Praise be to Allaah.
The books that are available on websites include those that
the visitor can download, in whole or in part, to his own computer and those
which are available only to read, in whole or in part, and cannot be
With regard to the books which one is allowed to download,
there is no confusion on the ruling and there is no need to ask about it. As
for those of which the site owners do not allow downloading, the basic
principle is that it is not permissible to download them, because their
authors have rights which may be lost because of that downloading that is
done without paying for it.
The way mentioned in the question (peer-to-peer) is that
which is done by hackers to the sites which contain copyrighted material. By
means of this method they are able to acquire that material. No doubt much
of this material is haraam in the first place, even if it is free -- such as
songs and movies. But what we are talking about here is that which is
permissible, such as useful academic books. Various fatwas have been issued
by the scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas and the Fiqh
Councils, stating that these rights are to be respected and that it is not
permissible to acquire this material without the consent of its authors. We
have discussed this issue previously and quoted these fatwas and others.
Please see the answer to questions nos.
And Allah knows best.