Downloading PDF files that might be copyrighted
Fatwa No: 338512

  • Fatwa Date:9-1-2017 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 11, 1438
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum, Shaykh. Please do not direct me to other fatwas since the question is unique. I am a university student, so I want to download PDF's so that I may use them to study for my exams. However, given that Islam protects the copyright, I fear that those PDF's are parts of books that have been uploaded, but I am not sure of that. So, Shaykh, should I avoid downloading all PDF's, or is it permisible for me to download it and is it only haram for those who upload the books since I cannot differentiate which parts are from books and which are not?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger. 

The view that we adopt is that intellectual property rights and other moral rights are protected and owned by their respective owners, and it is not permissible to transgress them. The Islamic Fiqh Council and most scientific councils issued a fatwa to this effect.

Therefore, it is not permissible to upload and publish copyrighted books without permission from their owners, and it is also not permissible to download them because all of this is a violation of the rights of the owners of these books.

However, in the event that they are published online and there is no indication that they are subject to copyright, then there is nothing wrong with downloading them because doubt is not taken into account.

It should be noted that some scholars are of the view that it is permissible to copy software programs for personal use only, especially if someone is in need of them. Ibn 'Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said about copying disks, “I think that if a person copies them for his own personal use, then there is no harm, but if he copies them in order to trade with them (to sell them), then this is not permissible as there is harm on others in this case.” [Excerpted from Liqaa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh – the open door meeting]

If you wish to act according to this view for a need, then it is hoped that there is no harm on you for doing so. If someone acts according to the easiest opinion in a particular issue or two issues, and the like, for a need, then there is no harm – Allah willing. This is not considered following concessions which is dispraised.

For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 278614.

Allah knows best.

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