Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

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

Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Digity » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:19 am

I think downloading illegal content is stealing, but what if someone gives you something that was downloaded illegally? Is that considered stealing? You didn't commit the act of downloading it, but someone else did and sent it to you. Thoughts?
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby plwk » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:29 am

Is it a choice for you to refuse it?
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby SamKR » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:41 am

It sounds similar to eating meat of an animal killed by someone else.
But still I think it is better to avoid illegal stuff even if downloaded by others.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:53 am

Digity wrote:I think downloading illegal content is stealing, but what if someone gives you something that was downloaded illegally? Is that considered stealing? You didn't commit the act of downloading it, but someone else did and sent it to you. Thoughts?


There are laws in many countries regarding the illegality of "receiving stolen goods". Those laws can be seen as a bellwether regarding community expectation and ethics.
Like Sam said - it is in respect somewhat similar to the ethics of one who purchases or receives meat. My question to you is how proximate are you to the act of pirated download? Did you know the download was pirated? Did you encourage the person or entice in any way so as to effect the pirating? Did you speak in praise of pirating? If so, then you are in effect, breaching sila.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:55 am

It is the license to use the product that needs to paid for, not the binary data that its made of.

Someone once downloaded a cracked version of a software product that I asked him to buy a license for my use. I used it for ages, without knowing anything until I tried to upgrade it. The software vendor then told me that I was using a cracked version.

It was hard to explain how a monk came to be using illegal software — :embarassed:

Fortunately, he understood and donated a license to me because I had been helpful in the product's support forums.

It is not the same as the ethics of purchasing meat. Killing animals is wrong action and earning a living by selling meat is wrong livelihood according to Buddhism, but its not illegal, so buying meat is not the same as buying stolen goods at cut-down prices, or getting illegal downloads for free.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Digity » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:09 am

Ben wrote:There are laws in many countries regarding the illegality of "receiving stolen goods". Those laws can be seen as a bellwether regarding community expectation and ethics.
Like Sam said - it is in respect somewhat similar to the ethics of one who purchases or receives meat. My question to you is how proximate are you to the act of pirated download? Did you know the download was pirated? Did you encourage the person or entice in any way so as to effect the pirating? Did you speak in praise of pirating? If so, then you are in effect, breaching sila.
kind regards,

Ben

Almost everyone I know downloads illegal stuff...I use to pirate. I don't encourage it, but I don't tell people they shouldn't do it. If I'm not sure if it was downloaded illegally does that make it okay?
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:15 am

If you didn't know it was downloaded illegally than I wouldn't worry about it.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby SamKR » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:21 am

Intention is Kamma, so we should check what is our intention when we act.

Personally, sometimes when I do things which I consider unethical (but which I can't avoid) then I remember the following from Milindapanha and somewhat console myself that I am knowingly picking up hot iron ball:

The king asked: "Venerable Nagasena, for whom is the greater demerit, one who knowingly does evil, or one who does evil unknowingly?"

The elder replied: "Indeed, your majesty, for him who does evil not knowing is the greater demerit."

"In that case, venerable Nagasena, would we doubly punish one who is our prince or king's chief minister who not knowing does evil?"

"What do you think, your majesty, who would get burned more, one who knowing picks up a hot iron ball, ablaze and glowing, or one who not knowing picks it up?"

"Indeed, venerable sir, he who not knowing picks it up would get burned more."

"Indeed, your majesty, in the same way the greater demerit is for him who does evil not knowing."

"You are clever, venerable Nagasena."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... iln-3-7-08

By saying this I am not encouraging to do any unethical stuff. :) Best not to even touch the hot iron ball knowingly or unknowingly.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby James the Giant » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:58 am

I remember being surprised when I read about this in the Buddhist Monastic Code.... I seem to remember it's one of the rare instances where the vinaya is less strict than our modern laws.
I can't remember it clearly... I might look it out tomorrow if nobody does tonight.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Mr Man » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:20 am

Hi Digity
I think you should look at why you even have the question.
:anjali:
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby James the Giant » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:45 pm

Here it is, and the answer may be surprising to some: there is NO offense for receiving stolen goods, even knowingly.

From The Buddhist Monastic Code, about halfway down this page...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch04.html
Receiving stolen goods. Accepting a gift of goods or purchasing them very cheaply, knowing that they were stolen, would in Western criminal law result in a penalty similar to stealing itself. However, neither the Canon nor the commentaries mention this case. The closest they come is in the Vinita-vatthu, where a groundskeeper gives bhikkhus fruit from the orchard under his care, even though it was not his to give, and there was no offense for the bhikkhus. From this it can be inferred that there is no offense for receiving stolen goods, even knowingly, although a bhikkhu who does so would not be exempt from the civil law and the consequent proceedings, in the course of which the Community would probably urge him to disrobe.

Argue with Thanissaro Bhikkhu if you like.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Strive4Karuna » Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:47 pm

What do you guys think about downloading tv shows that are not available for purchase? If it was available in DVD or Blu-Ray box format then yes I would say it is unethical. But what if it was never made available for purchase?
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:57 pm

Strive4Karuna wrote:What do you guys think about downloading tv shows that are not available for purchase? If it was available in DVD or Blu-Ray box format then yes I would say it is unethical. But what if it was never made available for purchase?


