[Papercut Press] 2004-06-08 - Piracy

The Summer Question Series, 2004 #2

Exodus 20:15. "You shall not steal."

"Greetings in His name! Thank you for welcoming questions this summer. I have one for you. As believers, what should be our stand in piracy? I am burdened with believers who resort to copying original Christian audio/video tapes/cds/vcds for whatever reason. Some claim that they cannot afford to buy original ones, while others justify the restrictions in the country they are currently living in. With the above reasons, are believers justified in violating the piracy law?"

I like your question, because it has given me pause for thought. When I first read your question, I thought, "This is easy. Stealing is wrong, and what you are speaking of is clearly stealing from the artists or producers of the products mentioned." It seems as clear as crystal. Stealing is a sin, and taking from another what is rightfully theirs is stealing, and hence sin. However, something in your note gave me pause for thought, and I see this question now differently. The answer seems to be clear as mud.

The first thing I would lay aside is the excuse that it is OK to burn a CD or a make a copy because it is cheaper, and money is tight. There is no justification in this. There is little difference, save in scale, between this and my going to a car dealership and taking a car, because I don't have enough money to actually buy one. Products such as music, movies, and the like have a legal stamp on them called a copyright. This means it is protected, and we do not have rights to it unless we obtain it lawfully. The fact that "everybody" burns CDs or copies videos does not make it any less a matter of taking from someone that which is lawfully theirs. The herd mentality will be of little use before God, when we try to explain why we have broken His command not to steal. If you want a CD and can't afford it, then enjoy what you have, and pray for God's provision to obtain what you desire justly.

I think your situation changed, when I began to consider what country you are from. Christian materials are probably next to impossible to find and, while I am not sure, even illegal. In my mind, this changes things a bit. For certain, if Christian materials are obtainable through conventional means, these should be employed. However, if this is not possible because of the restrictions existent in the country where you live, you may need to use more subversive methods to obtain those things that will edify you and encourage you both to grow in, and continue in, your faith. If it were ever illegal to own a Bible, I am sure I would still own one. Here, I would suggest it is a matter of conscience. I would also say that if you burn a CD, it should only be for personal use, and if you can obtain it at some point through conventional means, the copy should be destroyed.

I know many will not agree with me, but Christians have done such things throughout history, and the censure of the church has not been upon them. When the government of England ejected over 2000 ministers from their churches in 1662, many of the ministers still lived in the fields and caves near their congregations, in order to continue to minister and yet escape capture. It was illegal for them to do this, but the law was oppressive, and hindered the faith and growth of believers in their walk with Christ.

If the government of the country you live in does not allow access to Christian literature and you can find it on the web, then I would not see any problem with printing the book out and reading it. I would, however, make one clear stipulation in doing this or anything like it. There should be no personal gain in it. It would be wrong to burn 100 CDs and sell them for $5.00 each, to make some money. You don't own the rights to such things to be distributing them, but if there is no other way to obtain it, and it is not due to lack of funds, but rather due to the restrictions placed upon Christians in the country you live in, I guess I don't have an issue with using what means are necessary to obtain the Christian materials.

Soli Deo Gloria,

[email tim] godrulestb@aol.com