MuslimMatters posted an article on copyrighting. I have to say a few things. In regards to the software, I have to agree with MM and the other comments. There are a number of alternatives out there but they do not really go against copyrighting. They merely say, here is a faster, more legit method. To be honest, the same person who does piracy knows he can borrow DVDs from his local library for free (well, 25 cents for a library card but after that nothing). So it really throws into question the comparison of a digital piracy library vs. a public government sanctioned library. They are essentially the same. Think on it.
However, I remember that Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-`Uthaymeen said that: “this question should be judged according to the custom of the people. However, if a person wants to make a copy for his personal use and the owner of these programs does not express objection for doing so, then there is nothing wrong. In contrast, if the owner of these programs expresses his objection to copying for personal and public use, then making copies of them is unlawful.”
The customs of the people here in the West is to allow downloading, regardless of what the law may say. Some European countries have even legalized it and it seems that it is only a matter of time until this is legalized. Internet providers are well-aware that their clients engage in downloading and they will not say openly that this is wrong. Why? They engage in it as well. It’s similar to prohibition of alcohol in the USA. Too many people did it and so it was legalized. If you want to learn more about the other side I suggest you watch Steal This Film where you see how pirates are being attacked by the US film industry for what they do-even though they are not breaking the laws of their country. They make a number of good points such as, “Arguing piracy takes away business from film industries is like arguing that home-cooking takes away business from restaurants” or for us Muslims, as ridiculous as saying “Buying Islamic books will take people away from the Masjids” You get the point.
Now I want to turn the attention to Islam in the Digital world and how piracy is implicated in the growth of the Ummah. First of all, much of the discussion on piracy has been indirectly focused on general Islamic torrent websites. The people who run these sites are not heartless monsters-they have a policy to remove any content upon request. All you have to do is request them to remove it. Simple as that. End of discussion as far as Muslim piracy is concerned. In fact, some Muslim media companies have monitors on these websites to watch the flow of their content. Other times, these websites are used to advertise and promote some of their material. I can cite examples of this.
The importance of piracy in the Ummah should be noted. The instant an event or some form of Muslim media is released anywhere on the net-virtually everybody has it or knows of it. In fact many Muslim scholars have developed a high reputation due to the Internet and piracy. What this now allows us is the ability to all learn the deen at the same rate and to accelerate it if we so wish too. We, as an Ummah, are now connected throughout the world. It works very simply and everybody is aware of it. Somebody first records an event on their camera or audio recorder or rips and Islamic lecture onto a website. It gets online and hundreds download it, listen to it on their Ipods and upload it to youtube or better yet the barrage of “Muslim youtubes” out there or any number of websites such as kalamullah. From there it is downloaded-reuploaded and the cycle continues so that content never dies out. Alhamdulillah, I guess you could say. Parsimonious enough, this succeeds in getting into the masses of Muslims. Now ironically enough the person who may be criticizing copyright breaking in Islam-is the same person who engages in this aforementioned process, knowingly or unknowingly.
There are a number of factors that keep this process going. Technology allows us to film lectures in average quality using nothing more than a cellphone. Once digital photographic cameras now allow there users to film and edit. If it could be stopped it would’ve been stopped but it hasn’t. Perhaps it has yet to be. It is difficult to imagine that AlMaghrib or Hamza Yusuf would have such a following if these methods had not been employed. But there have been consequences of a hyperaware tech-savvy Muslim culture. The up and close nature has allowed escapades such as Undercover Mosques. Imams are no longer under the microscope-they are under an electron(ic) microscope that peers at them not from the All-Seeing high above but hidden right in front of their very faces.
So I say, for my part that we should work with and utilized as a tool to further this Ummah. There is nothing stopping these Muslim companies from monitoring and removing certain content they would rather see not spread. But they should not be to tightfisted as it may counteract the growth of the Ummah.
It is amazing in one part that the world has grown so fast technologically. But it is even more amazing that Muslims have adjusted this to their advantage. Look at Muslims in the West ten or twenty years ago and realize how much has changed. We have not been left as far behind as we may be lead to believe and we should thank Allah for this.
I want you to consider this statistic: 64% of wired Americans have used the Internet for spiritual or religious purposes. That is about 82 million people. Now pause and reflect on how the Islamic media on the Internet has changed your outlook on Islam. Remember a Muslim is demanded to give his brother 70 excuses. Perhaps this brother is limited-he is either to far away to purchase a lecture from a store or does not have the funds to purchase it online (being an immigrant community, Muslims are still wary of the Internet, with downloading they at least get what they are looking for). But this Muslim downloads from websites and he continues to download. He recreationally listens to talks and watches videos that gradually build up. He is Islamically growing. Before you know it he is giving Friday khutbahs when he didn’t even know how to pray 2 months ago. I know this process has happened many many times and should not be ignored. And I believe that this process is the bedrock that has made Islam so big on the Internet.
The point of this post was to at least let people think and consider for themselves their own position and know the mechanics of our media on the net.
Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdik ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.