Sharing downloads – is that ok?


 I recently downloaded Tower of Power from your website. Is it ok to share this with people inside my organization or should we purchase a separate copy for everyone? 

 Thank you, 


Dear Mike,

Before answering your question, we want to compliment you on asking it in the first place. The question shows a sensitivity that suggests that you run your business on ethical grounds and that you don’t box ‘religious behavior’ into only some parts of your life while you isolate it from others.

We are delighted for you to share our teachings in the same manner as you would share a physical book. You are welcome to assemble a group and listen to the download together just as you might read aloud from a copy of a book that you own. You can also pass on a book you own to one person at a time and as such could pass on your download to one person at a time.

What is not permissible, according to both Scripture and United States copyright law, is to xerox a book in place of buying many copies. You will find a note of this prohibition in the front of most books.

This works for ebooks and audio downloads as well. When a library buys a downloadable copy of a book from an author, they purchase each copy they will be making available. If all the copies are “out” you will be put on a waiting list for the ebook. The library cannot lend out limitless copies. Similarly, we do request that you not copy the download of Tower of Power and distribute it.

As our society becomes more virtual and less physical, it is so important  to ask questions just as you are doing, to make sure that we don’t inadvertently overstep boundaries. While no one reading this would dream of snatching a book from a bookstore while the clerk’s attention is elsewhere, our minds don’t automatically transfer our ethics to new and different situations.

Back in the 1980s when the idea of purchasing software was in its youth, many people copied software for their friends. It took a while for the industry to mature and for people to realized that intellectual property was much like any other property and that the ancient Mosaic law that has been responsible for so much of the development of civilization—thou shall not steal—applies equally.

May your organization prosper,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

2 thoughts on “Sharing downloads – is that ok?”

  1. Rabbi,
    You said “What is not permissible, according to both Scripture and United States copyright law, is to xerox a book in place of buying many copies.” This is not strictly true. US law says that it is not permissible to do this until the copyright expires. At that time, the work enters the public domain and becomes everyone’s property. Does ancient Jewish wisdom address rights given by government decree that expire?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Thomas–
      Of course you are technically correct. And ancient Jewish wisdom acknowledges that. For most practical purposes however expiration of copyright is not that relevant since it is usually the life of the author plus seventy years.

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