The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

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The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:26 am

Greetings,

A few days ago I came across a site called...

Buddhist Torrents
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com

Without a doubt, this site contains links to many downloadable resources... the free distribution of which would be clearly in violation of copyright laws. However, it seems as if the owner believes the actions are justifiable on the grounds that the Dhamma should be free, and that the benefits arising from this unauthorised distribution exceed the negative consequences.

What do you think?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Dmytro » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:11 am

Greetings Retro,

As far as I know, there are special places for such beings with mixed kamma:

The ruler of the great hell is called Yama or Yamaraja. But there is not only one Yamaraja for one Mahaniraya; there are actually four Yamaraja who are in charge of the four gates. Thus for eight great hells there are altogether thirty-two Yamaraja. Apart from these Yamaraja there are a number of hell-guardians called Niraya-pala.

The duty of the Yamaraja is to consider the case of each hell creature and give orders for punishment; the Niraya-pala’s duty is to inflict the penalties typical of each hell on the hell-creatures. Yamaraja and Niraya-pala are actually not hell beings but belong to the heaven of Catummaharajika.

They are described as Vemanikapeta, the beings that sometimes enjoy the fruitions of their meritorious kamma in heaven and sometimes suffer the results of their evil deeds in hell. By particular kinds of karnma they are sent to perform their duties in this realm of misery by inflicting penalties on the hell creatures.


http://www.mahindarama.com/e-library/31planes1.htm
http://www.mahindarama.com/e-library/31planes.htm

Petas, by the name of Vemanika. Though they were Petas, their Abode being one which was installed by both merits and demerits, kusala and akusala mingled together, they had the benefit of enjoying all the pleasures pertaining to devas for a period of seven days, and then for the next seven days they had to pass through various kinds of severe pain and suffering, similar to those receiving punishment in Hell, alternately.


http://www.mahasi.org.mm/e_pdf/E19PDF.PDF

Metta, Dmytro
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:32 am

What do you think?


So, who will pay for the production of the books that he is essentially stealing?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Rui Sousa » Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:42 am

I would say the taking what was not given, even if then it is offered to others, is not a skilful way of doing things.

Entering a book store to steal a dhamma book, even if to offer it to someone else, is stealing.
With Metta
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:57 am

If it was done with the "bodhicitta aspiration" (helping others to attain enlightenment) then it might be justified. But in Theravada terms, there might be some problems with it, even though in the Bhikkhu Vinaya there is no such thing as "stealing intellectual property" (a modern idea).
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:03 pm

I think the wishes of the Author should be respected, their are ways and means to do this sort of thing legally, and don't effect anyone in a negative manner.

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

A few days ago I came across a site called...

Buddhist Torrents
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com

Without a doubt, this site contains links to many downloadable resources... the free distribution of which would be clearly in violation of copyright laws. However, it seems as if the owner believes the actions are justifiable on the grounds that the Dhamma should be free, and that the benefits arising from this unauthorised distribution exceed the negative consequences.

What do you think?

Metta,
Retro. :)
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby karuna_murti » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:32 pm

I like to follow the spirit of what Buddha said, for the good of many. Sites like buddhanet and accesstoinsight, and forums such as dhammawheel and e-sangha is very useful resources.

Me and my friend published books (in Indonesian) for free. We have provide hundreds ebooks, and publish 10.000 copies Digha Nikaya in Indonesia (off course by paying royalties). We don't have any problem (yet) by not setting price label.
We are planning to provide the whole Tipitaka for free. Samyutta is currently on the editing process.

I can't really imagine what happened if all the people since Buddha's time until around 100 years ago ask for money to spread Dhamma. I still think the real thief is the one who set price label on what Buddha said.
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:19 pm

karuna_murti wrote:Me and my friend published books (in Indonesian) for free. We have provide hundreds ebooks, and publish 10.000 copies Digha Nikaya in Indonesia (off course by paying royalties). We don't have any problem (yet) by not setting price label.
We are planning to provide the whole Tipitaka for free. Samyutta is currently on the editing process.

I can't really imagine what happened if all the people since Buddha's time until around 100 years ago ask for money to spread Dhamma.

:thumbsup:

Sadhu!
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:22 pm

I always liked what our Bhikkhu Samahita wrote at one of his websites:

THE DHAMMA IS FREE. THE BUDDHA DID NOT HOLD COPY RIGHTS EITHER.

THE SHARING OF THE BUDDHA DHAMMA IS SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE
OF PROLONGING THE BUDDHASASANA THROUGH RELEASE.

This site does not commercialize nor restrict the sharing of Dhamma materials.

However, if this sharing does contravene any existing laws then these materials will be removed unconditionally.

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/copy_right_issues.htm

But that of course does not mean that people should go against an author's wishes or rights and that is why Bhante Samahita put that last sentence.
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:27 pm

retrofuturist wrote:it seems as if the owner believes the actions are justifiable on the grounds that the Dhamma should be free, and that the benefits arising from this unauthorised distribution exceed the negative consequences.

