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Aqeedah and Fiqh

The Copyright Issue – Shaykh Jamal Zarabozo

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By Jamaal al-Deen Zarabozo (republished with the authorization of the author)

Basically, there are three opinions among the scholars concerning the question of copyrights. One opinion says that such a practice is an Islamically acceptable practice and that the implications of copyright laws are to be respected by Muslims. This opinion is definitely the opinion of the majority of the scholars who have discussed this issue in detail. This is, for example, the view of Bakr Abu Zaid, Taqi al-din Usmani, Abdullah ibn Manee’, Wahbah al-Zuhaili, ibn Uthaimeen, Salmaan al-Audah, and numerous others. In addition, it is the view upheld by the Majma al-Fiqhi of the OIC and the Standing Committee of Religious Scholars of Saudi Arabia (Abdul-Azeez ibn Baaz, Abdul-Azeez Aali-Shaikh, Saalih al-Fauzaan, and Bakr Abu Zaid). The Majma al-Fiqhi (of the OIC) came to the following conclusion: “Writing or inventing something is a private right that belongs to the individual. In today’s contemporary world’s practices, it actually has a material value to it that people can make money from. These rights are to be respected from a Shariah perspective, and it is impermissible to transgress them” (Majallah Majma al-Fiqh al-Islaami, volume no. 5, part 3, p. 2267.)

Those who oppose the concept of copyright include Muḥammad Shafee (the former Mufti of Pakistan), Abdul-Razzaaq Afeefi and Muḥammad Mukhtaar al-Shinqeeti.

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The third opinion is that copyright laws and principles are to be upheld and respected except with regard to material related to the religion. This is the view of Abdullah ibn Bayyah and Muḥammad Abdul-Lateef al-Furfoor.

Numerous arguments have been given by scholars in favor of the issue of copyright. It would be well beyond the scope of this response to cover all of the different points. (Al-Shahraani, for example, mentions thirteen points supporting the concept of copyright in Islamic Law.) Therefore, only some of the more important points will be touched upon here.

Thus, for example, The Standing Committee of Religious Scholars of Saudi Arabia was asked about the permissibility of copying software which had been copyrighted (Fatwa #18453). They were also asked if it would make any difference if it were from a Muslim or non-Muslim company. Their response was that it is not permissible to make a copy of a program if its provider prohibits it unless they explicit permission to do so. They then quoted the hadith of the Prophet,

الْمُسْلِمُونَ عَلَى شُرُوطِهِمْ

“The Muslims must abide by conditions that they lay down.”[1] (The essence of the argument here is that when a person buys a book or software which is copyrighted, they are essentially agreeing to the conditions of that copyright which is clearly stated on the product that they are purchasing and which is not something new or strange to the purchaser. Hence, the purchaser must fulfill the condition that he has agreed to.) They then quoted the hadith,

لَا يَحِلُّ مَالُ امْرِئٍ إِلَّا بِطِيبِ نَفْسٍ مِنْهُ

“No wealth of a Muslim can be taken except with his approval.”[2] It does not matter whether the producers of that software were a Muslim or a non-harbi non-Muslim, as the rights of a non-harbi non-Muslim are to be respected like that of a Muslim. The signatories to this fatwa were Abdul-Azeez ibn Baaz, Abdul-Azeez Aali-Shaikh, Saalih al-Fauzaan, and Bakr Abu Zaid. In Fatwa #18845, they concluded the same regarding tapes and books.

In addition, some scholars quoted the following hadith from Sahih Bukhāri,

إِنَّ أَحَقَّ مَا أَخَذْتُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا كِتَابُ اللَّهِ

“That which you have the most right to take wages/reward for is the Book of Allāh.” This was stated by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in response to some Companions who objected to another Companion receiving a sheep as wages for reciting the Qurʾān as an incantation. Further note that the wording used by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is both general and unconstrained. This hadith is quoted in response to those who argue that one cannot benefit from religious knowledge in any way and, thus, copyright on books or other material related to the religion is forbidden.

