Intellectual property rights, including copyrights, have become an important issue in today's globalized world. As the digital age has made it easier to reproduce and distribute information, it has become increasingly important to establish legal frameworks for protecting the rights of creators and publishers. Islamic law, which encompasses both religious and legal principles, has a lot to say about intellectual property rights, including copyrights. This research article aims to provide an overview of the Islamic rulings on copyrights, their historical development, and the debates surrounding them.
Historical Development of Copyrights in Islamic Law
The concept of copyright protection did not exist in pre-modern Islamic societies. However, there were legal and ethical principles that recognized the rights of authors and publishers. In the pre-modern era, books were copied by hand, and scribes were paid for their services. These scribes had a reputation to uphold and were unlikely to copy a book without the author's or publisher's permission.
The development of printing technology in the 19th century created new challenges for copyright protection in Islamic societies. European publishers began to print Arabic books without permission, and this caused concern among Muslim scholars. The Ottoman Empire was the first Muslim state to introduce copyright laws, with the Ottoman Intellectual Property Law of 1850.
In the 20th century, most Muslim countries introduced copyright laws that were modeled on European and American laws. However, there were concerns among Muslim scholars that these laws did not take into account Islamic principles and values. This led to debates among Islamic scholars about the nature and scope of copyright protection in Islam.
Islamic Law on Copyrights
Islamic law recognizes the importance of protecting intellectual property, including copyrights on books and other materials. However, the scope and extent of copyright protection in Islam are still subject to debate. Some Islamic scholars believe that all forms of intellectual property rights are prohibited in Islam because they restrict the free flow of knowledge and ideas. They argue that knowledge should be shared freely and that prohibiting its distribution is against the spirit of Islam.
Other scholars believe that copyright protection is permissible in Islam, as long as it does not harm the public interest. They argue that authors and publishers have the right to claim ownership of their works and to receive compensation for their efforts. These scholars base their arguments on Islamic principles such as the protection of property, prohibition of stealing, encouragement of knowledge, respecting contracts, and considering the public interest.
Analysing the Arguments
There are several arguments that are often made in favor of distributing PDFs online, even if the copyright owner has not given permission to do so. Some of these arguments include:
- Access to Knowledge: Some argue that distributing PDFs online makes important knowledge and information more widely available to people who may not have the resources or ability to access it otherwise. This argument is often used in the context of academic texts or religious texts, which may be difficult or expensive to obtain through traditional channels.
- Fair Use: Some argue that distributing PDFs online falls under the doctrine of fair use, which allows for limited reproduction of copyrighted material for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. This argument is often made in the context of academic research or commentary.
- Non-Commercial Use: Some argue that distributing PDFs online for non-commercial purposes does not harm the interests of the copyright owner, and may even benefit them by increasing the exposure of their work. This argument is often made in the context of sharing works of art or literature.
- Religious Considerations: Some argue that distributing religious texts online is a form of da'wah (proselytization) and spreading knowledge about Islam, and that this is a religious duty. This argument is often made in the context of sharing Islamic texts or sermons.
- Cultural Preservation: Some argue that distributing PDFs online can help preserve cultural heritage and prevent the loss of important works of literature or art. This argument is often made in the context of sharing works that are no longer in print or that are not widely available.
Analysing the Counter-Arguments
There are several counter-arguments to the distribution of PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner. Some of these arguments include:
- Violation of Property Rights: Distributing PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner is a violation of their property rights. In Islam, property rights are considered sacred, and it is prohibited to take someone else's property without their consent. Distributing copyrighted material without permission is therefore considered haram (forbidden) and goes against the principles of Islamic law.
- Harm to the Copyright Owner: Distributing PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner can harm their interests, particularly if the distribution is done on a large scale or in a way that competes with their own distribution channels. This can result in lost revenue for the copyright owner and may discourage them from creating or distributing new works in the future.
- Lack of Quality Control: Distributing PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner means that there is no quality control over the content that is being distributed. This can lead to errors, inaccuracies, or incomplete information being shared, which can be harmful to readers or researchers who rely on the content.
- Lack of Accountability: Distributing PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner means that there is no accountability for the distribution of the content. This can make it difficult to identify who is responsible for any errors or inaccuracies, or to take action against individuals who distribute copyrighted material without permission.
- Legal Consequences: Distributing PDFs online without the permission of the copyright owner can have legal consequences, including fines or even imprisonment, depending on the laws of the country in which the distribution occurs. In Islam, it is important to respect the laws of the land in which one resides, and violating copyright laws can therefore be considered haram from both a legal and ethical perspective.
Analysing the Impact Of Free Sharing (on the Author and Publisher)
There are several arguments to support the idea that copyright infringement can harm an author and lead to a loss of revenue. Some of these arguments include:
- Loss of Control: Copyright infringement can result in the loss of control over how the work is used and distributed. This loss of control can result in unauthorized use or distribution of the work, which can damage the author's reputation or even result in legal action.