This kind of thinking is the very worst sort, the kind of thinking which had led to some of the worst atrocities committed in the name of religion. Let's go to war to take back Jerusalem! Let's kill doctors who perform abortions!

karuna_murti wrote:I still think the real thief is the one who set price label on what Buddha said.

So Bhikkhu Bodhi is a thief?

Some people collect donations first and then use those donations to pay for the very real cost of publishing books.
Other people publish the books first and then sell the books to recoup the costs.
Neither one is a thief in my opinion.

There is so much Dhamma material available for free. There is simply no good reason to steal it.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:34 pm

Looking over that website, it is not clear whether he is distributing material which he does not have permission to distribute. His grammar is poor so it's not clear but it seems he removes links to material when asked to do so by the copyright holder.

Of course, if he really cared about ethics, he would ask the copyright holder first before posting the link. That is the proper thing to do. For example, I recall Bhikkhu Bodhi mentioning that Wisdom Publications usually gives permission when asked.
- Peter

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jun 09, 2009 11:36 pm

Peter wrote:
karuna_murti wrote:I still think the real thief is the one who set price label on what Buddha said.

So Bhikkhu Bodhi is a thief?

Of course not. Bhikkhu Bodhi has put up hundreds of hours of Dhamma talks for free and hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of his writing is available for free.

His writings that are sold are produced by non-profit organisations such as BPS http://www.bps.lk/aboutus.asp and Wisdom http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/about.lasso

So all I'm really paying for is the cost of providing the hard copy to me.

The Nanamoli/Bodhi translation + notes on the Majjhima Nikaya is about $50 for 1400 pages, which is about 3 cents per page. I'm sure I could find a torrent of it somewhere if I looked, but then I'd have to print it, or I could photocopy a library copy. None of those options are free.

Given that I have listened to at least 200 hours of BB's talks based on that book I've paid less than 25 cents per hour of listening. Not to mention the time I've spent reading. In short, the price of the book is so low compared to the time it has occupied me that it is simply irrelevant.

Metta
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Individual » Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

A few days ago I came across a site called...

Buddhist Torrents
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com

Without a doubt, this site contains links to many downloadable resources... the free distribution of which would be clearly in violation of copyright laws. However, it seems as if the owner believes the actions are justifiable on the grounds that the Dhamma should be free, and that the benefits arising from this unauthorised distribution exceed the negative consequences.

What do you think?

Metta,
Retro. :)

I consider copyright to be a state-sanctioned violation of the second precept (theft). Information is free by nature; it is a public good, not something that can be "possessed". Being immaterial, the question of "Is it freely given?" does not apply, in the same sense that liberating slaves from slavers is not stealing (freedom is as immaterial as information). A person making a copy does not actually "take" anything away from the original producer. Moderate copyright benefits the public by encouraging ingenuity, but then it's wrongfully called "copyright" (as if there is a legitimate right over copy) rather than more correctly called, "ingenuity encouragement" or "regulation for the advancement of the arts & sciences". In addition to this, it should be clarified that with both music and literature, 90% of the profits from copyright go to publishers and record companies, which are mere middle-men that have nothing to do with the creative process but simply exist because they are propped up by the government, a sort of legally-sanctioned mafia or monopoly.

Also, take into account how copyright stifles ingenuity, because derivative works cannot be so easily created... An inventor can't improve upon an existing patent, unless it's a big improvement... A writer can't use copyrighted characters to make a neat story, unless it's a parody.

Considering that early Buddhists were capable of publishing and translating Buddhist texts without modern technology, it baffles me why Buddhists today are largely incapable, with modern computers, where one translator with a computer, working constantly, can finish lengthy translations in a very short time (there are new translations published commercially, from time-to-time, like the PTS' president's recent anthology). The earliest text ever published was the Diamond Sutra, published by a Chinese monk whose text indicated that it was to be put into the public domain.

If these authors were creating new content -- like new commentaries -- then you might have a point, but in this case, sutta translations, most of all, is stolen material that is then granted a false title of ownership. It's bizarre, for instance, that I could write a piece of music and then, centuries later, somebody else plays my music, and they own the recording. What ethical principle grants them this exclusive authority?

And lastly, I think it's good to look at the history of copyright law, that is, the length of copyright protection. The chart below is for America, but the general trend applies to different countries:

Image

You might also look at some of the political proceedings that went on, such as in the last copyright extension, where the deceased Sony Bono was held up as a symbol to extend copyright, whereas Mickey Mouse was held up as a symbol to not extend it.

It has nothing to do with protecting anybody's rights or encouraging ingenuity; it's to protect big business. If a person uses an image from somebody's Deviantart or Flickr account for their website, very little can be done. On the other hand, if somebody gets a screening copy of the next Hollywood film and uploads it before the movie is released (in theaters or on DVD), then a team of FBI investigators get involved... There's a bit of a discrepency there, hmm?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Individual » Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:24 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Peter wrote:
karuna_murti wrote:I still think the real thief is the one who set price label on what Buddha said.

