Who owns the Dharma?

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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby pemachophel » Fri May 24, 2013 8:17 pm

Bob,

You make some good points.

In the case of library copies, libraries purchase their copies. They do not get them for free. They are not considered "promotional" copies. Then the libraries have the right to loan those copies just as you have the right to loan me your copy. They do not have the right to print up more copies and loan those as well. They have to buy more copies if they want to make more copies available. Libraries also do not have the right to scan and reprint digital copies of the books in their collection that are still copyright protected. Fine distinction, but that's the law. Authors do get their royalties from library sales just as if the copies were sold retail, to a distributor, or a wholesaler.

By the way, there are copyright clearing houses (similar to ASCAP and music) where you can pay a small fee to use (as in copy and distribute) a section of a copy-rigthen work where to amount copied exceeds the Doctrine of Fair Use. Monies collected by such agencies periodically pay royalties back to the publisher who then shares these royalties according to the formula in the publication agreement (i.e., contract).

As stated above, this whole model may be obsolete given the Internet in that it is hard to enforce, but a new model which fairly recompenses those authors, translators, editors, and publishers who want to be recompensed does not yet exist. If there is no desire to be recompensed, then, obviously and especially in this day and age, one can/should publish their work on the Web with a notice that it is for free distribution. You do see this approach. On the other hand, most publishers today spend a lot of time searching the Net and trying to quash the illegal pirating of their copy-righten works. Typically, in the publishing contract, it says that the publisher will actively do this on the behalf of both the publisher and their author/translator.

If an author/translator really is not expecting fair compensation for their work, then they should not go anywhere near a for-profit publishing company. For such authors/translators who want hard-copy versions of their work, there is the POD (print-on-demand) option if they want to publish themselves for free distribution. IMO, as soon as one enters into a contractual publication agreement with a publishing company, that signals pretty clearly the work is/was not intended for free distribution.

Gotta go.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri May 24, 2013 8:19 pm

Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.
Of course.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

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"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Tom » Fri May 24, 2013 9:20 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.
Of course.


You may think I'm naive but I think if translators were supported better by those using their translations then the copyright problem would become a non-issue.

If you want to take up the copyright cause, how about the Chinese publication houses copyrighting Tibetan texts after having only digitally input them from pechas. TBRC for example has a ton of texts that they cannot make available to translators for this very reason.

In the future, dharma practitioners are not going to be able to rely on academics to translate the texts they need. Even if academics wished to spend all their time translating texts that would be useful for dharma practitioners, they could not, because aside from their many other responsibilities, in order to stay relevant in academia, scholars are allowed less time to spend on translation and philology in order to spend more time theorizing on obscure texts and topics based on the latest popular social, anthropological, and literary theories. In saying that, to be a great translator I believe requires both traditional and academic training. We need to find a better way to support such translators so that they can devote themselves fully to translation.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri May 24, 2013 9:30 pm

Tom wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.
Of course.


You may think I'm naive but I think if translators were supported better by those using their translations then the copyright problem would become a non-issue.

If you want to take up the copyright cause, how about the Chinese publication houses copyrighting Tibetan texts after having only digitally input them from pechas. TBRC for example has a ton of texts that they cannot make available to translators for this very reason.

In the future, dharma practitioners are not going to be able to rely on academics to translate the texts they need. Even if academics wished to spend all their time translating texts that would be useful for dharma practitioners, they could not, because aside from their many other responsibilities, in order to stay relevant in academia, scholars are allowed less time to spend on translation and philology in order to spend more time theorizing on obscure texts and topics based on the latest popular social, anthropological, and literary theories. In saying that, to be a great translator I believe requires both traditional and academic training. We need to find a better way to support such translators so that they can devote themselves fully to translation.
I agree. If I remember correctly, the Tibetan canon (and I assume others as well) were translated by full time scholars or practitioners with the king's money.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby oldbob » Fri May 24, 2013 10:10 pm

Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.


:good: :twothumbsup:

Point well made!

Homage to the translators. May their enlightened intention bring everyone who reads, AND everyone who does not read, their translations to realization.

Hurrah for the translators. I believe that ChNNR arranged a $50,000 retirement fund, each, for several of those in the DC. This is good.

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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby tobes » Sat May 25, 2013 12:43 am

Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.


