How are translations secured?

When I click on some English translations, I am sent to accestoinsight, but that website has been inaccessible for me several times already lately.
When I look up Dutch translations, I am also sent to the external website, which is fine now, but what happens when these external websites disappear?

Is there a system of securing translations in place, so that the translations will always be accessible, even if the external websites cease to exist?


That’s news to hear that AtI is unreliable, I hope it is only a temporary issue.

Several years ago we had this problem because all our Pali texts were linked to an external site. But that site went dead overnight, never to reappear. So we decided to host our texts ourselves, and since then we have assembled and prepared over 60,000 texts for the site.

In a few cases we still link externally. This is purely a legacy feature and is deprecated. As more translations become available on our platform we will eventually remove all such links.


Thank you for your reply, Bhante.

Problem with AtI solved: I use F-secure Freedome (VPN) and apparently AtI blocks that connection. When I turn F-secure Freedome off, Ati is online for me, too.
That’s where sites like come in handy :slight_smile:

1 Like

Good to hear that it’s not down. I wonder why a VPN blocks it: maybe because it’s an older site?

The VPN is sometimes welcome for making geographically blocked content available (would that go against “abstaining from taking what is not given”? ).

It is the other way around: The VPN does not block AtI but AtI or the server it is hosted on blocks my (VPN) connection.
Can’t remember it happened before with other sites. I get a “server not found” message. My VPN’s location is set to Amsterdam. (Only when accessing geographically blocked content I set it to another country).
Out of curiosity I set it to “United States West Coast” and… AtI could be reached through the VPN. Germany… no problem either… seems AtI does not like Dutch Buddhists… but then my regular Dutch non-VPN connection has no problems accessing AtI. Strange things happen :slight_smile:

Only if, when you access the content, you delete the files from the original server. So no: copying is not stealing.

1 Like

In that case downloading (without paying) copies of videos/music/books protected by copyright should not be seen as stealing either? :slight_smile: After all, in those cases you don’t delete the original files either.

None of these violate the precept against stealing. The idea that copying something is equivalent to stealing is a modern idea. The Vinaya clearly and explicitly defines stealing as depriving someone of the original thing. If they keep what they had, and you make a copy of it, it is not stealing according to the precepts.

It was the Brahmins, not the Buddhists, who made prohibitions against copying “intellectual property” (i.e. the Vedas) and advocated punishing those who made illicit copies (i.e. by listening to them, which was how copies were made in those days.)

Copyright is a national and international law, and if you chose to break it you should consider the legal implications. My personal opinion is that if a law is broken millions of times per day—even by the people supposed to be enforcing it—with no demonstrable harm resulting, it is a dumb law.

Of course, the problem is that you deprive the creators of their income, which, so we’ve been told, makes it impossible for movies and the like to make a profit. Oh, wait …

Copying things has no demonstrable relation to profitability. Shocker! Turns out, people have a limited income, and they tend to allocate a similar proportion of that income for media, regardless of what they copy.

Copyright was instituted to ensure that creative artists get proper compensation for their work, but it has become an instrument for global capitalism. It fails to ensure income for creators, while in its wake it creates a massive suppression and destruction of knowledge.

In all the fuss about “fake news” recently, I have not seen anyone notice the fact that I can get any rubbish I like from Breitbart, but if I want peer reviewed academic work, I have to pay $30 to download a pdf file from a journal. And none of that money—zero—goes to the authors, or, in most cases, the editors, but solely to the publisher. Copyright is killing knowledge.

If the powers that be are serious about getting people to comply with copyright law, they need to start by massively scaling it back and ensuring it serves its purported function, protecting the creators of content. They might also consider the psychological implications of the first commandment of copyright: Thou shalt treat thy fans as thine enemy.


The Vinaya was written in a time when there was no printing press and the concept of digital copies was unknown altogether.

So, if you literally read the Vinaya, you are absolutely right.
However, because of new developments and the fact that laws/rules are always not only open to interpretation but have to be interpreted, also the spirit of the law has to be taken into consideration.