In another hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was speaking to a man who had virtually nothing to offer as a marriage dower. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) finally asked him if he knew any of the Qurʾān. When he answered in the affirmative, the Prophet then said,

قَدْ أَنْكَحْتُكَهَا بِمَا مَعَكَ مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ

“I marry her off to you for what you have of the Qurʾān.” (Recorded by Bukhāri and Malik.) This demonstrates that this knowledge is a type of wealth and can be treated as such.

When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked about the best of earnings, he replied,

عَمَلُ الرَّجُلِ بِيَدِهِ وَكُلُّ بَيْعٍ مَبْرُور

“What a person earns by his hand and every honestly executed sale transaction.” (Recorded by Ahmad and others.[3]) Obviously, the production of a book or a lecture or anything of that sort falls under what a person earns by his hand and is one of the best means by which one can support himself and earn a living.

Ibn Uthaimeen further argues that if the country has accepted the concept of copyright and has made transgressions against copyrights illegal, then one must obey such laws. He stated, “If the country prohibits that, then it is not allowable, as Allāh has ordered that those in authority are to be obeyed in any matter that is not disobedience to Allāh and this is not disobedience to Allāh…” (alLiqaa al Maftoohah, session #178).

Finally, this has become the convention or urf when it comes to dealing with books and other such material,to protect the work of the original individual and to distribute that work and to make it available to the public. Such urf or convention, unless it can be proven to violate a clear command of the Qurʾān and Sunnah, has its place in Islamic Law as a basis for law and practice.

A smaller number of arguments are advanced against the practice of copyright. Perhaps the strongest among them are three: (1) there are no texts in the Qurʾān and Sunnah that clearly support this practice; (2) copyright is a form of “concealing knowledge”; (3) no one possesses knowledge from an Islamic perspective, and hence copyright must be forbidden. Without going into great detail, each of these arguments shall be responded to.

The first point concerns issues that are not explicitly mentioned in the Qurʾān or Sunnah. Concerning many issues, I have heard numerous people make statements like, “It is not found in the Qurʾān or Sunnah and therefore you cannot do it.” Many times, people who make these statements are quick to point out that they themselves are not scholars. In fact, this is one of the issues that truly distinguishes a scholar from a student of knowledge or layperson. The scholar is able to derive laws based on the general and specific guidance of the Qurʾān and Sunnah. In particular, new issues may arise that are not covered explicitly by the texts of the Qurʾān and Sunnah. The scholar must then derive the proper conclusions in the light of the Qurʾān and Sunnah. The layperson or student of knowledge is many times limited to the clear texts of the Qurʾān and Sunnah, which does not require in-depth knowledge and inquiry. In sum, simply because something is not directly mentioned or alluded to in the texts, it does not necessarily mean that it is either prohibited or permissible. Some further study needs to be done and that requires a scholar who is familiar with the tools and methodology of deriving conclusions from the Qurʾān and Sunnah.[4]

Second, concerning the issue of whether copyright is a form of “concealing knowledge,” the reality is virtually the exact opposite. Copyright is a means of providing for the means of spreading knowledge. Without such a law and protection for the work of an individual, whereby he can earn an income via such work, the individual would not have the means and wherewithal to do research. This is especially true in contemporary times where the cost of living can be very great. One certainly cannot expect all individuals to work forty hours—driving a cab or whatever—and then expect to produce quality Islamic material for the remainder of the Ummah to benefit from. There may be some who have been blessed with such great skills by Allāh but, in general, that is a very unrealistic and impractical approach to spreading knowledge and producing scholars, which is at a premium in today’s world. Furthermore, even in the past scholars received stipends and support for teaching and producing works. Outside of the Muslim world, obviously, the mechanisms that would support scholars in the Muslim world are simply not present. Hence, other mechanisms must be resorted to.

Third, concerning the claim that no one “owns knowledge” from an Islamic perspective and therefore copyright could not possibly be valid, it must be realized that this is now what copyright is about at all. Copyright provides knowledge and allows people to use such knowledge, but it does not allow them to use the knowledge in the same format (by simply copying, for example) or without attributing the works and results to its doer. Furthermore, if one is using exactly what the originator produced, then one is obliged to pay the originator for what he has produced.

