Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More on "Yosef Greenberg Calls Halacha Unethical. Is It?"

Yosef Greenberg attempts to fisk yesterday's post, "Yosef Greenberg Calls Halacha Unethical. Is It?"

It's not very compelling. Let's see what he has to say.

He challenges my post title, saying:
Um, where exactly did I do that? By stating that Halachah might allow copying music? This is purely an intellectual question (with practical ramifications). Since when is copying music unethical? Because by your standards, it isn't. Well, here's some new for you, the Torah's ethics don't necessarily coincide with your view of proper ethics. Humanity's views have changed, and keep on changing with times.
Here's a thought experiment A singer invests many hours and tens of thousands of dollars in releasing an album to the public. (Let's keep it simple and not talk about anyone else invested in the project; producer, distributor, etc.) Let's also grant the premise that halachicly, it is permissible to copy the music without payment (It isn't.) Is Greenberg really intending to argue that according to the Torah/Halacha it is "mentshlach" for everyone to copy the music, resulting in the artist losing his entire investment? That's the position he takes. He calls it halacha. I call it unethical. I think reasonable people would find his view unfair. Note: even according to Greenberg's representation of halacha, the halacha does not mandate duplicating software or music without paying. His insistence on advocating doing so is enlightening.

In my post I wrote the following:
What is most astounding about this ignorant assertion is his implication that if halacha theoretically permits something that civil law prohibits, and there is no compelling reason not to follow the civil law, it is nevertheless permissible because dina d'malchusa is irrelevant.
Greenberg comments:
Ignorant assertion? Because you disagree with it? In other words, I just won this round.

There is a compelling reason not to follow civil law. Free music. Unless you don't find that compelling.

"because dina d'malchusa is irrelevant". In this case! Please don't stretch my words.
In his post, Greenberg wrote "because wrote dina d'malchusa dina is irrelevant." He's now backtracking slightly. The reality is that that normative halacha accepts dina d'malchusa as binding. Any assertion to the contrary is ignorant. We rely on it in many daily cases, including for such serious issues as determining halachik yichus. Yesterday, I asked a prominent Chareidi rav if there were any major poskim who hold that dina d'malchusa dina doesn't apply today. He couldn't name one. There is one rabbi in Brooklyn, NY who allows copying CD's, software etc. He also allows cheating on taxes. Draw your own conclusions. The RCA did when it stopped using him as posek when those views became a matter of public record.

Also, "free music" is a compelling reason not to follow civil law? Compelling? Really now?

Yosef takes issue with my characterization of permitting illegal downloading as an "obvious chilul Hashem". His proof, many people do it. That's just because they can do it without anyone seeing. (They think). During blackouts, many people loot. Does that make it ok? Personally, I believe that Frum Jews ought to live by a higher standard.

With regard to his assertion that "many, if not most, poskim permit copying software and music etc., even for others.", this is simply untrue. He then attempts to explain why you can't find proof of these alleged views.
Make that to openly maintain. Yes, the pressure is tough out there. And there is no industry out there to promote it. Unlike the opposing side. Few have said so on the record for the same reason.
Yes, the notoriously powerful and influential Chareidi Jewish music industry has intimidated rabbonim, making them afraid to voice their opinions. They are also afraid to ever ban CD's or concerts, set limits on band sizes allowed at weddings, criticize popular Jewish music styles as inappropriate.... oh, wait!

I wrote:
"Incidentally, these poskim also hold that one may cheat on their taxes and other similar views. Not exactly mainstream, in other words."
Yosef writes:
Lies. Don't bunch them all into one group. You probably don't know them. And my money is on some very mainstream Rabbonim.
Actually, Yosef, it's a matter of public record. Incidentally, I would point out that even according to this rabbi, violating US law is only permissible if you are certain won't be caught, because if people know about it, it would be a Chilul Hashem and forbidden. Publicly advocating violating the law, as you did in your post, constitutes a Chilul Hashem too. This rabbi was careful to express his views only on Shabbos or in personal conversations where it wouldn't be recorded/ written about. He was careful to never state this view in situations where a reporter/recorder might be present.

In my post, I challenged Yosef to post the links to the pirate sites. The reason I did so is simple. Posting links to pirated music is illegal and would be a violation of the terms of service at all reputable web hosts in this country. I'd like to see him address the legal issues in maintaining his site, were he to do so and a complaint was filed.

Finally, I asked if he ran a pirate site himself. His response:
. But there you go again, trying to infer certain things to reduce credibility.
Um, if there's nothing wrong with it, why would it reduce his credibility?

(All of this said, it's clear that some in the the music industry at large and the Charedi music industry in particular have adopted public positions that are silly and even self-defeating. I've written about this extensively in the past. No time to find the links right now. One example. It is clear that music buyers have the right to make personal copies for their own use. i.e. making a backup copy, for when the original gets scratched, making a copy use in the car, loading a cd into iTunes for use on their iPod or computer. etc. When people make public claims like this that are untrue and contradict Fair Use, they add confusion to the discussion about illegal copying.)

Bottom line, Greenberg's logic is faulty even if you grant his premise. Just because something is halachically permissible does not mean it's ethical or right. Ever hear of "naval birshus hatorah?" "Vasisa hayashar vehatov?" In this case, he is wrong because it's not even halachikly permissible. Greenberg claim that "many, if not most, poskim permit copying software and music etc., even for others" conveys the impression that a significant number of poskim, if not the majority, hold this view. This is false. It also constitutes a Chillul Hashem.