When researching this topic a little, I came across this:

“To practice the precepts is to get beyond thinking about what the rules permit us to do. This practice is more challenging than just following rules.”


"Years ago I worked for a small company whose owner was, shall we say, ethically challenged. I soon noticed that every few days she fired our technical support vendor and hired a new one. It turned out she was taking advantage of introductory trial offers of so many days of free service. As soon as the free days were used up, she’d find another “free” vendor.

I’m sure that in her mind – and according to law – she wasn’t stealing; she was just taking advantage of an offer. But it’s fair to say the computer technicians would not have provided free labor had they known the company’s owner had no intention of giving them a contract, no matter how good they were.

This is the weakness of ethics-as-transaction. We rationalize why it’s okay to break the rules. Everyone else does it. We won’t get caught. It’s not illegal. "

( )

This example shows why taking into account the spirit of a law is important.

Copying things has no demonstrable relation to profitability

That is simply not true. We have a complete translation of the Majjhima Nikaya in Dutch. It is copyrighted by the translators/publishers. So, if you want to read the complete Majjhima Nikaya in Dutch, you have to pay for it and there are profits for the translators/publishers.
Without copyright you could choose to dowload the translation onto your e-reader and there would be no profits for the translators/publishers.
I think this demonstrates there is a relationship between copying things and profitability.

I think, what you want to say, is that no matter how many things people can copy, they will always spend a certain amount of their budget on media. But, if true, that is a general statement that doesn’t change the fact that for individual publishers(books, video, music, whatever) there often/most likely is a relationship between copying and profits.
If I like one singer but another even more, I could decide to (illegally) copy the songs of the first one and buy hard copies of the latter. If I had no possibility of downloading copies, and I wanted to have songs of both singers, I would have to divide my budget between the two.

I have nothing against copyright in general: it’s part of capitalism and capitalism is about making profits and maximizing them. The other system is communism and if we are honest, we know well that both systems, capitalism and communism have serious flaws.
And all wordly things have flaws as the Buddha taught us.

For me, personally, the line of abuse of copyright is crossed now that, for example, cable companies make it impossible or very difficult to record broadcasts on external media for personal use or for exchange with family/friends.
I even have a worse example: Here in the Netherlands we have a webshop that sells second-hand e-books. Of course with prices much lower than “new” e-books. Strong juridical actions are taken against them to try and stop them. Of course, I can understand the motivation of the publishers who try to stop this, but I think that it is nuts that when I buy a book, even if it is digital, I -as the owner- cannot resell it.

As for Buddhism specifically, I believe we should work for the propagation of the Dhamma and copyright has no place in it.


Just an additional thought why I believe the spirit of rules and laws should be taken into account:

I know very little about the Vinaya, but it is true that a bhikkhu is not allowed to be alone with a woman, and a bhikkhuni not alone with a man, right?

But the existence of gays and lesbians is not covered by the Vinaya with this rule, I think (correct me if I am wrong).
So, would you say a bhikkhu would be allowed to be alone with a gay man, and a bhikkhuni alone with a lesbian ?

Sorry, it just doesn’t. What it demonstrates is that there are some possible circumstances where there might be a relationship: in your words, “you could choose to download”, “there would be no profits”. This is a purely hypothetical case.

What happens when someone is interested in reading a sutta, and they can’t find what they want online? According to the publisher’s logic, they go and buy a book. That is, of course, assuming that the only people we care about are the rich, because poor people sure as hell don’t have the money to spend on physical books. And hey, maybe people do go and buy the book, sometimes. But maybe they do, I don’t know, something else. Like watch a movie or read a novel or check Facebook or even do some meditation. Or they become a Christian because, well, you can read the Bible online in 500 languages.

The only way of testing this is to assess real world data. And the data, rather consistently, shows that in the real world there is no simple relation between copying and profitability.

I give a number of other cases in my longer article on copyright:

But briefly, the only studies that I am aware of where this was rigorously tested in the context of religious books showed that making them freely available had little to no effect on profits, but substantially increased their citations. In other words, the publishers still made a living, but the point of the text—to make a difference—was amplified.