- Reduction in Sales: When a work is illegally distributed, it reduces the demand for the original work. This reduction in demand can lead to a reduction in sales, which can result in a loss of revenue for the author or publisher.
- Loss of Revenue: Copyright infringement can also result in a direct loss of revenue for the author or publisher. When the work is distributed without permission or compensation, the author or publisher is not compensated for their effort and investment in creating the work.
- Competition with Author's Own Sales: When a work is illegally distributed, it can also compete with the author or publisher's own sales channels. This competition can result in lost sales, which can further exacerbate the loss of revenue for the author or publisher.
- Diminished Value: When a work is illegally distributed, it can also result in a diminished value of the work. This is because the work is no longer seen as unique or special and can be viewed as less valuable by potential buyers.
Ultimately, copyright infringement can harm the author or publisher in many ways. This is why copyright laws exist to protect the rights of authors and publishers and ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work.
Statistics on the Impact Of Copyright Infringement
There are several statistics and studies that support the argument that copyright infringement can harm authors and lead to a loss of revenue. Some of these statistics include:
- According to a 2019 study by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, copyright-intensive industries in the European Union contributed 7.6% to the EU's GDP and employed over 11 million people in 2016. This underscores the economic importance of protecting copyright in industries where it is a major factor.
- A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center found that copyright industries in the United States contributed over $1.3 trillion to the country's GDP and supported over 5.7 million jobs in 2015. This indicates the economic importance of copyright in the United States.
- A survey by the Authors Guild found that the median income for U.S. authors in 2017 was $6,080, down 42% from 2009. The study found that one factor contributing to this decline was the prevalence of piracy and unauthorized distribution of their works.
- A study by the UK Intellectual Property Office found that people who consume pirated content are more likely to spend less on legitimate content. This indicates that piracy can lead to a reduction in sales for legitimate works.
- A 2019 report by the International Chamber of Commerce found that the total value of physical and digital piracy of films, music, and software in the United States was $29.2 billion in 2017. This represents a significant loss of revenue for the industries that produce these works.
- A 2020 report by the Global Innovation Policy Center found that the global economic value of intellectual property rights infringements, including copyright infringement, was $2.3 trillion in 2019. This represents a significant loss of revenue for industries that rely on intellectual property protection.
- A 2017 study by the Institute for Policy Innovation found that copyright piracy cost the U.S. economy $29.2 billion in lost revenue and 373,000 jobs in 2017. The study noted that while piracy has decreased in recent years, it remains a significant problem for the U.S. economy.
- A 2019 report by the Software Alliance found that the global economic value of software piracy was $29 billion in 2018. The report noted that software piracy not only results in lost revenue for software companies, but also puts users at risk by exposing them to security threats.
- The Association of American Publishers (AAP) estimates that the publishing industry loses billions of dollars each year due to piracy and copyright infringement. In 2019, the AAP reported that the publishing industry lost $2.8 billion in revenue due to piracy and counterfeiting.
- A study conducted by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) found that online copyright infringement of books costs the UK publishing industry an estimated £200 million annually. The study also found that nearly 10% of ebooks consumed in the UK are pirated.
These statistics and studies demonstrate the potential harm that copyright infringement can cause to authors, publishers, and industries that rely on copyright protection. By protecting copyright, it is possible to preserve the economic value of creative works and ensure that authors and publishers are fairly compensated for their efforts.
Argument: Sharing PDF online is similar to sharing a physical book
Those who argue that sharing PDFs online is similar to sharing a physical book with others often point out that the act of sharing books has long been considered a way to promote literacy and knowledge-sharing. They may argue that the widespread availability of free PDFs online can help to spread important information to those who may not have access to physical books, such as those living in remote or economically disadvantaged areas.
Furthermore, they may argue that sharing PDFs online is similar to lending a book to a friend, which is generally considered to be an acceptable practice. They may also argue that since digital files can be easily copied and distributed, it is unlikely that sharing a PDF with one person will result in significant harm to the author or publisher.
Some may also argue that the high cost of books and academic journals, particularly in certain fields such as medicine or law, can make it difficult for students and researchers to access the information they need. Sharing PDFs online may be seen as a way to make this information more widely available and accessible to those who may not have the resources to pay for it.
Counter-Argument: Sharing PDF online is similar to sharing a physical book
The counterargument to the idea that sharing PDFs online is similar to sharing physical books with others centers around the idea that digital files are not the same as physical objects. Unlike physical books, digital files can be copied and distributed easily and without limit, which makes it difficult for authors and publishers to control how their works are being distributed.
Moreover, sharing PDFs online without permission from the author or publisher is considered copyright infringement and can have negative consequences for the creators and distributors of the work. The unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material can result in legal action, fines, and other penalties.
Additionally, authors and publishers invest significant time, effort, and resources into creating and publishing their works. The revenue generated from the sale of books and other published materials is often the primary source of income for authors and publishers, and copyright infringement can result in significant financial losses for them.
