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Ruling on Using E-Books and Programs without Permission of their Owners

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
Around (85%) of computer users worldwide use illegal software. What is the ruling of Sharia on this? Moreover, what is the ruling on my building a website using such software to generate some profit? This is knowing that every computer in Jordan and other countries contains illegal software. The aim behind my project is to provide the best service possible where a person can find any software in my website. Do e-books and programs have material and intellectual property rights because (100%) of the world population exchange them without buying them through the internet? If my website generates profit through ads, not through selling these books and programs, am I considered sinful?

Answer:

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Innovation rights as well as copyrights-including e-books and programs-are moral rights to whom they belong. Thus, it isn`t permissible to dispose of them without the permission of the latter. According to contemporary practice, these rights have a financial value because they generate income to their owners and are considerable from the perspective of Sharia. Consequently, any act of transgression against them isn`t permissible, as stated in Resolution No.(43) of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy.

Moreover, the fact that most people use illegal software doesn`t make this a lawful act. Each one of them had violated rights that should have been respected and preserved. Had any of them invented a program or authored a book and it was used without their permission they wouldn`t approve of that. The evidence on this is that Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself".

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. And Allah the Almighty knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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