For millions of people around the world the word of their particular God provides a moral compass for living life in an appropriate manner.
While there are plenty of variations, most faiths agree that it is unacceptable to steal, for example.
Inevitably there are gray areas and the issue of copyright provides a perfect example. Rightsholders constantly push the notion that infringement is theft so it’s no surprise that some people draw the same conclusion.
Over in Turkey the country’s top religious body has been handling the issue at the behest of citizens. Is downloading content without permission from rightsholders acceptable under Islam?
In response to a question asking whether the activity is ‘halal’ (permissible), the Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet as it’s known locally, issued a fatwa (ruling).
Great value should be placed on labor and there should be opposition to “unjust enrichment” from the work of others,” Diyanet said.
“The Prophet also stressed the importance of paying for one’s labor on several occasions,” it said, warning that “[property] rights violations [are still common] as technology develops and human labor has started to appear in more diverse forms.”
“Such unfair acts [such as downloading pirated software] not only usurp the individuals’ rights, they also discourage people who work in those sectors from creating new products, turning the matter into a public rights violation in a broader sense,” Diyanet said.
But it wasn’t only followers of Islam that required guidance on file-sharing from religious bodies this week. The same question was also posed to the Catholic Church via the site Crux.
“My boyfriend is a tech geek, by profession and vocation. He was an early adopter of the Internet and believes strongly in its founding values — that ‘information wants to be free’,” the question from ‘Starving Artist’ began.
“I admire his geek credentials and tech skills, but there’s something he does, with pride, that bugs me a lot. He pirates everything.
“I am a writer, and can earn a living only if other people buy the things I write. I feel my boyfriend is undermining me — if not directly, then indirectly. Who is right?”
The response was predictable – the woman’s boyfriend is “stealing” – but the advice for negotiating the problem in the relationship is a novel one.
“Agree that whenever he spends $7.99 on a movie instead of downloading it for free, the two of you will put a few cents — representing the artist’s take — in a jar,” Crux wrote.
“When the jar is full, the two of you can go out to a romantic dinner and have the kind of human interaction that no download can provide.”
Crux contributor Chris McLaughlin was underwhelmed by the reply.
“The purpose of the copyright monopoly (which is a law of man not of God) isn’t to enable somebody to make money, and never was. Its sole purpose was and is to advance humanity as a whole. The monopoly begins and ends with the public interest; it does not exist for the benefit of the author and inventor,” McLaughlin writes.
“I wonder if the Church would have ever got started at all, if Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had demanded a royalty every time Paul set up in a new city.”