Furthermore, while sharing physical books can promote literacy and knowledge-sharing, the widespread availability of free PDFs online may actually have the opposite effect. When authors and publishers are not able to generate revenue from their works, they may be less likely to invest in new projects or update existing ones, which can ultimately limit the availability of new and updated information.
In summary, the counterargument to the idea that sharing PDFs online is similar to sharing physical books with others is that digital files are not the same as physical objects, and unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material can have negative consequences for the creators and distributors of the work. Additionally, copyright infringement can result in significant financial losses for authors and publishers and limit the availability of new and updated information.
The Wisdom Of Intellectual Property Right Protection in Islam
In Islam, the protection of other people's wealth is considered to be an important duty and an act of piety. This is based on the principle of "maqasid al-shariah," which refers to the objectives and purposes of Islamic law.
One of the main objectives of Islamic law is to protect people's property rights and to prevent theft and fraud. This is reflected in the Quranic verse that states,
"And do not consume one another's wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful]" (2:188).
Additionally, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
"Whoever takes the property of others with a right to do so, he will be carrying it on the Day of Resurrection as if it were a donkey saddled on his back" (Sunan Ibn Majah 2440).
This hadith highlights the seriousness of taking someone's property without their permission.
In addition to property rights, contract law is also relevant to copyright infringement. When a copyright owner publishes their work, they are essentially entering into a contract with the public, allowing them to access the work in exchange for compensation. Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates this contract by using the copyrighted work without the owner's permission. Here are some examples that support the ruling on copyright protection:
- Prohibition of Stealing: Islam prohibits theft and emphasizes the importance of respecting other people's rights. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever takes a piece of the land of others unjustly, he will sink down the seven earths on the Day of Resurrection." (Sahih Bukhari). This Hadith emphasizes the importance of respecting other people's property rights, including intellectual property rights.
- Respecting Contracts: In Islam, contracts are considered binding agreements that should be respected. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Muslims must abide by their conditions" (Sunan at-Tirmidhi). This Hadith emphasizes the importance of respecting contracts, including contracts related to intellectual property rights.
- Public Interest: Islam emphasizes the importance of considering the public interest in legal matters. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "There should be neither harm nor reciprocating harm" (Sunan Ibn Majah). This Hadith emphasizes the importance of considering the public interest in legal matters, including intellectual property rights.
Proofs from Quran and Hadith
The concept of intellectual property rights is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran or Hadith, but Islamic scholars have developed legal principles (fiqh) and guidelines to address issues related to copyrights, patents, and trademarks. There are several verses in the Quran and hadith that address the prohibition of harming someone's property:
- "And do not consume one another's wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful]" (Quran 2:188). This verse prohibits the unjust consumption of someone else's wealth, which could include copyright infringement.
- "Do not withhold the rights of the people, and do not practice extortion upon earth, spreading corruption" (Quran 26:183). This verse emphasizes the importance of respecting the rights of others and avoiding corruption, which could include infringing on someone's copyright.
- The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever cheats us is not one of us" (Sahih Muslim). This hadith emphasizes the importance of honesty and integrity in dealings with others, including respecting their intellectual property rights.
- The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said, "The property of a Muslim is not lawful for another Muslim without his permission" (Sahih Muslim). This hadith emphasizes the importance of seeking permission before using someone else's property, including their intellectual property.
These verses and hadith emphasize the importance of respecting the property rights of others and avoiding unjust consumption or infringement of their property, including intellectual property such as copyrights.
The following narration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
"That which is lawful is clear, and that which is unlawful is also quite clear. Between these two, there are doubtful matters about which people do not know whether they are lawful or unlawful. One who avoids them in order to safeguard his religion and his honor is safe, while if somebody indulges in these doubtful things, he may fall into what is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah's sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh, which, if it be whole, all the body is whole, and which, if it is diseased, all of [the body] is diseased. Truly, it is the heart." (Bukhari and Muslim)
This hadith highlights the importance of avoiding doubtful matters and sticking to what is clear and certain, in order to prevent harm and preserve one's own and others' wealth and well-being. This principle can also be applied to issues of financial dealings and transactions, where avoiding doubtful or questionable practices is key to upholding the principles of honesty, fairness, and justice in Islam, as in this case of copyright infringement.
In conclusion, it is important for individuals to understand the gravity of copyright infringement and the impact it has on the livelihoods of authors and publishers. The statistics clearly indicate that the practice of sharing PDFs online and engaging in copyright infringement causes significant harm to those in the creative industry. As Muslims, we are encouraged to uphold justice and respect for the property of others, even in the digital age. Although there may be different opinions and interpretations among Islamic scholars, it is important for individuals to act responsibly and carefully when it comes to sharing and distributing copyrighted material. As Muslims, we are encouraged to be cautious and avoid doubtful matters in order to safeguard our religion and honor. Therefore, we should fear Allah and act in accordance with Islamic teachings, even if the matter is doubtful. By doing so, we can uphold the principles of justice and respect for the property of others in the digital age.