1 Cheshvan 5762
Hi. I have a question concerning downloading software on a computer from a copied cd. Someone gave me all these copies of really expensive software, but I feel bad downloading it because I feel like it’s stealing. Everyone is telling me that it’s fine though because the copies were not dubbed from the original, but they are copies, of copies, of copies (since everyone finds it perfectly ok to copy software).
Thank you for your interesting question. There are a number of Halachic issues that tie into your Shaaloh, and I’ll list some of them here. First of all is the issue of Dina D’Malchusa Dina- i.e. since copyright laws are laws passed for the good of the society by the government, violating them could very well be a violation of Halacha. Another issue involved here is that of theft of intellectual property from the software developers. A third issue that may be relevant is causing financial harm and a loss of livelihood, in a situation where you might have purchased the software if not for the fact that your friend gave it to you. Another important issue worth mentioning is that of Chillul Hashem, when friends and co-workers realize that something improper, if not illegal, was done by a religious Jew.
To cite all of the opinions involved in the relevance of the above issues would require a book, and indeed long articles and books have been written on this subject, and if and how the above issues might restrict you from using the software given to you by your friend. At this point I would just like to say that many Poskim that are expert in this area of Halacha agree that it is entirely improper and inappropriate for a Jew to use software in an illegal manner against the wishes of the companies that develop it, even if they are non-Jewish. Therefore, unless a person has an extremely urgent situation and they talk to a Rav who might explain to them in what circumstances it might be permissible to do so, a person should not use or benefit from “pirated” software in any way, and should do everything possible to discourage others from doing so.
Rabbi Aaron Tendler