Question 82 : Assalaamu ‘alaikum. Is it allowed to use free pdfs of textbooks found online? Especially when there are non-free versions from the publisher available for sale. Jazakumullahu khayr
Answer : Walaikumussalam Br Ghalib Bakhtiar
A book authored by a person is that person’s interpretation, analaysis and findings. As such they have the copy right to it and have a right to sell it if they choose to for profit, especially if they need the money for their wajib family needs, as some great scholars of centuries ago have mentioned. Knowledge of Islam belongs to Allah and should not be sold but the knowledge contained in the book is the author’s hardwork, effort, analysis and interpretation and has a right to be sold. So of someone scanned this and are distributing it as a pdf for free without the author’s permission, then this is eating others wealth in falsehood, that Allah forbade in the Quran and His Messenger (s a.w) conveyed the prohibition of taking other’s wealth in falsehood as in various hadith on the topic.
So we should not pass to others nor download ourselves these pdfs if they were made or distributed without the authors’ or the publishers’ permission.
If the author or publisher are allowing the older editions to be distributed as pdf for free, then it will be ofcourse permissible given their permission as the rightful owners of that intellectual property.
Basically Allah forbade taking someone else’s asset except by mutual acceptance and consent for a price agreable to both.
ps: If the book had info that was necessary for people to know and no other way of knowing it except through that pdf, then the scholars said that the indispensable necessity the masses for a knowledge that is essential for dunya ir eternal survival which is not available anywhere else on earth, such knowledge for masses’ survival cannot be denied to them. Plus a way should be found to sufficiently pay the owner of it in what is determined by the court to be reasonable.