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by (230 points)
Would copying or sharing digital content break the second precept in the same way that stealing physical goods would?

1 Answer

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by (7.7k points)
edited by

No it does not. To break the second precept, five conditions must be satisfied:

  1. An article belonging to another. 
  2. Knowledge that the article belongs to another.
  3. There must be the intention to steal. 
  4. Action must be taken to steal.
  5. By the action, the article must be taken. 
     

Software piracy is basically looking at the magnetic fields of an object belonging to another and creating similar magnetic fields in an object belonging to you. It qualifies as mimicking, not stealing.

If mimicking breaks the second precept, then it will also be broken if you fold your towel the same way some else does without first asking his permission.  Or If you look at someone else shaking his head and shake your head the same way without first asking his permission etc.

However, following the law of the country is something that is approved in Buddhism. So whether it breaks the second precept of not, if piracy is a crime in your country, best not to do it.

by (950 points)
This was a moral dilemma I was always concerned about because logically piracy is just making a copy, similarly taking a picture of the mona lisa is not stealing the actual picture!

Without having to create a new question, what about negative speech over the internet. I mean morally. Essentially when one writes a comment on the internet we are not directly communicating with a human being, we are writing text on a screen, so is negative karma actually created even if we directly wanted to harm someone with our speech over the internet via text?
by (7.7k points)
This should be asked as a separate question. We try to discourage asking unrelated questions in the comment section so the answers related to it will be in one place.
by (140 points)
Sorry, dont necessarily agree with the first answer. By definition piracy is theft, and all 5 precepts are met. Just because it is a different medium, is easy, and potentially no one knows, that doesn't make it ok. People work hard to make the movie, software, etc with the intention of copying it and selling it. Copying it without payment is theft.
by (7.7k points)
There is no question that people work hard to make movies, software etc. But a precept is not broken based on how hard people work.  The five conditions are not met here. Imitation does not amount to "taking of an article".

Piracy is theft by definition if you stick to the original definition of the word, i. e. the practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea.
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