The popular conception of software piracy is that it is the activity of a minority of isolated pirate-hobbyists, copying and trading software for their personal consumption. Microsoft’s allegations reflect a reality that software piracy has expanded from the bedrooms of computer wiz kids to a global trade in stolen software accounting for untold billions of dollars in lost revenue to the software industry. But Microsoft’s statement is even more telling, in that it indicates the impact of software piracy goes far beyond lost income for software company shareholders. It affects lost jobs in local economies, lost tax revenues to governments, and decreased quality and increased prices for consumers whether private individuals, educational institutions, or businesses.
What is Ethics?
Ethics has been defined as:
“The normative science of the conduct of human beings living in societies – a science which judges this conduct to be right or wrong, to be good or bad or in some similar way.
Some key terms used in this definition are briefly explained for a better understanding of the concept.
What is the Software piracy?
Software piracy refers to the unauthorized duplication and use of computer software. Software developers work hard to develop solid software programs. If those applications are pirated and stolen, the software developers will often be unable to generate the revenue required to continue supporting and expanding those applications. The effects of software piracy impact the entire global economy. The reduced revenues often divert funding from product development, and result in less research and less investment in marketing
Software is intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws in most countries. Most software licenses grant users the permission to use the software, but the license holder does not “own” the software — they simply own a license to “use” the software. Pirating software, circumventing the copy protection, and not properly licensing the software is illegal in most of the world. And in most countries, it is illegal to violate or circumvent software copyrights. Unfortunately, due to the global nature of the Internet, it is often difficult to enforce those copyright laws. If the pirate or offender is located in a country that does not respect copyright laws, it can be difficult to enforce penalties against software pirates.
Software piracy is one of the most influential factors threatening the software industry in its effort to create a global marketplace for its products. According to the BSA (Business Software Alliance, 2008), the software industry lost US$48 billion worldwide from piracy in 2008, US$8 billion more than the prior year. The rate of software piracy reached 38% worldwide in 2007.
The copyright infringement of software, or software piracy, is illegal in many countries. Even in countries where there are not legal measures in place for the protection of copyrighted software, there are some compelling ethical issues that may be considered both for and against software piracy
The Difference Between Islamic and Other Ethical Philosophies
It should be obvious from the preceding discussion that the Islamic Ethical philosophy differs from the other philosophies on two basic accounts:
The origin or the motivating factor in adherence to ethical principles under the Islamic ethical philosophy is primarily the articles of faith of Islam. In other words, ethical behavior, under the Islamic ethical philosophy is a requisite of the articles of Islamic faith. An attitude of deviation from ethical principles is a practical negation of ascription to the very elements of Islamic faith.
The practical application of ethical principles of the Shari`ah, with the basic universal ethical principles themselves, are a part of the basic code of ethical conduct in Islam. Thus, refraining from Riba is as much a part of the Islamic code of ethics as dealing with others in a just manner.
‘Why Be Ethical?’ in the Islamic Perspective
In one of the preceding sections, we had seen that the various schools of moral philosophers have given their own answers to the question that why should a person choose to behave in a manner that is considered to be in keeping with the ethical norms and standards of his society. In this section, we shall see what is the answer to this question from the Islamic perspective.
Before we consider the answer to the said question in the Islamic perspective, it seems necessary to clarify that in a number of situations, the question of deviating from an ethical principle does not even arise. Let us take ‘honesty’, as a case in point. There are a number of situations in one’s life where there is absolutely no reason to deviate from honesty. For instance, if someone, under normal circumstances, asks me my name, I am not likely to deviate from the principle of ‘honesty’. I would, in most of the cases, tell him my name very ‘honestly’. It is only under circumstances where a high – material, physical or emotional – price is likely to be paid or a great benefit likely to be sacrificed that one needs a good reason to adhere to ‘honesty’. The same would hold true for all ethical principles. It is only under circumstances where adherence to ethical or moral values is likely to be followed by a loss that this adherence needs a reason.
The reason for such adherence, from the Islamic perspective is simply that it is a direct requirement of the articles of faith of Islam to adhere to such ethical or moral principles, irrespective of the volume of cost that has to be borne or that of the benefit that may be lost. The declaration of Imaan (faith) not followed by good deeds, in the eyes of Islam, is either hypocrisy or ignorance.
A person who truly believes in the Islamic articles of faith (Tawheed , Risalah and Aakhirah ) cannot be unmindful of the practical requirements of these articles of faith. Ignorance of the practical requirements of these articles of faith, translates into ignorance of the articles of faith themselves. Furthermore, being unmindful of fulfilling these requirements practically refutes the very existence of true Imaan in one’s heart
Islamic Perspective of software piracy.