This finding reinforces the general findings of larger scale studies. Generally speaking, during the period when the internet has grown, and the scale of copyright violations has increased exponentially, the output of the creative industries has consistently grown. Here are just a few examples.

I can’t find a graph for TV, but even industry executives say there are now too many shows being produced.

This growth of the traditional creative industries is also during a time when they have had to compete with the explosion of a huge and entirely new creative industry:


Why is all this happening? Obviously there may be many reasons, but allow me to suggest one: the free and fluid exchange of information and knowledge is, on the whole, a good thing, and it promotes a flourishing of human culture.

But while copyright law doesn’t affect profits, it does affect the availability of knowledge. The image that should send chills down your spine is this one:


See that hole? Why is it that recent books are available, then they disappear, then they reappear again? They start coming back into availability after, surprise, 70 years, when copyright expires and they enter public domain. That is the dead hand of copyright, right there, murdering knowledge and annihilating culture.

What happens when, frustrated by the unavailability of free editions, someone makes their own free translation? That’s exactly what I’m doing right now. Any capacity to profit from the Dhamma on account of having a non-free text will vanish, and meanwhile, the ethical high ground has been lost.

Publishers should be the champions of the Buddhist culture, as they are helping to make the Dhamma available. But the teachings of the Dhamma itself, and the consensus of 2,500 years of tradition, is that the Dhamma should not be bought and sold in the market place like some common property. Copyright law requires you to restrict the Dhamma to the rich instead of making it available to everyone.

Publishers have the opportunity to foster a culture of virtue, where they give to the community, and encourage the community to give back. But they turn their back on that if they start treating Dhamma students as enemies. They might think that next quarter’s profit/loss will look healthier, but in the end they will fail. They will fail, not because of anything you or I do, but because they are banking on a failed fact of history: the idea that information can be controlled. It cannot, not any more. The value of information depends on scarcity, and that has gone. The market will deal, swiftly and ruthlessly, with anyone who doesn’t realize this. The market is utterly faithless: if you bet on the market, you don’t get to complain when it turns on you.

In your post you suggest that the alternative to capitalism is communism. That’s a false dichotomy. The real problem here is not the simple fact that people are free to buy and sell things in a market, which happens in every culture. The problem is the extremist ideology known as neoliberalism, an unfettered form of capitalism that tries to destroy the commons and enclose all human activity in the market. Rather, we should use the market where appropriate, and avoid it in cases where it is inappropriate, ancient spiritual texts being one of those cases.

Publishers have appropriated our spiritual texts and turned our spiritual traditions into a crime. I am a member of the monastic Sangha, the traditional custodians of these texts for 2,500 years. Free and open sharing of Dhamma is one of the great spiritual duties of not only the Sangha, but of all Buddhists. But if I share a copyrighted text illegally, I become a criminal for practicing my religious tradition.

These texts were freely given by the monastic Sangha to the world, specifically to Europeans and Americans, who turned around, claimed ownership of them, and made criminals out of those who gifted them in the first place. According to the copyright law of the Western capitalist culture, a translation is an original creative work, owned by the translator. But in my culture, the culture of Buddhism, a translation is an expression of the words of the Buddha, and it belongs to humanity in exactly the same way as the original text.

But there is an upside to all this. The Buddhist culture, based on dāna and the free exchange of knowledge, has proved to be extraordinarily resilient and flexible. It has survived in countless cultures over millenia. And it has done so for a very good reason: because it is based on a deep understanding of human nature. The appropriation of Buddhist texts by capitalism is just a blip, a few decades when the plot was lost. The tide has turned, and openness will win.


I agree completely. I have never recommended that anyone break the law: there is a difference between criticizing a law and breaking it. SuttaCentral always complies with copyright. And in my personal life, many years ago I had to push my community to get the monastery to adopt only Linux, one of the main reasons being so we didn’t use pirated software, unlike (shh!) most monasteries. Using Linux, incidentally, was one of the things that showed me that open source was not only ethically superior, it results in better products.