Since there is nothing specific about the concept of copyright in the Qurʾān and the Sunnah nor is it something directly analogous to a principle of any text, the issue of copyright must be seen in the light of the bigger picture of the overall goals of the Shariah. It is well-established among the scholars that the five major  goals of the Shariah are the preservation of religion, life, familial relations, mental capacity and wealth. Again, when seen in the larger picture, copyright aids in the protection of religion (by preserving knowledge, encouraging research, allowing for the publication of books and lectures and so on) as well as wealth (what a person or company invested in a work is protected and he has the right to demand his remuneration for his work).

Copyright is not about harming other Muslims or preventing them from any knowledge but it is about supporting the infrastructure of developing Islamic research and Islamic products, making them more available to all and more beneficial to all. The goal is that no one profits unfairly from exploiting the work that others have done and concerning which they may need some remuneration.

Finally, if a person is well-off and decides to forego any financial benefit from his work, then this must be considered a very charitable act on his part and it is hoped that he would be rewarded greatly by Allāh. Similarly, if a publisher has the means to do something of that nature or if someone can be found to cover all of the costs, that would be great and wonderful. However, such commendable acts cannot be forced on an individual if the Shariah accepts such a practice as copyright law

Footnotes:
[1]It should be noted that this hadith that they quote is recorded by Abu Dawood and al-Haakim. According to al-Albaani, it is authentic. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer #6714.

[2]This hadith they quote is recorded by Abu Dawood. According to al-Albaani, it is authentic. See al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer #7662.

[3]According to al-Albaani it is authentic while according to al-Arnaaoot, et al. it is a good hadith due to supporting evidence. See, respectively, Muḥammad Naasir al-Deen al-Albaani, Saheeh al-Jaami al-Sagheer wa Ziyaadatuh (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islaami, 1988), vol. 1, hadith #1033 and Shuaib al-Arnaaoot, et al., Musnad al-imām Ahmad (Beirut: Muassasah al-Risaalah, 1999), vol. 28, hadith #17265, pp. 502-503.

[4]This author realizes that even some scholars have made this type of statement in reference to copyright. However, it will be argued later that copyright is well within and consistent with what is known as the maqaasid or the general overall goals of the Shariah.

Reference:

Obviously, there are works other than these three available but these three references are comprehensive in the sense that they cover both sides of the issue in detail. Again, the goal here is to be brief and therefore the interested individual may consult the following three works:

Bakr Abu Zaid, Fiqh al-Nawaazil (Beirut: Muassasah al-Risaalah, 1996), volume 2. This work is very informative in that it describes precedents set by early hadith scholars in both protecting works and receiving wages for works.

Hussain al-Shahraani, Huqooq al-Ikhtiraa’ wa al-Taleef fi al-Fiqh al-Islaami (Riyadh: Dar Taibah, 2004). This is the author’s master thesis presented to Muḥammad ibn Saud Islamic University; hence, it is inclusive of all sides of the issue.

Majallah Majma’ al-Fiqh al-Islaami, (Session 5, 1988), vol. 3, pp. 2267-2581. This includes a series of articles and voiced opinions, some justifying copyright and some arguing that it is not justified. Hence, it is a valuable reference.

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. AbuHafsa

    January 8, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    JazakaAllah Shaykh, this was a much needed reminder.

  2. Asad

    January 8, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    Assalamu alaikum shaykh. Would it be permissable to photocopy a benficial book which is out of print and impossible to get hold of e.g. The commentary of an nawwawis 40 ahadith by jamal al deen zarabozo ? :)

    • Ibn Masood

      January 9, 2010 at 9:06 AM

      Be patient, a second edition is coming out soon inshaAllah that will be cheaper as well (they reduced the size of the font and thus made it into two volumes… same book, less paper, less cost). Until then you can borrow it from a brother or something.

  3. Basil Mohamed Gohar

    January 8, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    Jazaak Allaahu khayran wa baarak Allaahu feek yaa shaykhana. I learned quite a lot in this concise but beneficial essay.