Most of the currently accepted western basic principles of ethics in research are consistent with the instructions of Islam (Editorial, 2006). Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) said, I was sent to complete the epitomes of Ethics (Abdel-Baky, 1951). The teaching of Islam covers all the fields of human activity. The instructions, which cover everyday activity is called Shar’iah. Western countries do not understand why Muslims are against implementation of secularization in their countries. We have to understand that Islam is not only a religion; it is a way of life. As mentioned earlier, the Shar’iah controls every day activities of Muslims (Editorial, 2006).
Our societies have different rules that make us different from the other countries. Unlike western countries, Islamic societies lack a differentiation of secular and sacred. All Muslims are requested to behave according to Islamic jurisprudence. Islam has a different concept of property, which entails different views of the intellectual right. In general, Islamic jurisprudence is inclined more toward the public interest when it contradicts with individual interests.
Recording computer programs videos or others is forbidden unless permitted by their owner. Here is the Fatwa of the permanent council of Fatwa in Saudi Arabia:
“It is unlawful to make copies of programs whose rights are reserved to their owners except with the permission of these owners. The Prophet said: “Muslims are bound by the conditions they set amongst themselves”.
The Prophet also said: “Nobody is permitted to take the property of a Muslim unless the Muslim permits him voluntarily to do so”.
The Prophet also said: “Whoever takes hold of a lawful thing before others, he has more right to possess it than others” [Abu Dawood]. So, it is forbidden to copy these programs without the permission of their owners regardless of their being Muslims or non-Muslims. So, if the owner of these programs forbids only public copying and allows private one, the person can copy the program for private use as stipulated. But if he forbids both public and private copying it becomes then absolutely forbidden to copy these programs.
Some companies put a sign meaning, “I swear not to abuse your program or use an unauthorized copy of it”. So, if the person does not comply with his oath that is a major sin which could lead one to being thrown in Hell-fire.
Another fatwa in regards to pirate software:
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the World; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
There is disagreement among contemporary Muslim scholars concerning copying CDs that whose rights are reserved by their owners.
First, some scholars do not legalize copying CDs. And this is the opinion of the permanent committee for Fatwa in Saudi Arabia. Their answer is as follows:
‘It is not permissible to copy these CDs without permission of owners. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “Muslims are required to honor conditions that they have agreed upon” . Abu Dawood and al-Saiyouti regards this Hadith as sound.
Another Hadith reads: “A Muslim’s property does not become Halal without his consent” [ al-Tirmizi who said good and sound].
A third Hadith reads: “Whoever antecedes (others) to something Halal, he becomes more entitled to possess it” [ Abu Dawood , al-Maqdisi regards it sound].
There is no difference on this ruling whether an owner is a Muslim or non-Muslim.
If the owner states that copying for benefit is not allowed, this means it is permitted to have some special copy for private use. But, if he does not give any permission, then it is Haram to copy by any means and ways.
Second, some scholars believe that it is Halal to copy these CDs as long as for private (not trade) use, especially for students who need these CDs and do not find the original copy or even the money to buy them.
However, the safest position for a Muslim is to avoid buying or using copied CDs, nor to copy them. If it becomes difficult to find the original copies, then there is no harm to buy copied ones, provided that does not lead one to vow falsely.
Getting ahold of software without buying it is increasingly easy; whether by borrowing a friend’s copy or downloading it illegally from the Internet, millions of people around the world do it.
Software business consider as a normal business that include contracts and conditions, so Islam attached extraordinary importance to the fulfillment of contracts and promises. A Muslim trader should be truthful, kept up his trusts, promises and contracts. According to Islam it is desirable to put in black and white all the business contracts and dealings. As stated in the Quran: – “O you believers! Fulfill your contracts” (5:1). That means we are responsible as a exist nation that live in the same planet with other nations, we should respect all the rules of the world trading and business even the technology side.
Whoever has used these programs is obliged to repent to Allaah and seek forgiveness from their owners either verbally [face to face], or by telephone, or e-mail, or by any other means of communication. If they do not accept to let him have those programs free of charge, he should recompense them financially according to the price of those programs.
We should as Muslims participate in the right ways and we have to play a good role on the ethical issues and fight the misunderstanding of using piracy in our society.
In order to stop using piracy software I suggest that we should pressure our government to support the specialists of ICT to improve the skills of creating and innovation software that scale with the economy of Islamic countries.