The Issue of Copyright
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I trade in CDs and software. However the material I acquire and put up for sale violates the copyrights of its producers. The original material is so expensive that I cannot even imagine doing business if I buy it from the original owners given its availability at almost one tenth its real value in our local markets. What should I do?


It is perfectly legal as well as ethical for a person, group, institute, company etc to formulate rules and regulations to safeguard their product. These rules stipulated by the producer must be followed in letter and spirit by all those who want to benefit from its products. Consequently, breech of such rules is a moral offence and in most societies and countries it is a legal offence as well. However, in circumstances such as yours in which illegal copying and piracy has reached such an extent that it is not possible to survive in the market by insisting on the purchase of some commodity: -- perhaps a software for example from the original owner, a new dimension is added to the whole affair. The Hanafite jurists call such situations as ‘Umūm-i-Balwah (pervasion of evil). This means that a particular evil has become so rampant in a society that people are no longer in a position to avoid it. In such circumstances, an evil may have to be adopted on the pretext that there is no way out. This of course does not make an evil a good thing intrinsically.

However, contrary to such cases as yours, in cases where copyright laws can be followed, they must be followed. For example, if it is necessary to reproduce a chapter of a book in a journal and the permission of the publisher or the author has to be sought, then this must be done, and, if they refuse, one must refrain from such reproduction.

In your case, the perhaps the only solution for you to follow copyright laws is to close down your business. This of course is something which only you can decide. If you think that this would be not be possible for you, then you have the plea to continue under compulsion.


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