Praise be to Allaah.
This issue is part of the serious issue of “intellectual
property”; it is one of the issues that has been discussed at length in
shar’i terms and even at the international level, because of its important
consequences. It includes industrial ownership that protects patents and
tradenames, as well as literary and artistic ownership that protects
In fact, unprecedented issues such as these require
comprehensive study from all angles, whether legislative, shar’i, economic
or otherwise. They must be examined from all the different angles that may
affect the ruling, and these angles must all be examined thoroughly.
We will quote the fatwas of some specialized shar’i bodies
that have researched these unprecedented issues.
Statement of the Fiqh
Council of the Muslim World League in Makkah al-Mukarramah.
Praise be to Allaah alone, and blessings and peace be upon
the one after whom there is no Prophet, our master Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him). To proceed:
The Islamic Fiqh Council in its ninth session, which was held
at the headquarters of the Muslim World League in Makkah al-Mukarramah from
Saturday 12 Rajab 1406 AH until Saturday 19 Rajab 1406 AH, examined the
issue of copyright for the authors of books, research and scientific papers
– are these rights confirmed and owned by the authors, and is it permissible
according to sharee’ah to receive payment for them and to make a contract
with a publisher; is it permissible for anyone other than the author to
publish his books and research and sell them without his permission, on the
basis that it is permissible for everyone, or is that not permissible?
Reports and studies on these issues prepared by some members
of the committee were presented to the committee, and the committee also
discussed the view of some contemporary researchers who suggested that the
author does not have any legitimate financial right to what he has written
or published of books containing knowledge, on the basis that according to
sharee’ah it is not permissible to keep knowledge away from the people,
rather it must be made available, and on the Day of Resurrection Allaah will
put a rein of fire on the one who concealed knowledge, so anyone who obtains
a copy of an author’s book in a legitimate way has the right to copy it and
publish it or sell it and make money from publishing it, and he may sell as
many copies as he wants, and the author has no right to stop him.
The council also studied the opposite view, and the papers
that been published n support of it, concerning patent rights as well as
literary ownership and industrial ownership, on the basis that every author
of a book, research, technical work or invention of a useful machine has the
exclusive right to benefit financially from his book or invention, whether
as a publisher, producer or seller, and to give it up to whomever he wants
in return for compensation or otherwise, subject to the conditions that he
agrees to, and no one has the right to publish the author’s book or written
research without the author’s consent, or to imitate his invention and make
a business out of it without the inventor’s consent.
After a comprehensive discussion, the council reached the
1 – That before the invention of modern printing methods that
can produce thousands of copies of a book, when there was no other means of
publishing a book except by means of handwritten copies, a scribe might
spend years copying a large book to produce one copy of it. At that time the
scribe was in the service of the scholar or author, and would make one copy
or several copies with his pen, and were it not for that, the book would be
limited to the author’s original copy and would be vulnerable to being lost
forever if the original copy was destroyed. So copying the book was not a
transgression against the author, and the copier was not making use of the
efforts and knowledge of another person for his own benefit; rather the
opposite was true – he was serving him and spreading his knowledge and
2 – But after the invention of printing presses, it became
the exact opposite: the author may spend most of his life writing a
beneficial book, and publishing and selling it, then another person could
take a copy of it and publish it by modern means of printing and
photocopying, and he could sell it in competition with the author, or
distribute it for free in order to become famous by means of distribution,
and thus the author’s efforts would be wasted. The same may also be said of
This is something that could discourage people of knowledge
and smart people from writing and inventing, when they see that their
efforts are going to be stolen as soon as they appear, and people who put no
effort into them as the original authors and inventors did will make a
business out of selling them and competing with them.
The situation changed with the development of new means and
methods, which had a serious impact on the change from what things used to
be to how they have become, which requires us to examine anew how people’s
efforts and rights may be protected.
The author and inventor should have rights with regard to
that which they have written and invented, and this right is something that
belongs to them according to sharee’ah. It is not permissible for anyone to
take it away from them without their permission, provided that the book or
research does not promote evil in any way, or contain bid’ah (innovation) or
misguidance that is contrary to the laws of Islam, otherwise it should be
destroyed and it is not permissible to publish it.
Similarly neither the publisher with whom the author makes a
deal nor anyone else has the right to change any of the book’s content or to
change anything else without the author’s consent. This right may be
inherited from the author, but should be restricted to the norms of
international rules, covenants, systems and traditions which do not go
against sharee’ah and which regulate and define this right after the author
dies and in the light of his individual rights and the public’s rights,
because every author and inventor seeks the help of ideas and products of
those who came before him, even it is only in terms of general information
and means that existed before him.
With regard to the author or inventor who is commissioned or
hired by a publisher to write a book or by a company to invent something for
it for a specific purpose, what he produces becomes the right of the company
that hired him, and he is bound by the conditions that they agreed upon.
