Friday, June 01, 2007

software piracy on a legacy product - what is the halacha?

My son asked if it is permitted to copy a computer game which is no longer made by the company. I explained that geneiva usually refers to a physical object and not intellectual property, and that issues like these usually fall under the rubric of hasagas gevul or yoreid l'toch umnaso shel chaveiro because of the profit denied to the company. The question here arises because the game is no longer made (same issue would come up if the company was out of business) and sold by the manufacturer. Copying the legacy game provides a benefit to the user with no profit loss to the company no longer distributing it. I have not gone through the sugya of intellectual property issues and halacha thoroughly, but the sevara here seems pretty strong. Any thoughts?

13 comments:

  1. Can one invoke dina d'malchusa dina a) In cases where the copyright is actively defended by the company?
    b) In cases where the copyright is not actively defended (but where the law still prohibits copying of the software).

    Wikipedia on Abandonware

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  2. My bad for not immediatly thinking of the dina d'malchusa issue. The issue may hinge on whether dina d'malchusa just allows the gvt to impose taxes or forces compliance with the broader scope of secular law. Just found this article
    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/halacha/schneider_1.htm
    In the case where a law serves no function (the company will not lose $), is one bound by dina d'malchusa to follow it?

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  3. I went to a Shiur by Rav Herschal Schachter on this topic. Basically one thing that he pointed out is that we have to obey by the DMD even if it doesn't seem to serve a function at that time. (He brought in an example about it being 2AM and you are at an intersection, you still need to wait at the red light even if there is clearly not a person for miles.
    (Also from a psychological perspective, even if a person does an Aveira that doesn't harm anyone and may not even be so bad, it still numbs the person and desensitizes themselves to that action...and may lead to worse thigngs. So the same could apply here, that if you are loopholing for this one thing, what stops it from being okey to loophole for others)

    Personally, I don't think the situation at hand is really on that same level and I would think it makes sense and is okay to do...

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  4. Mike S.10:45 PM

    On the other hand, at least if the copyright holder is Jewish, the beit din would probably compel permission to copy since "Cofin al midas s'dom".

    Of course, if the absence of the game were temporary, this might not apply. For instance, Disney places tapes of its classic movies on the market periodically, but only for limited times. One cannot copy them during the intervals when they are not on market. Also, if the manufacturer discontinued the legacy game to encourage the public to buy a successor of some kind, the copying is assur as well as illegal.

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  5. Anonymous7:22 PM

    It is completely allowed. Just make sure you have hired a top dollar lawyer.

    You know they make loopholes in laws to support the top dollar lawyer industry.

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  6. Bob Miller8:48 AM

    In cases of low volume copying as for oneself, how is it better to pay a lawyer as opposed to offering up front to pay the current owner of the intellectual property?

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  7. Anonymous1:07 PM

    Google thinks it is better. See Google v. Viacom.

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  8. Bob Miller3:05 PM

    Somehow, I think Google's economic calculation is a whole other thing than yours or mine.

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  9. Anonymous10:27 PM

    And so it the violation.

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