I don't agree.

My view is that intellectual labour in this kind of domain - let us broadly call it 'the dharma' (but I actually extend this out to many intellectual and aesthetic pursuits) - ought not be capitalised.

Your statement presupposes a market logic: If I do x amount of labour, and y amount of people benefit from it, those benefits should flow back to me in the form of material support. Thus, the use value - which we might say is people gaining the liberation from reading dharma is ultimately subordinate to the exchange value.

What's missing in that equation are the concepts of punya, danaparamita and bodhicitta. These days we just cannot imagine people working hard and producing great works without expecting or wanting anything back in return.

Of course it is good, great, if translators are supported materially for their labours. What I'm questioning is the necessity of a market relation between suppliers and demanders in what we might call 'the sutra market'. There is actually no necessity there, we are just incapable of recognising that.

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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby yegyal » Sat May 25, 2013 1:41 am

[quote="Tom"]
If you want to take up the copyright cause, how about the Chinese publication houses copyrighting Tibetan texts after having only digitally input them from pechas. TBRC for example has a ton of texts that they cannot make available to translators for this very reason.quote]

First of all, those are, with only a few notable exceptions, Tibetan publication house that are located in China, many in Chengdu which has a large Tibetan community. And they don't own the texts, they just own their printings of them. In other words, if they put together an 8 volume set of Paltrul's Sungbum, they only own that version of the text, which they have edited, formatted and printed in book form. They have no ownership of Paltrul's actual works. Besides, it's not like anybody in China is prosecuting copyright infringement, as far as I can tell.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby yegyal » Sat May 25, 2013 1:55 am

Son of Buddha wrote:
yegyal wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:At the end of the day ALL the translations are copies of a sutra and are going to be the same in meaning the only thing that will be different is the exact words that are used



That's assuming that all translations are accurate, which would be a huge mistake to make when we're talking about Dharma translations.


Well out of 4 translations you can do comparisons between the different translations,to see if they say the same thing(in meaning).
Also as said before copyrights dont protect the intergrity of a text whatsoever,it only protects me from you copying my exact words,it doesnt protect the lotus sutra from being inaccurately translated and produced.

In truth these copyrighted translations are actually destroying the integrity or our sutras.
Example: we have a sentence in chinese that literally translates word for word:
"I went to bathe at the park"

Now the first translator,translates this sentence in its literal form and copyrights it.

Now a second translator comes along and translates the SAME sentence,except he cant translate the sentece for what it literally says,since the (literal) translation is already copyrighted,so he actually has to change the words and refigure the sentence to get the same meaning just to bypass the other translators copyright.


I have never heard of this happening, but if you have an actual example of it on a Dharma text, I'd be interested in hearing about it. Personally, i don't see any of these hypotheticals ever coming into play because there just isn't a big market for traditional Dharma publications, which why all major translations need to be subsidized by sponsors. Nobody's getting rich off this, so you're not going to see any major copyright lawsuits. And there could be, because there is lots of copyright infringement and plagiarism in the so-called "Dharma" scene.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Tom » Sat May 25, 2013 2:00 am

tobes wrote:
Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.


I don't agree.

My view is that intellectual labour in this kind of domain - let us broadly call it 'the dharma' (but I actually extend this out to many intellectual and aesthetic pursuits) - ought not be capitalised.

Your statement presupposes a market logic: If I do x amount of labour, and y amount of people benefit from it, those benefits should flow back to me in the form of material support. Thus, the use value - which we might say is people gaining the liberation from reading dharma is ultimately subordinate to the exchange value.

What's missing in that equation are the concepts of punya, danaparamita and bodhicitta. These days we just cannot imagine people working hard and producing great works without expecting or wanting anything back in return.

Of course it is good, great, if translators are supported materially for their labours. What I'm questioning is the necessity of a market relation between suppliers and demanders in what we might call 'the sutra market'. There is actually no necessity there, we are just incapable of recognising that.

:anjali:


Tobes, these are your presuppositions, not mine. I am simply pointing out that if dharma practitioners want good quality translations, then translators need to be supported in order to devote their time to this work. It is simply a choice. The other option is have partially educated part time translators producing mediocre translations at a slow pace. Which scenario would be of most benefit?

In terms of punya, danaparamita, and bodhicitta, supporting translators is an excellent means for developing all of these.