    I wish, though, that you’d given more attention to the idea that works that one produces need *not* be copyrighted. I realize the problem you were trying to address is copyright violation, but some people don’t realize that one need *not* release their own work under a copyright, but rather, you can do something creative (or produce a lecture or other beneficial work) and release under a license that explicitly allows copying; the Creative Commons licensing model allows exactly that, with the originator being able to specify different degrees of freedom that a consumer may use their work.

    For example, one can still retain attribution while allowing free redistribution of an Islamic work. This is a new frontier in the area of creativity that I wish was addressed more in depth.

  4. ms

    January 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    jazakumullah khayr shaykh jamaal for the article. benefitted emmensely knowing the nuances of opinions about this important topic. may Allaah forgive you and have mercy on you and your family. ameen.

    that means no kalaullah/ halal tube is not much halal?….i knew that ban would happen one day. :)

    can’t we just read that Allaah is watching us. period. example, even if Bill gates were to be a bad guy ( actually after donating money and all he is not at all one), we weren’t suppose to pirate his softwares. but students who can’t afford the fees they want to earn behind the colorful screens of copyright and information, can be horrible.

    for example, i knew many books with usa/uk print are simply out of capacity for some people to buy. (e.g. author’s commentary on 40 hadith nawawi, may Allaah reward them ameen, costs 80 bucks and in india/pakistan earn that kind of money for a month of hard work.) they have to reprint (cheaper and more accessible) the books for the subcontinent so that people actually come , read, buy and benefit and not come , read the price tag and dissociate gradually..

    when i was in college, and actually asked my head of department that i can’t afford to buy the software ( oracle ) for which i am interested in doing project. can the department help me in regards to providing a licensed copy? either pirate or change the project was the polite response…. no wonder people like open source…

    Of course i feel one is entitled to earn a living with works of scholarship. but shouldn’t there be a upper cap to such earning (for islamic products). aren’t copyright laws protecting the corporate policies of rich becoming richer.

    so at least for islamic products in particular ( and all products in general, if possible) we have a regulatory body to decide the cap or what?

    also these in betweens, who don’t produce and actually sell the stuff (offline/online) earn a lot of money at will. for example, try out shaykh abu eesa nimatullah, hafidhahullah one of latest compilation of adab al mufrad. different website sell different prices.
    (someone sold me suhaib webb’s purification of soul lecture for 55 dollars while on internet it was 29. i honestly did not wished to pirate but this was like…)

    jazak Allaah khayr.

  5. Sayf

    January 9, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Question:

    Paying to watch movies and supporting them or downloading and violating copyright.
    Lesser of two evils?

    • Azizur Rahman

      January 10, 2010 at 5:51 PM

      @Sayf,

      Evil is Evil end of the day. Lesser of two is still evil and does not make it right, but still some progress.

      I would question where would we like to receive our justice? In this life or on the day of Judgement when those copyright owner demand for our hasana or paper money in this life?

      Allah is the Most Just and Most Merciful!

  6. ms

    January 9, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    a counter to the one corollary above. if we really have a cap as compensation for the hard work produced by individual/company, people would wait until the cap is reached and item becomes , ready to free distribute ( regardless of whether original source is accredited for the scholarship). so i take that one back….

  7. anon

    January 9, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Really nice article mashallah. I have two questions that I was hoping someone could answer:

    1. How do we deal with very expensive software that the producers purposely make copyright in a specific way to control their monopoly of the buisness. For example, micorsoft office requires that you can install their software on one computer only. If you have 3-4 different computers in your house technically you should buy 3-4 copies of the same product. That’s simply not feasible (pay $2000-3000). How do we deal with this?

    2. Regarding the hadith about getting wages for teaching the Quran, how do we reconcile with the hadith that forbid one from getting wages for teaching the Quran? For example the following hadith:

    Excerpted from Mukhtasar al-Quduri, a highly revered manual of Hanafi fiqh –

    In Sunan Ibn Majah and elsewhere is the account of a Sahabi who was teaching writing and Qur’an to a man of the people of the Suffah. Later on, the man gave Mu`adh a bow. Mu`adh thought that there is nothing wrong in taking it, and besides, he will use it for fighting in the path of Allah, but he was still uncertain so he thought to ask the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). The Prophet told him that “if you want it (the bow) to be girdled around your neck with fire on the Day of Resurrection, then take it.”

