Wednesday, February 24, 2010

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

Yosef Greenberg has posted a response to my post, "More on "Yosef Greenberg Calls Halacha Unethical. Is It?". Even if one grants his premise, which I don't, what he advocates is unethical, even lishataso.

In response to my thought experiment, he writes:
Sorry, but thats not a good enough reason. While I may feel bad for the producers, it still doesn't change the basics.

The Chazon Ish writes something about "our" common sense. One who comes in to a small town that currently has only one older teacher for children, and this newcomer, a young man, offers his services and thereby entirely takes away the livelihood of the other. Our sense would tell us that this man is a rasha. Yet, the Chazon Ish writes that according to the Torah precept of "kinas chachom tarbeh chochmah', it is wholly within his right to do so. (I think he should possibly be encouraged as well.) Therefore, writes the Chazon Ish, we should look to the Torah for proper ethics, NOT what the street decides.

Mentchlichkeit is to be dictated by the Torah.
This is a meaningless example, as Yosef himself acknowledges the compelling reason to permit it; a potential raising of the bar of Torah learning in the community. Improving Torah learning that otherwise could not occur, is a significant benefit. The case is not analogous to illegally downloading music, where the only "benefit" is that the downloader doesn't have to pay for something the producer intends to sell. You can achieve the same benefit by simply buying the Shwekey CD.

Yosef also conflates the idea that something is permissible with the idea that it is ethical or advisable. This is not true.

One example. The halacha is that a contract worker has to be paid his wages at the end of the day. "Lo talin peulas sachir." Yet, the halacha is that "Lo Talin" does not apply if the worker was hired through agency. Yet, I don't believe that there is a single source that maintains that it is ethical to not pay the worker in a timely manner. According to the strict halacha, one can push payment off, yet would anyone argue that the fact that halacha permits it means you should do it? Could does not equal should.

Greenberg writes:
And please stop saying that it isn't permissible to copy music. Minimally, according to Blog In DM, it is most of the poskim. There's no need to distort.

And yes, according to these poskim I refer to, Halachah does indeed allow copying music and software without paying. Yes, enlightening.
I never said that most poskim permit copying. It's clear that most forbid it. Yosef claims he has confirmed such rulings, but refuses to identify the poskim, if they exist. The rabbi whose opinion on this is public is also known to permit cheating on taxes. His logic to permit is the same.

Yosef says:
This is not the Rabbi I am referring to. Stop using his as a punching bag. The Rabbis I refer to are very well known chareidim; gedolim and other dayanim.
I'd like to confirm this. Name them. Torah hi, v'lilmod ani tzarich. It's interesting that these alleged psakim are only being issued privately, but you feel compelled to publicize them. I actually agree with you on that though, if they exist, then they should be public, so that there can be a shakla vetarya of Torah. That's the way the halachik process used to work.

In response to my assertion that "free music" was not a compelling reason to download illegally, Yosef offers this justification:
Compelling when said law is not being enforced.
Um, the law is being enforced. There have been numerous court cases, settlements, arrests for piracy, websites taken down, etc. etc.

He offers another justification:
It is considered normatively moral to download music in the blogosphere. It is not considered moral to loot.
Nice. A completely made up fact. Sure there are some people who advocate for illegal downloading. There are people who advocate for lots of illegal things. NAMBLA for instance. Doesn't make it moral.

Then he writes:
The rabbinic establishment has little impetus to encourage copying. Why should they? In all cases above, the Rabbonim saw benefit in publicizing their views. I don't see them here. (True, I arguing a little different here, but the point remains.)
If the halacha were that dina d'malchusa doesn't apply, then rabbonim have an obligation to teach Torah accurately, regardless of the impetus to encourage copying or not. They also have an obligation to follow that policy consistently, with regard to yichus investigations for example. Yet, rabbonim routinely allow people to marry Jews on the basis of dina d'malchusa. They enforce monetary obligations based on dina d'malchusa, and so on.

Yosef admits my point about Rabbi D. Cohen's position and writes:
True. What I clearly articulated was that the lie was that you bunched all of the rabbonim under this 'disgraced' Rabbi. Thats a lie.
Actually, he's the most notable posek (not that I view him that way) I've heard of to support this. The only other allegorical claims I've heard for these positions adopt the same halachik reasoning he does. Its simple logic, as the obligations are both rooted in dina d'malchusa dina. If Yosef does know of respected poskim who make a distinction between dina d'malchusa for taxes vs. downloading, let him cite them. Again, we need to clarify amitah shel Torah, right?

Yosef also says that an implication that he runs a pirate site would reduce his credibility.
Because then I have an incentive to argue wrongly. This way I'm writing objectively. By making your assertion, you're implying that I'm nogai'a bedavar.
Actually, he's a nogea b'davar. He has acknowledged-- even advocated-- illegally downloading music.

Yosef claims that naval birshus hatorah doesn't apply. I believe that it should, even according to to those who would like to say dinad'malchusa isn't applicable here. No one needs free music. It also seems pretty clear that the issue falls under the parameters of "Vasisa hayashar vehatov" and "mai disani lach, lechavroch lo tasun." Also, chilul Hashem.

There are two comments to his post.

Yanky Friedman said...
A common psak that i am aware of, and some poskim say this or similar logic only privately - very few publicize they hold this), is that it is assur to copy a cd, but it is muttar to download from the internet. Once something is available o the internet, there is automatic yi'ush, and the item is hefker, like something that was thrown into the sea - even if it washes up later and is found, the owner gave up all hope knowing it was out to sea.
I've never heard of such a psak. If it's common, please name the poskim who hold this way. I'd love to confirm it. The logic of said "common psak" is quite silly.

Anonymous writes:
I don't see how this can be divorced from the larger issue of how people get their music these days. There's not going to be special treatment for frum artists; appeals to halacha and so forth mirror the recording industry's righteous anger, but ultimately they had little legal recourse and had to work out alternate solutions. It just so happens that what you could do 10 years ago -- record and album, press a cd, and sell it and count your money -- isn't how you can do it now.

Let me give a moshol: many years ago a little boy was bullied. He counted the days until his graduation from 8th grade. He knew he'd be going to a different mesivta, and besides, it was much more yeshivish. The significance of that? Well, bullying is obviously assur. Surely all the be-hatted bochurim simply could not bully this boy, since they would be so frum. Turned out this boy was living in a dream world. The way to address bullying is not by appealing to halacha and frumkeit. Bullying is simply a reality, and it must be managed however such management can be accomplished. Same with downloading music. If kids are socialized to avoid turning lights on and off on shabbos from the time they're small children, they're not socialized not to download music. On the contrary, if anything they're socialized that it's perfectly fine, along with the rest of the world who downloads music and videos. Only some kind of itunes like solution (make it easier and attractive and cheap) can work, and frum artists will simply have to get used to it same as other artists.
Actually, contemporary Jewish releases are available easily, attractively, and cheap, just like he asserts in his closing sentence. Kind of moots the rest of his point. The problem is that some, like Yosef Greenberg, will ignore these legal options in favor of illegal downloading.

I do agree that the reality is that some will act unethically regardless of appeals to halacha. That's a sad indictment of some in the frum community. Anonymous's analogy to bullies is (inadvertently, I suspect) quite apt.