So Bhikkhu Bodhi is a thief?

Of course not. Bhikkhu Bodhi has put up hundreds of hours of Dhamma talks for free and hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of his writing is available for free.

His writings that are sold are produced by non-profit organisations such as BPS http://www.bps.lk/aboutus.asp and Wisdom http://wisdompubs.org/Pages/about.lasso

So all I'm really paying for is the cost of providing the hard copy to me.

The Nanamoli/Bodhi translation + notes on the Majjhima Nikaya is about $50 for 1400 pages, which is about 3 cents per page. I'm sure I could find a torrent of it somewhere if I looked, but then I'd have to print it, or I could photocopy a library copy. None of those options are free.

Given that I have listened to at least 200 hours of BB's talks based on that book I've paid less than 25 cents per hour of listening. Not to mention the time I've spent reading. In short, the price of the book is so low compared to the time it has occupied me that it is simply irrelevant.

Metta
Mike

Not necessarily a thief (because he's not really taking anything from anybody), but if Bhikkhu Bodhi doesn't release his translations into the public domain, at the time of his death, he's at least misguided. Public-domain material proliferates more widely.

For monks who make translations, an open question: Do they have a right to their intellectual "property"? Isn't accepting intellectual property which is worth money really no different than accepting a house or cash?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby appicchato » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:57 am

Well stated(by the Individual)...if I were asked... :coffee:

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby karuna_murti » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:37 pm

I don't mean to offend anyone. I should have put it clearly that my view is the thief is the one who takes profit from what Buddha taught. My view used to be stricter, but after Bhante Dhammanando rebuke my view on e-sangha, I gain a little respect for translators.

I remember the saying one of the greatest thief is the one who claim Buddha Dhamma as his own property. I cannot remember where the reference is, and not sure if it is Theravadin teaching.

I believe getting funding from voluntary dana and give the result for free is much better than getting funding donation from fixed price. Selling Dhamma books, even not taking any profit, is not what Buddha taught. What Buddha taught is generosity.
Perhaps selling books is not "stealing" according to modern law, but I still believe that is unskillful. Like saying Bhikkhu can take money since the time has changed, and one cannot live in modern society without money.
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:51 pm

I disagree. I think of all those people who discover Buddhism from browsing at the local bookstore. The books you find in bookstores are printed using the model of "pay for the printing, recoup the costs by selling the books". The fact is, many people get their books by going to bookstores. Other people get their books by visiting temples and finding stuff given out for free. It is really skillful to ignore the first group and only focus on the second group?
- Peter

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:21 pm

In the case of Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thich Nhat Hanh, there clearly is not unwholesome desires or profit. Or if there is profit, they sure are not "enjoying" it. They live as monks in basically voluntary poverty, with barely a roof over their heads and a simple room with simple meals.

Just north of San Diego, California there is a monastery called Deer Park run by Thich Nhat Hanh's group. The cost of the land and structures was almost entirely paid from Thich Nhat Hanh's royalties / profits from his book sales. A brochure at the monastery showed that he made $1.1 million from all of his book sales and he used all of it (nothing left for "himself") for the opening of this monastery. This is how monks like BB and TNH live and use their funds, if any, from book sales.

Other monks and some lay teachers sell the books just for the cost of printing and shipping or they get sponsors to pay for the printing and distribute the books for free. I see nothing unwholesome in any of the above arrangements.

There are some lay teachers who do sell Dhamma books for a profit and that is a different issue. Perhaps if they did not do that, there may not be as many Dhamma books on the shelves at stores or as much information out there. The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma, so that is a more difficult issue.
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:05 pm

Peter wrote:I disagree. I think of all those people who discover Buddhism from browsing at the local bookstore. The books you find in bookstores are printed using the model of "pay for the printing, recoup the costs by selling the books". The fact is, many people get their books by going to bookstores. Other people get their books by visiting temples and finding stuff given out for free. It is really skillful to ignore the first group and only focus on the second group?

May I extend on this point?

I have a quite a number of Dhamma books that I got for free from temples, bookstores, and by writing to the publishers. That's great. However, some of them are not so easy to get hold of because print runs are sporadic and they are not distributed by major bookstores. Books from non-profits such as Wisdom and BPS are readily available for order from a number of on-line bookstores.

Mike
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:58 am

gavesako wrote:If it was done with the "bodhicitta aspiration" (helping others to attain enlightenment) then it might be justified. But in Theravada terms, there might be some problems with it, even though in the Bhikkhu Vinaya there is no such thing as "stealing intellectual property" (a modern idea).



Dear Bhante

What about the Vinaya Samukkamsa in Mv 6.40.1?
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