    • Sayf

      January 9, 2010 at 3:37 PM

      Yeah, MS Office just begs to be made into a torrent :P

    • Azizur Rahman

      January 10, 2010 at 6:06 PM

      One solution to your question 1) Use alternative free software such as OpenOffice.org.

      I agree the quality and user experience is not the same but that’s our problem.. we don’t use it and don’t want to learn new thing. If we remain complacent about it then we have ourselves to pay for those expensive software.

      To really address this issue start doing movement of teaching today’s schools children using other then say Microsoft or expansive software. That includes us all at home teaching the little ones that they’d not need to do the same thing we did. We did not have an options but there is options available to them so broaden their horizon.

      Have we every got involved in projects that promote free software to be used in our community and education centres and local schools. How many of us are schools governors who can suggest and change what software our children are thought to use at schools?

      Its about time we weak up and get involved!

  8. studentofknowledge

    January 9, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    If we copy a book, the purpose served is same as telling someone what you learned from such books . Aren’t we supposed to convey what we learn from JZ’s books to others ? Or should we tell someone that “well, I know the Shari’ah answer to your problem, but can’t reveal. You have to buy this book of so-and-so “.

    Is n’t having a copyright for one’s book a bid’ah ? None of the salaf did so to their texts. And the salaf and khalaf reproduced other scholars’ work in their own handwriting. Ibn taymiyyah is known to have made a copy of the voluminous tafsir of a scholar in his own hand-writing .

    To say that the author spent too much money for research is again not a good excuse. Has anyone of our contemporary scholars made as much effort as Imam Bukhari? Yet, you don’t find “al-Jaami’ al-Sahih al-Musnad al-Mukhtasar min Umur Rasool Allah wa sunanihi wa Ayyamihi- copyright by Al-Bukhari . Not to be reproduced without prior written permission from the author ” . The only tradition while copying in Islam is to attribute the word, or work or book to its true speaker or author ( which is what we call isnad ) .

    Further, you will find that even the medieval muslim scientists’ works were not copyrighted and were freely used by westerners .

  9. Zi

    January 10, 2010 at 7:23 AM

    Salām, jazāakallāhu khayr for shedding light on this issue.

    I’m really shocked that majority of scholars allow copyrighting Islamic texts.

    For hundreds of years, our scholars did not do this. Now, you rarely find a book that doesn’t say the words “Not to be reproduced without prior written permission from the author” etc (obviously copied and pasted from the books of the non-Muslims)

    It’s probably done to protect their money-making / fund-raising objectives. But I believe it would be better to raise funds through businesses, not by copyrighting Islamic materials.

    Otherwise you are preventing knowledge from spreading. And you are restricting knowledge to those who can afford it. How can this be a good thing??

    Zi

    • Abu Yunus

      October 28, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Yep. If the texts were copyrighted, this Deen might not have reached us. Allahu a’lam!

  10. MR

    January 10, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Is it possible to read the fatwa or article by Sh. Abdallah bin Bayyah on this issue. Even if it’s in Arabic.

  11. AS

    January 11, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum,
    I strongly believe in copyright however I think that once I purchase something, I should be able to use it however I see fit. For example, if I purchase an EmanRush CD (which is copyrighted), I should be able to create it into an mp3 to put on my iPod. and I don’t plan on sharing the file with anyone.

    I’m curious what others think about this because many copyright statements say that it cannot be reproduced in any other form.

    • Ibn Masood

      January 11, 2010 at 9:33 AM

      I think we’re allowed to do that by law… that’s why iTunes and other software have CD-ripping commands.

      • Siraaj Muhammad

        January 11, 2010 at 10:19 AM

        Depends on what type of company you’re dealing with – as mentioned above, with microsoft, it’s one copy per computer, period. Each computer requires a license.

        In the case of Emanrush, I’m pretty confident they don’t care.

