Ustadh Tabraze Azam clarifies the rulings on illegal downloading and usurping the rights of others.
Unfortunately, in the past I have illegally downloaded things such as movies, shows, music, games etc, using various apps to illegally download,
Can you please tell me how to go forward from this, is this classed as stealing, do I owe anything to anybody?
There was so much I used to do, how do I go about fixing this?
Downloading copyrighted material from the internet, whether it be movies, games or music, is both conventionally illegal and religiously impermissible.
That’s nothing to say of the religious permission or otherwise of actually watching, playing or listening to such things.
Repentance and Redressing the Wrong
As such, you should repent from the wrong of having usurped the rights of another without due consent, and from the wrong of any sinful activity which came about because of engaging with such material.
Remember that true, sincere repentance wipes out the sin and its traces out of the pure Grace of Allah Most High. It might also be praiseworthy to give something in charity as a manner of expressing your remorse.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “There is no faith in one who cannot be trusted; and there is no religion in one who cannot uphold his covenants.” (Ahmad) The commentators explain that this is a negation of the completion or perfection of faith and obviously not its reality.
The believer is upright in his dealings, conscious of his religious duties and behavior, and sincerely recognizes the value of living an ethical life in accordance with the guidance of the Noble Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
However, if there is useful, required material which (1) has been freely disseminated by the copyright holders, (2) has expired rights, or (3) may only be acquired in such a manner, due to the absence of the original or alternatives, then the matter would be otherwise.
Needless to say, the last point must be soundly verified, and also legal or customarily acceptable in your country of residence, lest you fall into the impermissible. Further, if the actual product then later becomes available, you should take the means to obtain a lawful copy. The rights of others are something to be very careful about.
Please also see What Is The Ruling of Intellectual Property Rights? and Does Copyright Law Violate Islamic Ownership Rights By Denying the Right to Freely Pass on Or Sell Your Property? and A Reader on Tawba (Repentance).
And Allah Most High knows best.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.