Indeed it is, if they are aiming at seclusion.

In this case, yes. It is, however, addressed in other rules, so the omission here is no oversight.

This is misstating the problem. What I say should happen has no relevance to what the Vinaya says. The Vinaya does not make it an offence for a monastic to be alone with someone of the same sex. Any opinions that you or I have do not change this.

For the record, my personal opinion is that if we are to consider such matters on a practical level, we should begin by consulting with gay Sangha members and, in general, take their advice. I’m not gay, and cannot claim to speak for their experience.

But regardless, the fact that I do or do not like something has nothing to do with what someone else is or is not “allowed” to do.

In the same way, in the Vinaya, copying things is not theft. Any opinions that you or I might have about copyright have no bearing on this.

The Vinaya also contains a general injunction to follow the “rule of kings”, although it does admit exceptions (releasing captive animals, for example). This is, however, a minor offence (dukkaṭa), as opposed to stealing, which warrants immediate and permanent expulsion.


TThese are very difficult issues. They concern the institutions and legal practices governing the economic organization of society, and there is never any simple answer to what precise combination of practices works best overall.

The special issue of religious content aside, I think we can all agree that unless creators and producers of any kind are able to derive an income from their work, they won’t be able to devote many resources and long periods of time to that work. How we organize those mutually supporting income flows so that socially valuable work gets done, and in the most beneficial and wholesome overall way, is a devilishly difficult matter.

I don’t think we can blame neoliberalism for this. Neoliberalism is generally taken to be a movement of recent decades toward less regulated capital flows, smaller government roles in economic production and increased reliance on market mechanisms. It was a trend away from the more regulated and egalitarian mixed economy arrangements of the mid-20th century. But copyright laws and intellectual property laws have been around for a long time, and are likely to exist in any system based on some form of property and property law.

The emergence of digital information has created a crisis of sorts for our previous systems of intellectual property. Unfortunately, I think the culture of the information sector itself is permeated by a lot of naive, wooly and downright selfish and malicious ideas propagated by people who made an amateur profession out of rank pilfering and hacking, and have created whole ideologies to justify their rampant thievery.

Of course from a pure dharma point of view, all of worldly economic life is dubious in the first place. The Buddha left that world and its stresses and miseries to live the holy life, and recommended that path to others. As part of that life, he recommended one avoid making acquisitions of any kind. But he knew that the community of renunciates had to live in dependence on, and in harmony with, a community of worldlings driven by material concerns, and for whom the organization, economic use and protection of property was inevitably an important matter. So not taking what is not given was an especially important rule for maintaining that harmony between the two communities with their very different ways of life.

It has generally been recognized that the Buddhist philosophical tradition has had relatively little to say about political and economic theory. I think that is because the dhammavinaya was not some kind of totalitarian ideology prescribing how all aspects of life are to be governed, but teachings on the higher life, aimed mainly at those who had gone forth from the world altogether, and secondarily at those who supported those renouncers and gathered or sat close to them. Other than encouraging the essentials of avoiding hatred, harming others, and unchecked lust and greed, for the general benefit of oneself and others, the Buddha didn’t seem that interested in second-guessing or meddling in the worldly governing arrangements of the suffering-ridden world he abandoned as a young man.

1 Like

Bhante Sujato,

Graphics are abundant in internet and while researching this subject a little, I saw people coming up with totally different graphics on the same subject. Without citations of the studies they come from, it is hard if not impossible to judge their value.

I want to show the following image:

It comes from this article:

Though the article is from 2004 I think it is still equally valid today.
From this we can conclude that piracy of virtual content not always has an effect on demand and/or revenue, BUT undeniably there is the possibility of a negative effect on profits.

In my opinion, it is up to the author, or anyone who has the copyright, to decide whether he wants to risk losing profits. After all, it is the author, or the publisher who invested his time, his money - not the person who illegally downloads.

This might depend on the religion and the religious books studied.
For Christians and Muslems, their books are holy and it might be almost a “must” to have a physical copy in their homes. For Buddhists for example, this might be different.