        Siraaj

        • AS

          January 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM

          I agree it totally depends on the company being dealt with. Unfortunately, most companies just put the standard copyright statement on their works:

          “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior permission”

          For example, I am currently reading Patience and Gratitude (amazing book everyone should read) and it contains the above statement. I am also considering a Kindle to read books on the train and unfortunately this book is not available as a Kindle e-book although a PDF scan is on the internet. Would it be wrong for me to use the PDF scan since I own the book? Or, do I need to contact Ta-Ha Publishers first? I guess it is their right that I do so, but it can get overwhelming.

          I really think we (Muslims) should be ahead of the times when it comes to distributing Islamic knowledge digitally. I think the old school way of books and CDs is disappearing…

          • Azizur Rahman

            January 16, 2010 at 7:00 PM

            In regards to:

            “I think the old school way of books and CDs is disappearing…”

            I cant totally agree even these days I attend some of the talks and at the end of it audio cassettes are on offer for us to buy them.

            I want to echo what already being said: we need to be at forefront of things.

            I am yet to see a HD quality recording from any of the sheiks I know of. I stand here to be corrected.

  12. Dawud

    January 11, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Much needed and overdue. Thank you!

    It would be nice to relate this discussion to Islamic torrent and piracy websites and also something which is of related, and greater concern, is making money off of Islam- scholars or businessmen. There are just some things about it that still make people uneasy especially when its only one-sided justification.

    I liked this bit:

    “Copyright provides knowledge and allows people to use such knowledge but it does not allow them to use the knowledge in the same format (by simply copying, for example) or without attributing the works and results to its doer.”

    To me this meant: If you learn the knowledge, memorize it, apply it and share it with others- that is much better (and more needed) than just copy-pasting which thus far has done little to help tarbiya compared to how much traditional oral transmission has.

  13. Abu Muawiyah

    January 13, 2010 at 12:55 AM

    More than just a fiqh issue, copyright is more an ethical issue.

    I am close friends with a brother from 1Islam Productions and with some Nasheed singers, and both of them complain to me about how copyright infringement kills their business. It takes a lot of hard work, time and money to create quality Islamic Media and by not supporting these people and pirating instead, we are destroying their efforts and damaging the future of Islamic media.

    We complain about the lack of quality Islamic media, what we can do about it is support those who produce such media so that they can grow and create even more Islamic alternatives.

    Copyright infringement kills all this.

  14. Takbir

    January 16, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you, and be not the first to reject Faith therein, nor sell My Signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone. [2:41]

    Those who conceal ALLAH’s revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit,- they swallow into themselves naught but Fire; ALLAH will not address them on the Day of Resurrection. Nor purify them: Grievous will be their penalty. [2:174]

    • Amused

      March 17, 2010 at 11:26 PM

      Shaykh Takbir,

      Perhaps you would care to enlighten us with the tafseer and the asbaab an-nuzool of the 2 ayaat you have quoted and how they apply to this discussion ? And yes, I would prefer their tafseer from scholars please, not your own imagination :)

  15. Roomana

    January 22, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    I am planning to write a self help book based on a book I have read. Is it okay to copy the material [not verbatim] using the methodology of the writer, especially since the writer is a professional in the field and then relating it to our own experiences and history [from Islam’s two authentic sources, the Quran and Sunnah]? Would it raise any copyright issues? I would greatly appreciate your help. JazakumAllahu khayran wa ahsanul jazaae khayr fid daraain.

  16. Umm Noor

    March 27, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    I wonder the opinion about copyright in the food production industry. For example, copyrighting seeds (for crops), genetically modified foods that have permeated the market, agri-chemicals, cloned animals, and all manner of bio-tech manipulated foods and food production processes.

    Agricultural biotechnology has permeated the entire food production market from top to bottom, and it is protected by patents. A few giant companies (including the infamous Monsanto) own the majority of patents.

    A small example of the implications: Monsanto filed lawsuits against many farmers in Canada and the U.S. on the grounds of patent infringement – this was for farmers selling seeds containing Monsanto’s patented genes. These genetically modified crops and seeds get carried by wind and sown in neighboring crops, and mix with another farmers crops and keep spreading. All these new crops are under Monsanto patent, and selling the modified seed from crops the farmer has raised and processed is illegal. 

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