Will wrote:The definition I recall is "taking what is not given". So unless the text or object etc. is given or made available without conditions, it is stealing. If given or made available with conditions; ie, payment, library card, copies only for Sangha members etc., then if the conditions are fulfilled, no stealing.
On the other mind - there is motive - which we rarely know; so I will stick with above lines.
The definition of stealing goes beyond just "taking what is not given".
There are certain conditions that need to be fulfilled. Here is what Ven. Master Sheng Yen outlines the six conditions in his commentary on precepts 戒律學 on page 104:
1) It belongs to someone else.
2) You know it belongs to someone else.
3) You have the thought of stealing.
4) You devise means to achieve your goal of theft.
5) It is worth more than five cash (he notes this in Buddha's time if one stole something worth more than five cash one would be put to death).
6) You remove it from its original location.
So, a scanned book that is copied and distributed satisfies no condition at all. The book itself in someone's possession does belong to someone else, yes, but the .pdf scan of it is just data on computers. Unless you hack into their computer and take it away without them knowing, there is no thought of stealing, nor are there any means utilized to achieve that goal. Finally, nothing is being removed from one place and taken elsewhere.
So, according to these conditions, there is no violation of the precept and we cannot even call it stealing.