And what does the article say:

“Polled by THR at TCA in January, multiple network toppers expressed their fears for the future of the television industry. HBO’s Michael Lombardo noted his biggest concern was “chasing noise to break through the plethora of choices,” while Netflix’s Cindy Holland revealed she was worried about the "health of all the networks.”

Yes and no. If I can look up research showing me a certain medication might cause cancer and I can find another medication that doesn’t, then free and fluid exchange of information is positive. If however, if I were a catholic and would read on Facebook the false “news” that the Pope supports Trump and that would make me vote for Trump - then I don’t know if that would promote the flourishing of human culture.

As for your graphic with books on Amazon: It’s too easy to conclude the effect is all due to copyright protection. Don’t forget that in the same time that you see this rise of titles, the digital era has begun and the publishing of digital books involves less costs so that even re-publishing old titles has become profitable.
Also, people directly publish their own books without publisher. That also accounts for the increased number of titles.

Again, not as simple as that :slight_smile:
If your translation will be considered better, your statement is right. If your translation will be considered worse, your statement might be wrong.

No. We now have a translation in Dutch of the Majjhima Nikaya. It comes in 3 parts and one part is almost as expensive as the whole Majjhima Nikaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi. As I even can’t find a few pages for free to judge the quality of the Dutch translation, I don’t buy it and I stay with the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi which no doubt is highly valued.

But fact is: Copyright law requires you NOT to restrict the Dhamma to the rich but helps it make available to the rich.
If you have to pay people for a translation, enormous costs are involved. A publisher is not a charity and wants to see profits, as simple as that.
Without publisher paying for a translation, we might have had no Dutch translation at all.
If we as a community work together and pay our own translators, we are free to do with the translation what we want, and we can make it available for free download.
This has nothing to do with copyright. This is about ownership. And though nobody owns the Dhamma, translations have owners.

No. The value of information depends on its quality. If you publish a worthless free book on Buddhism, people will not read it and will pay for a book published by a publisher.

How so? You can’t appropriate what is in the public domain.

Not for practicing your religious tradition, but for appropriating something that was not yours.

You and I as Buddhists are free to adhere to this culture and practice it, but we can’t make it mandatory for others.

1 Like

Being gay, I can not speak for all gay people, and you not being gay does not mean you can’t have a view - though as Buddhists we should above, beyond views, hehe :slight_smile:

Actually it is very simple: If you don’t allow monks/nuns to be alone with a member of the opposite sex, then don’t allow them being alone with the same sex either. Maybe that is not practicable among monks in a monastery, but with lay followers I see no problem to follow that rule.
If a male monk and a woman together alone can be “dangerous”, then a male monk with another male alone can be as dangerous or even more: double testosterone as my family physician once put it :slight_smile:

And yes, I’m quite conservative in these affairs: Opening up the US army (for example) for gays and lesbians is a good thing, but the result that now straight guys have to take showers with gay guys is weird, for me personally and probably for many straight men, too, considering that we do maintain seperate showers for men and women.

Actually I was thinking about islam saying that muslems should confirm to the rules of the country.
So in Buddhism we have the same and consequently Buddhists should not infringe on the copyrights of others.

1 Like

I have no problem with the idea that the free and fluid exchange of information would be a very good thing. By the same token, the free and fluid exchange of rice would be a good thing; the free and fluid flow of of milk and soybeans and lentils and dance and music and timber and iron would be a good thing. But in our world these things can’t just flow freely, on the whole, because they take abundant amounts of human labor and valuable material resources to produce. That is, their production incurs costs to people, and so those people will not incur those costs unless they can derive an income from what they are doing.

Information, knowledge and artistic beauty do not just sprout spontaneously from the soil or seep out of the atmosphere. A large amount of human sweat, stress and time is required to produce these things. I certainly think we can, and should, think about different ways of organizing our economic systems to squeeze some of the massive profiteering, exploitation, idle rent-collection and inequality-exacerbating aggression and predation out of the system, and so that the incomes that are generated by and for producers of goods and services are more fairly distributed and go into sustaining more modest lives. But if somebody simply takes the output of a rice farmer, without that farmer giving it to them, on the grounds that “rice wants to be free”, that is simply thievery, and oppressive exploitation of the labor of others. I see no difference between that behavior and taking the output of artists and intellectuals, without it being given, on the grounds that “information wants to be free.”

