss government decided not to implement a stricter version of the copyright law. File-sharing will stay legal as long as it is not done for commercial purposes (piracy). The main reason was the fact that the percental amount of money people spend on 'entertainment' hadn't changed and wouldn't change if the law was different. It is also not practical for a government to incriminate a third or more of its citizens, especially not in Switzerland where they have a very direct form of democracy.

This leads to another important point: the relativity of norms. Georg Jellinek coined the term Die normative Kraft des Faktischen (the normative power of the de facto). It basically means that (1) a norm doesn't apply anymore when nobody is following it and (2) a norm can be changed or a new norm can be created when a majority acts accordingly. File-sharing is - de facto - a common practice, especially among younger (<30) people, and it will only increase in the future when a majority of the people will be digital natives. Thus, I predict that file-sharing will be legal in most countries and not considered unethical in 10-20 years.
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Re: Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept?

Postby chownah » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:56 pm

So downloading the same stuff is legal in Switzerland and illegal in the USofA. So is the 2nd precept a matter of geography?

If I have a friend in Switzerand download something legally and then send my brother (in the USofA) a copy is that breaking the 2nd precept?

If my brother(in the USofA) uses a proxy server located in Switzerland to download something at his home (in the USofA) is that breaking the 2nd precept?

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