It is irrelevent.
Taking that which is not freely given is a breach of sila.
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:59 pm

Strive4Karuna wrote:What do you guys think about downloading tv shows that are not available for purchase? If it was available in DVD or Blu-Ray box format then yes I would say it is unethical. But what if it was never made available for purchase?

Maybe the "Does illegal downloading violate the 2nd precept" thread have the answer?
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:04 am

Strive4Karuna wrote:What do you guys think about downloading tv shows that are not available for purchase? If it was available in DVD or Blu-Ray box format then yes I would say it is unethical. But what if it was never made available for purchase?


By downloading illegally, you are stealing their right to build anticipation for the next broadcast, which lowers the price which they can charge for commercials. Even if you consider this an unfair corporate practice, it is still a minor form of theft. I'm sure the value of your download is well below the value to be kicked out of a monastery, but still serious enough that one should refrain.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby BlackBird » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:19 am

If you cannot buy the dvd, and the show's not on tv, I wouldn't see it as morally reprehensible to download it.
I happen to think there's quite a moral difference between internet piracy and real theft. But others of course have a different opinion.

It's not a black and white issue and imo downloading shows and movies etc is more like receiving stolen goods than it is actually stealing, since you're not depriving anyone of anything physical, and you're not the one who ripped it from the legitimate copy. So the person you're downloading it from has offered it to you freely and in most cases the ripper obtained the copy legally, so he didn't steal it either, what he did do was distribute a copy of said material to others which is a breach of most EULA's and in most countries is illegal. Some may agree with the above but argue that by doing so I'm depriving them of profits they would have otherwise have received, and my answer is no, because in most cases I wouldn't have bought it in the first place. If I find an emerging artist or production company that I feel needs the money, or deserves it I will be more than willing to pay for the goods.

So I don't think it's a good fit for the definition of "theft," and I personally wouldn't feel the need to renew the precept should I download something I know I don't have the copyright for. I don't feel bad, and it doesn't seem to affect my meditation the way other things might. I don't feel its a breach of sila, or at worst - Not a serious one, but that's just my view and it's not necessarily the right one.

People who are absolutists either in favour of piracy or against it I feel are closed minded on this issue.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:25 am

BlackBird wrote:People who are absolutists either in favour of piracy or against it I feel are closed minded on this issue.


I couldn't agree more, Jack.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:59 pm

Digity wrote:I think downloading illegal content is stealing, but what if someone gives you something that was downloaded illegally? Is that considered stealing? You didn't commit the act of downloading it, but someone else did and sent it to you. Thoughts?


Downloading is taking what is freely given by the other guy, otherwise you couldn't download it in the first place. I don't know if Buddha ever said anything about a stealing a "right".

What next, asking permission to breath? You are breathing in air that someone else could have breathed in...
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby fivebells » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:57 pm

James the Giant wrote:Here it is, and the answer may be surprising to some: there is NO offense for receiving stolen goods, even knowingly.

From The Buddhist Monastic Code, about halfway down this page...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch04.html


There's another section in there which may apply directly to digity's question:

Modern cases. The modern world contains many forms of ownership and monetary exchange that did not exist in the time of the Buddha, and so contains many forms of stealing that did not exist then either. Here are a handful of cases that come to mind as examples of ways in which the standards of this rule might be applied to modern situations.

Infringement of copyright. The international standards for copyright advocated by UNESCO state that infringement of copyright is tantamount to theft. However, in practice, an accusation of copyright infringement is judged not as a case of theft but as one of "fair use," the issue being the extent to which a person in possession of an item may fairly copy that item for his/her own use or to give or sell to another person without compensating the copyright owner. Thus even a case of "unfair use" would not fulfill the factors of effort and object under this rule, in that — in creating a copy — one is not taking possession of an item that does not belong to one, and one is not depriving the owners of something already theirs. At most, the copyright owners might claim that they are being deprived of compensation owed to them, but as we have argued above, the principle of compensation owed does not rightly belong under this rule. In the terminology of the Canon, a case of unfair use would fall under either of two categories — acting for the non-gain of the copyright owners or wrong livelihood — categories that entail a dukkaṭa under the general rule against misbehavior (Cv.V.36). They would also make one eligible for a disciplinary transaction, such as reconciliation or banishment (see BMC2, Chapter 20), which the Community could impose if it saw the infringement as serious enough to merit such a punishment.

Copying computer software. The agreement made when installing software on a computer, by which one agrees not to give the software to anyone else, comes under contract law. As such, a breach of that contract would be treated under the category of "deceit," described above, which means that a bhikkhu who gives software to a friend in defiance of this contract would incur the penalty for a broken promise. As for the friend — assuming that he is a bhikkhu — the act of receiving the software and putting it on his computer would be treated under the precedent, mentioned above, of the bhikkhus receiving fruit from an orchard groundkeeper not authorized to give it away: He would incur no offense. However, as he must agree to the contract before installing the software on his computer, he would incur a penalty for a broken promise if he then gave the software to someone else in defiance of the contract.
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Re: Someone gives you something that's downloaded illegally?

Postby MoDi » Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:28 pm

I've always wondered about this, actually:

We own a TV, but we don't watch it. We also own a VCR and other recording devices.

Now, is it "stealing" if you download a show that you would get easily by just turning on the TV at a specific time? For instance, a basic channel that plays free TV. Is it considered stealing if you download that show, or is it just like you are using the internet as a VCR/TiVo/etc.?
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