IIPH response to the claim that Islamic knowledge cannot be ‘sold’ or that ‘there is no copyright on Islamic knowledge’
By the IIPH Editorial Board
There is a scholarly opinion that copyright is incompatible with Islam. However, we also find strong opinions from highly respected scholars that say the opposite: that Islamic Sharia respects and supports the concept of copyright. (See list of fatwas at the end of this article.) Since both opinions are sound and valid, we as a publisher must look at the situation in a realistic light, in order to make a sound decision. When confronted with instances where people have pirated or intend to pirate our work claiming that Islam gives them this ‘right’, we at IIPH have this response:
Copyright is not a means of depriving people of access to knowledge. On the contrary, the respect of copyright helps those involved in disseminating such beneficial knowledge to continue working to disseminate even more knowledge and beneficial information. As you may know, IIPH publishes books in many languages, and distributes its books worldwide. While IIPH is a for-profit company, its profits are only utilized to increase the scale and variety of production of Islamic texts (by hiring more translators, writers and editors, paying for printing and transport, etc.). We work hard to keep the cover price of our books as low as possible, in order to allow more readers to benefit from them, inshallah. This while maintaining a very high quality paper and binding for long-lasting books. IIPH also has a responsibility to the small businesses that sell and distribute IIPH books. We must keep book prices low but also allow for a reasonable profit by the small business owners we deal with, who have high overhead costs. Finally, our print runs are very small compared to large publishers. IIPH is a business, but our main goal is furthering the da’wah for the pleasure of Allah.
We get many requests from readers and organizations around the world to allow free downloading/uploading and distribution of the texts of our books. We are sorry, but we cannot give this permission. Are those who say that people have no right to ask people to pay for Islamic knowledge willing to pay from their own pockets to feed the families of the authors, translators, Sharia revisers, researchers, editors, proofreaders, typesetters, printers, paper producers, and booksellers who will have to now work with no wages in order to produce that Islamic text for free? If society were set up so that all the expenses of producing a book in the best form: carefully researched, written, revised and proofread to make sure that the information is accurate and correct; printed on good quality paper and bound carefully so that it lasts for decades; shipped to all corners of the globe to enrich the home libraries of families, school libraries and mosque libraries, and benefit individual readers and seekers of knowledge; —if all of this were paid for by the Muslim population, or by some wealthy and generous benefactors, then perhaps the books could be distributed for free, and everyone would benefit and be satisfied. Until that happens, copyright is something that protects the work of all these people and inshallah ensures that they are able to make their living in the world, rather than depending on donations from others. The upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (receiving) hand, as the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said. Allah knows best.
The IIPH Editorial Board
Beekun, Rafik. “Islam Forbids the Violation of Copyrights and Laws Regarding Intellectual Property”, The Islamic Workplace. http://theislamicworkplace.com/2008/09/03/islam-forbids-the-violation-copyright-laws-and-laws-regarding-intellectual-property/
IslamWeb Fatwa No. 82812: Copyright laws, Fatwa Date : Safar 12, 1422 / 6-5-2001: http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=showfatwa&Option=FatwaId&Id=82812
Sh. Assim al-Hakeem on copyright: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkOEnU-u0tc