It is becoming obvious, and perhaps was before in my life but then forgotten, that there are several sins that are accepted among Christians. Now, obviously these will not apply equally to all Christians, and different Christians will have different sins they have accepted. This may lead to a series of posts as one or another occurs to me, but recently I have considered a sin that I had accepted and still am tempted.
This is digital theft. You see it on the DVDs before the feature, that it is illegal to copy it. It is illegal to download it. Internet piracy is still piracy. Yet, among Christians this is something that seems to be acceptable.
Perhaps it is because we are not physically taking something from a shelf and placing it in our coats that we have detached the idea from theft. However, regardless of how it feels to us, there are facts to consider.
1. It is illegal. Despite the irregularity and variety of consequences, the argument for free interchange and sharing, the high chance of not being caught, it is still illegal. Not only in the US, but abroad. Efforts are being made for international cooperation, and a treaty has been worked on, but regardless of any progress made or not, it is still illegal. It is against the laws as instituted by our government, and as we are to be good citizens, and obey every ordinance of man, we should comply with these laws.
Some reply, “If they are too stupid to block it, then I might as well do it.” When did righteousness ever depend on someone else being smart, or genius? Yes, Ipods, MP3 players, computers, etc. all work regularly at preventing this theft, but this should not be needed for Christians.
2. It is immoral. This is an argument based on what is actually being done, rather than on the laws involved. This argument is different from the previous. While I did conclude by ending with our moral obligation to the law, there is a moral obligation regarding the actual act, or lack thereof. This is a fight that is constantly being waged between “hackers” and anyone with intellectual property.
Hackers are of the mind that anything should be free and shared. They believe that open information and data is better. (In a general comparative sense, they are computer hippie.) When data or information is restricted, kept secret, or hidden, they go about whatever means they can to obtain that information. When the restricted world of information exploded into a new universe, things like pirating movies became easier. It is not that it is a new crime, just a different way of accomplishing it. Many Christians would not find a black-market dvd vendor on the street and buy from him, but within our home, at our personal computer, we will download that movie we have no rights to.
Consider why this is immoral. It is not my idea, work, nor production. I have no claim to ownership of it. It belongs to someone else. If I want something that is belongs to someone else, I must pay them for it. Whether it is goods or services, I pay for something someone else has that I would like to have. The fact that this item is not made with physical pieces, but consists of data that can be broken into zeros and ones does not give us the right to take it. It is still not ours.
People worked for it, and we are stealing from them. When someone makes a craft to sell for their lively-hood, it takes from their lively-hood to take that craft without payment. The movie industry, the software industry, the photo industry, the music industry, etc. are all occupations. Whether you agree with what they produce, or think they are over paid is not an issue. Christians say “Well, they get paid plenty anyway.” That does not pertain to the issue. The issue is, are you stealing, or do you have a rightful claim to it? Just because someone else posts it online, that does not give you a rightful claim. If someone stole the craft and then offered it to you, it is still stolen goods, and if you are aware of it, you would not take it. (I hope)
3. It affects the industry. Regardless of what you think it is doing, it is inevitable that it will impact the industry. Software companies must charge more to those customers following the law because, of their potential users, half will steal the program. Movie companies sales must be predicted lower than the actual amount of people who would watch it, for those other will steal the movie.
Unfortunately, I must profess my guilt in the matter. As a computer major, and a regular PC/internet user, I have found myself lured in. I have wanted to see the movie before it came out. I have wanted that particular song, but didn’t want to pay for the CD. It is something that time and convenience made available to me, and I made the wrong decision.
I thank God for my wife who reminded me that this was not right. Where my conscience had been seared, hers was still tender. It was hard on me to see the disappointment in her when I was participating in something that didn’t even phase me. Praise the Lord for the help He gives to bring us back in line with Him!