Digital Halachas: What's Stealing?

There is a good discussion going on at the Jewish Music Yahoo Board about what is considered stealing. A poster asked if anyone can help him refill his music collection because he once owned them but they became lost or damaged. He includes a list of 30 CD’s.

Right afterward a debate broke out about if you are allowed to do that. The poster claims he has asked a Rav and one of cd’s producers (sheya mendlowitz) and they both said as long as long as you once owned it you can copy it.

I wish I could tell you how many CD’s I once owned over the last 20 years but have become lost or damaged. I’d love to just go and recollect all of them by burning copies from people I know.

I think thats a flawed logic though, as another on the board also says and I don’t think its correct. If you currently own it then you should be able to copy it, but if you lost it or it got damaged then thats on you. To me it’s like anything else you buy and it breaks. If I buy a car and it gets stolen, can I go into the dealership and just take a new one? Of course most people have insurance for these sorts of things so if something big gets stolen they can have it replaced.

Which led me to a suggestion that music stores start selling music insurance for a few dollars extra. Then if your CD gets damaged or lost you can have it replaced.

The poster came back later and claimed:

“Say what you want. A Rav knows more about halacha than SOME of the artists in the buisness. People can make up their own rules about what is considered “ganeiva”, just because that’s what it FEELS like, but it’s not necessarily so.”

to which I responded:

You can ask 5 rabeieim and get 5 different answers. The Rabonim have not ironed out universal halachas regarding these things. There are rabanim in Eretz Yisroel who say you can copy a cd if if you didnt own it. The honorable thing to do is to go by the law of the land, deena dmalchus, and if you want to worry about yashrus ask the producer or artist directly. When it comes to something like this don’t you want to make sure?

Wasn’t the reason that Aderet started that leasing mishegas because there were highly respected Rabonim in Eretz Yisroel saying that you could copy any CD without limit? Thats why they went to a “leasing” agreement, because then you don’t keep any rights to the CD so its not your to copy. Of course THAT logic makes even less sense, but it was still done as a response to “a rav who knows more about halacha then SOME artists” and many of those same Rebbeim paskuned that there is no such thing as intellectual property with regards to cd’s so they can be copied.

Like I wrote in my response, I think you should follow the law of the land in this case because it’s very clear that Rabanim don’t have a unified answer to this question. I myself have asked more then one Rav and heard different answers. If one thing is certain its that Halacha doesn’t have a firm universal answer to digital technology with regards to whats considered stealing and what isn’t.

That’s why I say you need to go with the individual rights holders and Deena D’Malchus. When it comes to something like this I think we need to go the extra step. What says you the readers?

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You enjoyed this blog for 5 years, but sadly now the ride is over. We decided to move the archives here for people who want to go back and revisit old posts and for new people to discover the blog for the first time!
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