The Costs of Piracy on Copyrighted Works

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As an author and a digital creator of books for children, I constantly find both my free and paid products being passed around or uploaded to sites that give them for free. It’s one thing for people to do that and take credit for the work without attributing it to me, however, it’s another thing to distribute my paid products for free, even though both are just as bad. And let’s not even talk about people who take my free products, print them and sell them in their country as physical copies to others.

When asked why people freely distribute a paid product, the most common answer is: they’re helping the authors to get the barakah by reaching more people. They tell us that we shouldn’t sell Islamic products that can benefit the ummah. They try to make us guilty for charging a fee for our work. 

There are three main reasons why this thinking is wrong and not helpful.

Allah tells us to seek the Hereafter and the Dunya

But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (Quran, Al-Qasas 28:77)

Yes, our priority should be the akhirah but Allah did not tell us to only seek the akhirah. He told us to not forget our share of this world. So we must work in this world as well. If Allah gave you creativity then you should use it to help the ummah and support yourself and your family. If Allah gave you knowledge then you should use it to help the ummah and support yourself and your family. By the same token, if Allah gave you wealth then you should use it to help and support others not only yourself and your family.

Most authors/creators would stop producing altogether

Authors need to sell books to make a living just like a chef or cook needs to sell food. When an author cannot find a livelihood from her craft then she will find other means. There is no point in her working on something that she cannot earn anything from it, regardless of how talented she is. Some can afford to do this because they perhaps have financial support from their family but most do not. If you value her work then you should pay for it so she can continue to support her family and produce more. Otherwise don’t be surprised if you can no longer find her new products.

Muslims should support each other

Why is it that Muslims can spend on non-Muslim made products willingly but when it comes to a Muslim made product, they say that it should be ‘fi sabilillah’? Just because it was made by a Muslim does not mean that it should be free.

In order to grow stronger as an ummah we need to support each other’s work. The more we buy and promote Muslim made products, the more those author’s and businesses will grow. In return when they are financially strong they can invest back into the ummah and purchase more Muslim made products. This cycle makes more sense rather the one that stops Muslims from earning from their work. When Muslims stop producing Islamic works, everyone loses.

The next time you forward a pirated copy of a fellow Muslim’s work, think about the hard work that was put into it and the hardship that you may cause for the author. Before you press that forward button, do the righteous thing and delete. Then go and buy it officially from the author and recommend it to others so that they too can buy it.

My own thoughts are that it’s very disheartening when I see my copyrighted work being pirated freely. I put a lot of time and effort and yes even money to purchase clipart. Most of the time, I’d like to at least make back what I’ve spent on it. But that’s impossible when people don’t purchase it but give it away freely. When I stop buying clipart from others to support them then everyone loses out. The designers of the cliparts don’t get paid, the aesthetic quality of my work goes down (I’m not an artist). In the long term, I produce less because it’s very discouraging.

Here are a few more thoughts about plagiarism, copyright or piracy from other sisters:

Before sharing any material with friends, family or social media platform, please make sure that you read the conditions/copyright that come with the resource. If the copyright clearly states that you can’t share or copy without prior permission, then it’s an amanah and treat it as such. (Umm Affan Hashmi from The Odd Muslimah)

You might think you are helping the people to read the content by sharing the beautiful content just for the sake of Allah but please do think of the efforts that particular sister/brother has put in to give life to this stuff. The beautiful content which you see has too much work gone into it. Subhanallah you might even argue that when you do it for the sake of Allah you shouldn’t be greedy. But think of it from the shoes of the owner. It might be bread and butter for them. So even if the content is free please do check with the author/owner before sharing with others! May Allah reward all of us. (Salma Mehajabeen Shajahan from Alizeh My Soul)

Plagiarism or deliberately stealing someone’s words or ideas and taking the credit as if they’re the ones who wrote them or thought of them is almost similar to being a thief except in this case it’s a person’s writing that was stolen without their consent. Stealing is a major sin that shouldn’t be taken lightly. (Mariam Mababaya from Just Sharing Islam)

Please remember that the person who made those printables paid for every clip art (drawing) and font (letters) used in those pages. It costs money to make those printables and post them on their site. Even if they are giving it for free, it’s because they want readers to their site who are interested in their stuff.
They pay for hosting fees for their websites, e-mail marketing, sales pages and even PayPal cuts money when they get paid.
When you share their resources for free, don’t you feel heartless to do such injustice to them?
The only reason they are selling or putting their stuff online is because they want to make an income. They want recognition for their efforts. They may be struggling mothers with little children. Their products may not be able to cover even their groceries bill every month but atleast some money is better than no income at all to them.
Show respect for their work. If you like what you downloaded and feel others can benefit, share the source. Share their website or the link to the article or shop where you bought or downloaded things from.
(Ayesha Siddiqua from )

Plagiarism is a very ungrateful act as you’re not saying, “Thank you for granting me a wonderful dose of wisdom and your efforts involved.” Instead you’re saying, “Your work is meaningless if you have put your heart and soul into it. Knowing this, I’m better than you.” (Andale Seaworne from )

 ‘PLAGIARISM= CHEATING’ (Fadzidah Ariffin from )

Read more articles on this topic:

Is Plagiarism Allowed in Islam?

Author Bio: Jameela Ho holds a Master of Education at Macquarie University, Sydney and a Diploma of Counselling. She is currently studying and researching children’s health and academic achievement. She blogs on the subject of both education and parenting, each on two separate blogs. ILMA Education is where she motivates, inspires and enables kids to excel at studying and learning. Her Muslim Parenting blog is where she helps parents to raise kids with good morals, manners and behaviour.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Zeenat Ikram

    Spot on. It’s a matter of integrity. Before we are writers we are Muslims with integrity. If we do not have the time or means to correctly cite others’ work then we should not use it.
    Zaynab Dawood

  • Fatima

    This has reminded me to add a copyright page to my free & paid downloads. It’s a shame that I have to, however, it may be taken seriously in’sha’Allah if I do so.

  • Khadijah Hayley

    This has always been my concern whenever I consider uploading my writing as digital products. It’s sad that the main group of people we have to worry about are Muslims!

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