And Allaah is the Source of strength. May Allaah send
blessings and peace upon our master Muhammad and his family and companions.
End quote from Fiqh al-Nawaazil by Dr. Muhammad ibn
Husayn al-Jeeraani (3/127-129).
Statement of the Islamic
Fiqh Council in Jeddah, belonging to the Organization of the Islamic
It says in Qiraaraat wa Tawsiyaat Majma’ al-Fiqh
In the session of the Islamic Fiqh Council that was held
during its fifth conference in Kuwait from 1 to 6 Jumaada al-Oola 1409 AH
(10 to 15 December 1988 CE), after studying the papers that were submitted
by members and experts on the topic of intangible rights, and listening to
the discussion that took place on this topic, the following was determined:
Firstly: trade names, company names, trademarks, writings and
inventions are all the copyright of their owners or authors, which in modern
practice have acquired monetary value. These rights are respected by
sharee’ah and it is not permissible to transgress against them.
Secondly: It is permissible to dispose of a trade name,
company name or trademark, and to transfer any of them in return for
financial compensation, provided that this is not for the purpose of deceit
or fraud, given that this has become a financial right.
Thirdly: the owner of these rights has the right to dispose
of them and no one should transgress against them.
Statement of the Standing
Committee for Academic Research and Issuing Fatwas in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The scholars of the Standing Committee (13/188) were asked
I work in the field of computers, and since I started working
I have been making copies of programs to work with them. I have been doing
that without purchasing an original copy of these programs, knowing that
these programs carry warnings against making copies and their copyright is
protected, like the phrase “all rights reserved” which appears on some
books. The author of the program may be a Muslim or a kaafir. My question
is: is it permissible to make copies in this manner or not?
They replied: It is not permissible to make copies of
programs whose authors have forbidden the making of copies without their
permission, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said: “The Muslims are bound by their conditions.” And he (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever reaches a permissible thing
first has more right to it.” It does not matter whether the author of the
program is a Muslim or a kaafir who is not in a state of war with Islam,
because the rights of a kaafir who is not in a state of war with Islam are
to be respected like the rights of a Muslim.
End quote from Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah,
Based on the above, it is not permissible for anyone to copy
anything of which the author’s copyright is protected, and it is not
permissible to buy any of these programs that have been copied without the
permission of their authors. With the ease of communication nowadays, it is
not difficult to obtain and purchase these things. The original program is
available and one should be able to get it from the official agents of these
companies. They are also available on the websites of the same companies on
the internet and one can easily buy them and obtain them from those places.
Some of our scholars think that it is haraam to do this (copy
things) for the purpose of selling them, but if a person makes a copy just
for himself, that is permissible. This opinion is a moderate one that treads
a middle path between those who ban it altogether and those who permit it
In the answer to question no.
21927 we gave a brief answer to
this question, quoting from Shaykh Sa’d al-Humayyid, in which it says the
Making copies of books or disks for the purpose of selling
them or to cause harm to the original author is not permissible. But if a
person makes a single copy for his own use, then we hope that is o.k., even
though it is better and preferable not to do it.
There follows a fatwa from Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah
have mercy on him) which is in accordance with that:
Question: Is it permissible to copy a computer program even
though the companies and the system do not allow that? Or is that regarded
as a monopoly? They are sold at high prices but if they are copied they may
be sold for cheaper prices.
He replied: Do you mean Qur’aan (programs)?
Questioner: Computer programs in general.
Shaykh: For Qur’aan?
Questioner: For Qur’aan and other things, hadeeth and many
Shaykh: Do you mean what is recorded in it?
Questioner: What is recorded on the disks.
Shaykh: If the authorities forbid that, then it is not
permissible, because Allaah has enjoined us to obey those who are in
authority, except it if involves disobedience to Allaah, but banning the
copying of these things is not disobedience to Allaah. With regard to
companies, what I think is that if a person makes a single copy for himself
only, there is nothing wrong with it, but if he makes copies to sell, that
is not permissible, because it is harming others, and it is like
undercutting one's Muslim brother, because if they sell it for one hundred
and you copy it and sell it for fifty, this is undercutting your brother.
Questioner: Is it permissible for me to buy it for fifty from
the shop-owners, if it is a copy?
Shaykh: It is not permissible, unless he proves that he has
permission, but if he does not have such proof then this is encouraging sin
Questioner: If he does not have permission – may Allaah
reward you with good?
Shaykh: If you do not know, sometimes a person may not know,
he may pass by a store and buy something and he does not know, there is
nothing wrong with that; the one who does not know is not to blame.
Liqaa’aat al-Baab al-Maftooh
(178/question no. 6)
For more information please see the answer to question no.
And Allaah knows best.