By the way I think translators should be putting up all their work online for free download. However, this needs to be supported in a practical manner. It is slowly happening with the emphasis on slow.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Tom » Sat May 25, 2013 2:13 am

yegyal wrote:
Tom wrote:If you want to take up the copyright cause, how about the Chinese publication houses copyrighting Tibetan texts after having only digitally input them from pechas. TBRC for example has a ton of texts that they cannot make available to translators for this very reason.quote]

First of all, those are, with only a few notable exceptions, Tibetan publication house that are located in China, many in Chengdu which has a large Tibetan community. And they don't own the texts, they just own their printings of them. In other words, if they put together an 8 volume set of Paltrul's Sungbum, they only own that version of the text, which they have edited, formatted and printed in book form. They have no ownership of Paltrul's actual works. Besides, it's not like anybody in China is prosecuting copyright infringement, as far as I can tell.


If you have no problem with copyrighting the dharma, then this won't be an issue for you. I guess good luck to the Tibetan owners who are making quite a bit of money off it.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat May 25, 2013 3:21 am

pemachophel wrote:For me, the issue comes down to whether the author (or translator) personally intends/intended for the free distribution and use of their work or not. In other words, from a Buddhist POV, whether something is "freely given" or not. If not freely given, then, as far as I can see according to the teachings on the 10 demeritorious actions, it is stealing with the karmic repercussions of stealing.

This raises an interesting question, which I don't have enough expertise to answer. To be specific, would downloading a "pirated" ebook from a site like libgen be considered stealing from a Buddhist POV? I'm looking for a reasoned answer, not just a feeling or an intuition or whatever. Anybody?
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby purple rose » Sat May 25, 2013 5:24 am

This topic has been moved out of the Academic sub forum which has specific guidelines:

The aim of academic argument is to explore a question, a proposition or an area of knowledge and achieve reasoned mutual understanding. It is not important who "wins". What matters most is the quality of the argument itself. Please offer your opinion complete with reason and support from academic sources.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby tobes » Sat May 25, 2013 7:35 am

Tom wrote:
tobes wrote:
Tom wrote:Hopefully we all agree that the fact that the dharma has no owner is not a good reason to continually benefit from the efforts of translators without supporting them.


I don't agree.

My view is that intellectual labour in this kind of domain - let us broadly call it 'the dharma' (but I actually extend this out to many intellectual and aesthetic pursuits) - ought not be capitalised.

Your statement presupposes a market logic: If I do x amount of labour, and y amount of people benefit from it, those benefits should flow back to me in the form of material support. Thus, the use value - which we might say is people gaining the liberation from reading dharma is ultimately subordinate to the exchange value.

What's missing in that equation are the concepts of punya, danaparamita and bodhicitta. These days we just cannot imagine people working hard and producing great works without expecting or wanting anything back in return.

Of course it is good, great, if translators are supported materially for their labours. What I'm questioning is the necessity of a market relation between suppliers and demanders in what we might call 'the sutra market'. There is actually no necessity there, we are just incapable of recognising that.

:anjali:


Tobes, these are your presuppositions, not mine. I am simply pointing out that if dharma practitioners want good quality translations, then translators need to be supported in order to devote their time to this work. It is simply a choice. The other option is have partially educated part time translators producing mediocre translations at a slow pace. Which scenario would be of most benefit?

In terms of punya, danaparamita, and bodhicitta, supporting translators is an excellent means for developing all of these.

By the way I think translators should be putting up all their work online for free download. However, this needs to be supported in a practical manner. It is slowly happening with the emphasis on slow.


Perhaps I am imputing a little too much - but it seems to me you were deploying a logic of utility in your original statement. Intuitively it makes a great deal of sense, but I think that is simply because we have all been living in a market system for so long that what is constructed seems natural and just.

Of course I agree that translators need material support. But the question is of intellectual property, and whether the material support they gain ought to be derived from the rights they gain over their work. If we are speaking practically, there are three good ways in which material support can be given without the claim for copyright - tenured academics supported by their institution and grants, monastics and privately funded translation projects such as the 84,000 project.

