Pirated Software

Question

Shalom, Over the past year, I have realized the severity of the problem and the transgressions involved in pirating items. I made a successful resolution not so long back to make sure everything I own is 100% legal. However, now that the High Holidays are rolling around, I am searching for a way to make a full amendment and teshuva for all that I did. In the past I: – downloaded music, movies, games, software – installed on my computer programs belonging to others (e.g. Windows) – used software past their evaluation period (where I had to either pay or uninstall it), with no intention to buy it, as I could continue using it past its evaluation period. However, now I have completely stopped all of that, and I am 100% clean. But, I keep on reading in books that one must ‘return what he stole’, that one must ‘increase his possessions by what he stole from’, ‘must make restitution’ and the like. However, I have stolen a non-usable commodity, so I am wondering how does one make restitution. Do I now have to go out and buy all of these items I was prepared to buy if I didn’t have the opportunity to download (such as Office, OS, many songs, movies, etc.)? However, if I was to physically do so, I would be deep in the negatives of money! Besides the other requirements of feelings of regret, etc. do I have an obligation to make restitution for all the above, and how would I go about making restitution? [could such a method include even for example preventing others from breaching copyright and informing them of the big problem?] Furthermore, a small relevant question as a side point: Many of my friends and the like still illegally copied programs on their computer. Am I able to use them, for example Word, despite them being illegal on his computer, as I have it legally installed on my computer at home? And also: The law of the land states that one cannot record off the radio, or off the TV as both broadcasts are copyrighted. One cannot even make a backup on CD and store it away in case he looses it, as classified as ‘reproducing’. However, these laws are not enforced. Therefore, by Jewish law, is one able to do these items without worrying about it? In summary: – How do I make full teshuva and restitution for all the copyright breaches I have made in the past? – Am I able to use software I own but on someone else’s computer that is installed illegally? – Am I able to record off the radio and TV broadcasts? Thank you very much. I know it is a task, but the time is ripe for Teshuva, and I am trying to get it all out now, so that the path and what is right will become clear to me. Thank you.

15 years

Answers

  1. Your approach is truly commendable and your desire to rectify any mistakes is one that we should all try to emulate! Having said that, I really think that as your question is so sensitive and the Laws themselves are so complex and detailed that you should speak with a local Orthodox Rabbi who is an expert on all the dimensions of Intellectual Property and their impact on Halacha.

    May Hashem bless you with a year of contentment and prosperity.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team