Does Copyright Law Violate Islamic Ownership Rights By Denying the Right to Freely Pass on Or Sell Your Property?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Does copyright contradict the fundamental right of valid ownership or possessing property with the full right of disposal (Haq ut-Tassaruf) of what you own.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Walaikum assalam,

The answer to this argument is simple: copyright is intellectual property, not physical property. When you buy a book, CD, or other copyright material, you have purchased a physical copy of something that another owns the intellectual copyrights to. You have the ownership-based right to use this physical copy as you wish.

However, as the contemporary fuqaha explain, owning a something does not necessarily give you the right to make another copy of it. A simple example they give is money. If I have a US$100 bill, I have the ownership-based right to use it as I wish. However, I do not have the legal right to make “copies” of the US$100 bill, as most of us would reasonably agree.

The danger of breaking copyright laws is clear: you would be wronging others, and the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Wrongs are darknesses on the Day of Judgement.” The warnings against wronging others are frequent in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz Rabbani.