I have worked with people in the publishing industry for over a decade: various kinds of editors, sales people, marketers and various kinds of managers. For the most part, these are people deriving fairly modest working class and middle class salaries from their time-consuming, travel-heavy and often quite stressful, work. It does take a lot of work to produce, edit and distribute books, and to bring their content to the attention of prospective readers. Some of the firms these people work for are quite small, and even their CEOs have relatively small salaries. Many are barely hanging on; many go out of business eventually. And during the time I have been working with these people, their entire industry has been under tremendous stress due to such things as the growing monopoly power of Amazon in the book sales area, the rapid and confusing evolution from print toward digital content, and the constant dribbling away of the content they do produce into the leaky boats lost on the internet piracy ocean, where the fruits of their hard work are simply raided.

A lot of the chief apostles of the “information wants to be free” ideology here in the US seem to clustered around Silicon Valley - the richest, and increasingly most exclusive, region in the country. Those people certainly aren’t giving away the information they possess in their heads for free! They are exchanging that information in the marketplace, for some very large and handsome incomes. And yet I imagine some of them go home at night and use their savvy technological skills to burgle sites on the internet and steal the products of others’ work in the black market of freebies.

Of course, no one can prevent a person who has already amassed significant wealth from relying on their own existing resources to produce some book, which they then give away for free. I have a number of dhamma books that were given to me by Buddhist monasteries. The books are usually written by monastics, but were produced by some wealthy benefactor, working with the monastic, who then gave the finished books to the monastery as dana. Calling these books “free”, however, might be a slight distortion of the economic ecosystem at work here. In order to accumulate that surplus wealth to give away the benefactors had to engage in more conventional economic activity of producing and selling something, retaining part of the revenue as profit. Perhaps they produce and sell canned fruit, or tea, or rice. The prices charged for those items might be slightly higher than they would otherwise be so that the profits are substantial enough to support their dana activities. Who knows? I don’t ask. Maybe I have even paid for some of those products myself, in which case I have partially “bought” the book.


i’d like to point out that during these 2,500 years of history the Dhamma (Buddhavacana that is) as far as i can assume wasn’t exactly freely available to common people either due to: A) lack of mass printing and travail of hand copying such an enormous body of texts, which resulted in very few copies of the Canon in existence which all were kept either in the monasteries (and probably mostly in the wealthy ones) or in the homes of people with means to afford them, and B) the language the Dhamma has been passed down in, which common people didn’t speak, and even if it were translated the majority of the population couldn’t enjoy it because of widespread illiteracy

all common people were getting was the spin on the Dhamma conveyed to them by the monastics in their mother tongue, in effect a recount, with varying degree of accuracy and a good share of heresy rooted in the folk tradition

so i gather that the creation of potential for first true availability of the Dhamma has kind of coincided with the invention of the concept of copyright and now these two counterbalance each other with the equilibrium being actually disturbed in favor of Dhamma availability


That’s very similar to the situation in European Christendom. I have to think that despite continuing hurdles, the sacred texts of both traditions are now more widely available to the lay public than has ever been the case before in history.

1 Like

The elephant in the room is why don’t all of the original translators acknowledge the pricelessness of the Dhamma and just make themselves an effort to make it all available for free in the internet without hassles?

Aren’t they missing the first lessons of the gradual teaching they probably translated themselves and missing a valuable opportunity to relinquish and be generous? :wink:


monastics i believe can certainly do it because they don’t have to earn a living with their translations but if they bound themselves with obligations in connection with their work they also can’t violate them without violating the precepts

i dunno how, when and in what circumstances Ven Bodhi licensed (not sure about the term) his translation to a certain publishing house but that could have been before the Internet took off, so that was the only way for him to make his translations widely available to the general public, today he may have acted differently