I agree that anyone with the means ought to support all three causes. What I question is that dharma practitioners who make use of translated sutras have some moral obligation to support those three causes, by virtue of using the material. That would be, as I mentioned, to reduce ethics into exchange relations - an implicit expression of the morality of the market. Danaparamita is not that - giving is only perfect when it does not even consider such things.

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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Tom » Sat May 25, 2013 4:23 pm

tobes wrote:Perhaps I am imputing a little too much - but it seems to me you were deploying a logic of utility in your original statement. Intuitively it makes a great deal of sense, but I think that is simply because we have all been living in a market system for so long that what is constructed seems natural and just.

Of course I agree that translators need material support. But the question is of intellectual property, and whether the material support they gain ought to be derived from the rights they gain over their work. If we are speaking practically, there are three good ways in which material support can be given without the claim for copyright - tenured academics supported by their institution and grants, monastics and privately funded translation projects such as the 84,000 project.

I agree that anyone with the means ought to support all three causes. What I question is that dharma practitioners who make use of translated sutras have some moral obligation to support those three causes, by virtue of using the material. That would be, as I mentioned, to reduce ethics into exchange relations - an implicit expression of the morality of the market. Danaparamita is not that - giving is only perfect when it does not even consider such things.

:anjali:


My main point is that it is in dharma practitioners' own interest to support translators.

There was a hint of ought in my original statement, but not as you described it. I also don't think you can equate the benefits of the work of translators to merely some aesthetic value. Buddhists seem to like medical analogies, so consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine a doctor who spends his/her entire life researching cures for illnesses and then, based on the prevailing idea of the time that medicine should be independent of market dynamics, gives them away for free. Now, this person has no other source of income and the research and development of the medicine comes at considerable cost, not to mention the expenses piled up from his training. The medicine/cures should be free, but without support, not only will this doctor be destitute, but their work will stop and people will suffer.

In this scenario I contend that there is a moral obligation to support the doctor. I could concoct some consequentialist argument to support this intuition, but I think you get where I'm coming from. Moreover, I think the moral obligation falls more heavily on those who have already benefited from the cures. Although, I suspect that this intuition would be harder to defend. Perhaps the obligation falls more heavily on those that might benefit in the future. In any case, I think there is a similar moral obligation to support translators independent of the translators' intentions (which may be consistent with danaparamita), and perhaps more importantly, it is in the dharma practitioners' own best interest to do so.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat May 25, 2013 5:17 pm

Tom wrote:My main point is that it is in dharma practitioners' own interest to support translators.

There was a hint of ought in my original statement, but not as you described it. I also don't think you can equate the benefits of the work of translators to merely some aesthetic value. Buddhists seem to like medical analogies, so consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine a doctor who spends his/her entire life researching cures for illnesses and then, based on the prevailing idea of the time that medicine should be independent of market dynamics, gives them away for free. Now, this person has no other source of income and the research and development of the medicine comes at considerable cost, not to mention the expenses piled up from his training. The medicine/cures should be free, but without support, not only will this doctor be destitute, but their work will stop and people will suffer.

In this scenario I contend that there is a moral obligation to support the doctor. I could concoct some consequentialist argument to support this intuition, but I think you get where I'm coming from. Moreover, I think the moral obligation falls more heavily on those who have already benefited from the cures. Although, I suspect that this intuition would be harder to defend. Perhaps the obligation falls more heavily on those that might benefit in the future. In any case, I think there is a similar moral obligation to support translators independent of the translators' intentions (which may be consistent with danaparamita), and perhaps more importantly, it is in the dharma practitioners' own best interest to do so.


Let's use your thought experiment and raise you Jonas Salk as an actual example:

When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the (polio) vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Namgyal » Sat May 25, 2013 6:43 pm

Tom wrote: Imagine a doctor who spends his/her entire life researching cures for illnesses and then, based on the prevailing idea of the time that medicine should be independent of market dynamics, gives them away for free. Now, this person has no other source of income and the research and development of the medicine comes at considerable cost, not to mention the expenses piled up from his training. The medicine/cures should be free, but without support, not only will this doctor be destitute, but their work will stop and people will suffer.

