In the name of God
First of all, I would like to thank you for your efforts and work in order to provide high quality lectures for the Muslim Ummah to benefit from. Before I begin discussing Islamic video lectures and the Muslim community, I’d like to spend some time discussing the broader scale of videos, movies, etc. and the common practice of downloading using BitTorrent or other file sharing protocols.
The current reign of BitTorrent has completely taken piracy to a new level. Any person with some basic knowledge of installing software and downloading files can get their hands on almost any movie, music album, software, and practically almost anything that can be stored on a computer off the Internet using file sharing sites and BitTorrent networks.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about then continue reading. If you do understand how torrents work then skip down to the section entitled “The Situation of Piracy in the Muslim Ummah“.
What is a torrent? What is BitTorrent?
A BitTorrent (.torrent) is a small file that contains an empty puzzle to an entire file(s). A BitTorrent client loads this torrent file and searches though other BitTorrent hosts who have the complete puzzle already completed. In order for you to complete your puzzle you will have to download from those who already completed it. This is what the BitTorrent client does. Once your puzzle is completed, you have fully downloaded the file(s) and now you are also sharing it as well, unless you take it off from sharing. Also while you are finding the puzzle pieces you need, other people are also looking to complete their puzzles and if you have a piece they need, then you will be sharing it with them and they will be able to download it. That’s pretty much the best analogy I can come up with. If you didn’t fully understand, then I’d check Wikipedia here for a thorough definition of BitTorrent.
Where does the piracy come in?
If you search through many of the BitTorrent search engines and BitTorrent hosting sites, you’ll find complete software packages and full length movies that are still in theaters or just released on DVD or complete seasons of popular TV shows. Literally thousands of people are downloading and uploading them all at the same time this very second as you read this. It’s that popular through out the world.
What have major TV channels done to help stop piracy?
Many TV networks like ABC, NBC, MTV, etc. are streaming entire full length episodes of very popular TV shows. Instead of trying to fight the wide spread piracy like the music industry is, they are catching on to the drift and realizing that many people want to watch movies, TV shows, etc. on their computers. So how do they make money? It’s very simple: online commercials and advertisements. They sell “online airtime” in between the TV episodes online. You can see examples here from NBCs Heroes.
The music industry has come down hard on the BitTorrent community, suing people left and right and forcing many BitTorrent sites to shut down or to close business in the US (They are still active for non-US IPs). The solution for this has been iTunes. Apple’s iTunes has a monopoly over the legal use of allowing users to download music for a price of course.
The Situation of Piracy in the Muslim Ummah
Islamic lecture providers are also facing piracy of their lectures being uploaded to Google Video, YouTube and other video sites. What’s worse is that many Muslims have defended this as saying you shouldn’t sell knowledge. Knowledge was never been sold during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) nor was it sold during the time of the companions (may God be pleased with them all) nor the salaf (the generations right after the Prophet Muhammad [peace and blessings be upon] ) and so on. They do have a point, because many scholars offer their lectures for free because they also feel that sacred knowledge shouldn’t be sold. The other view is that this is a means of living for some Muslims and that they need the money to survive and support their families. That point is also true. Both sides have substantial evidence to prove their opinions. My proposed solution will offer both sides a possible mutual agreement.
A Possible Solution?
I have thought about this for a while and I have been wanting to write about this for the past few months. Islamic lecture providers need to start providing free content online. Streaming videos with 15-60 second commercials is a way they can earn profit whilst providing it for free. They can sell commercial time and also sell online advertisements on their video pages. For example, extremely popular speakers like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf or Shaykh Yasir Qadhi would generate many hits, thus to buy a 30 second commercial spot would be expensive. To buy a 60 second commercial spot would be even more. Who wouldn’t want to advertise their product on a Shaykh Hamza Yusuf video or a Shaykh Yasir Qadhi video. Thousands will view the video. That alone should be enough for some companies to advertise if this system was implemented.
The only issue would be to find companies (Muslim and non-Muslim) that would be willing to be the first to advertise in this type of marketing strategy. Also, what is the cost per video to be put up for free instead of being sold by quantity. I personally believe that the number of lectures sold is less profitable than providing free videos online. The amount of people that watch the lecture for free is far greater than the amount of people that would buy the lecture. Providing commercial time would be more profitable than to sell the video lectures by the quantity.
What kind of Advertisements?
Well that’s up to the video producer. It can be advertising Islamic events, fundraisers, or Muslim businesses. It can be whatever the video producer and speaker agree on.
I hope, God willing, that this idea could become a reality in the near future. Please forgive me if I have said anything wrong. It was only out of good intention to help expand the online Muslim community with this idea and to provide Muslim businesses with other alternatives in making a profit.