Tibetan physicians traditionally treat patients without charge. They pray to the Medicine Buddha for any required items. When a Thangka painter is commissioned by a temple he symbolically receives an (excessive) amount of 'decorative gold'. Temples are also charged a fraction of what a thangka is actually worth. Lotsawa (translator) is another Buddhist craft that must be practised carefully and without personal profit, though one may receive a discreet gift for expenses from a sponsoring temple.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat May 25, 2013 7:20 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
pemachophel wrote:For me, the issue comes down to whether the author (or translator) personally intends/intended for the free distribution and use of their work or not. In other words, from a Buddhist POV, whether something is "freely given" or not. If not freely given, then, as far as I can see according to the teachings on the 10 demeritorious actions, it is stealing with the karmic repercussions of stealing.

This raises an interesting question, which I don't have enough expertise to answer. To be specific, would downloading a "pirated" ebook from a site like libgen be considered stealing from a Buddhist POV? I'm looking for a reasoned answer, not just a feeling or an intuition or whatever. Anybody?

I'm beginning to look through this, maybe it's relevant:
Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism: A Legal and Cultural Perspective - Ven. Pandita (Burma), University of Kelaniya:
http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... -buddhism/

I have come to the following conclusions: (1) the infringement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks does not amount to theft as far as Theravādin Vinaya is concerned; (2) because a trademark infringement involves telling a deliberate lie, it entails an offense of expiation (pācittiya), but I cannot find any Vinaya rule which is transgressed by copyright and patent infringements; and (3) although the Buddha recognized the right to intellectual credit, commentarial interpretations have led some traditional circles to maintain that intellectual credit can be transferred to someone else.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby tingdzin » Sat May 25, 2013 8:21 pm

Remember, as someone pointed out earlier, "theft" is not entirely the issue, however legalistically we define it. A Buddhist does not take that which is not freely given (or by extension that which was freely given by someone who himself took it unethically).
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby Tom » Sat May 25, 2013 8:42 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:
Tom wrote:My main point is that it is in dharma practitioners' own interest to support translators.

There was a hint of ought in my original statement, but not as you described it. I also don't think you can equate the benefits of the work of translators to merely some aesthetic value. Buddhists seem to like medical analogies, so consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine a doctor who spends his/her entire life researching cures for illnesses and then, based on the prevailing idea of the time that medicine should be independent of market dynamics, gives them away for free. Now, this person has no other source of income and the research and development of the medicine comes at considerable cost, not to mention the expenses piled up from his training. The medicine/cures should be free, but without support, not only will this doctor be destitute, but their work will stop and people will suffer.

In this scenario I contend that there is a moral obligation to support the doctor. I could concoct some consequentialist argument to support this intuition, but I think you get where I'm coming from. Moreover, I think the moral obligation falls more heavily on those who have already benefited from the cures. Although, I suspect that this intuition would be harder to defend. Perhaps the obligation falls more heavily on those that might benefit in the future. In any case, I think there is a similar moral obligation to support translators independent of the translators' intentions (which may be consistent with danaparamita), and perhaps more importantly, it is in the dharma practitioners' own best interest to do so.


Let's use your thought experiment and raise you Jonas Salk as an actual example:

When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the (polio) vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"


I don't disagree. Maybe I did not make my point clear that the moral obligation is not related to patents and so forth.
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Re: Who owns the Dharma?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat May 25, 2013 8:43 pm

tingdzin wrote:Remember, as someone pointed out earlier, "theft" is not entirely the issue, however legalistically we define it. A Buddhist does not take that which is not freely given (or by extension that which was freely given by someone who himself took it unethically).

Nevertheless it is partially the issue, yes? It is commonplace to refer to this type of activity as stealing, theft, taking what is not given etc. As a native English speaker, not a lawyer, it doesn't seem to me that those words apply to downloading something from libgen for example. It might be immoral or illegal or a violation of Buddhist ethics for some other reason, but I'm asking if it is actually considered stealing from a Buddhist POV. As the author of the paper says:
Although these IP rights, except the last one, probably did not exist when monastic law was formed, it is time for Buddhist monks and nuns to look at these in the light of the Vinaya. Why? If the Vinaya has to accept the popular opinion, as it is, on these matters (i.e., that the infringement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks is a kind of theft), every monk or nun committing such an infringement would certainly lose his monkhood or her nunhood, for theft is an ultimate Vinaya offense that definitely results in such a devastating effect. Hence, this matter needs serious investigation.

So, i think it might be worthy of a little informed discussion.
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