“Even though it is technically stealing copyrighted material, I feel like if one’s intentions are not to actually steal and ruin the lives of the artist, actor, etc. then it should be fine. With that said, I do believe that making copies and distributing them for profit is definitely illegal.
Update: Okay this is a personal struggle of mine. I know downloading is illegal but I can’t bring myself to stop doing it. Partly because I don’t think it is wrong and also partly because my source of entertainment is largely from downloading.”
Thus went the post of a person who started a fierce public discussion by asking whether File-sharing, popularly known as using “Torrents”, is morally right or wrong for Christians. This post received a striking range of comments, many offering support.
One woman though, responded this way-
“If he or she (the creator of the movie or the song) has decided to offer up his or her creation as merchandise to be bought, then it may just be that to properly admire, you need to purchase” it.
Another guy was generously mean –
“Naw dude. You are going straight to hell”.
This post is an invitation to hear just about anybody’s thoughts on this matter – you don’t have to be Christian to be downloading movies or songs using Torrents, you know. 🙂
Below are justifications from either side of the debate. I lean toward the “Copying is wrong” side. Please feel free to write in with better arguments that I may have completely missed.
1. Art belongs to everybody. Art is a reflection of society so it is a copy of what is happening in the society. Nobody has rights to the life of the society, and all artists create by copying to some degree. It’s at the edge of copying that creativity happens. It is never purely invented, it’s discovery and discoveries never belong to one person to own and make money. And that is why File-sharing is not wrong.
Counter – Let the worker decide if the work is free or not. There is no denying that art is partly creativity and partly copy. But then, no engineer, businessman, writer or singer can earn anything because whatever they do is essentially non-original. If originality should be used as the measure of earning income, how can anyone claim ownership over anything?
People are paid not only for originality but for the work put in to build on the original. Is it unfair for artists to earn from their labour? By this logic, farmers should not receive any money- because they are not doing anything original. They might improvise but even the raw material (earth, sunlight, seeds) don’t belong to them.
Just like God owns the sun, stars and the planets, it is only fair that temporary, earthly ownership be established and honoured. This is also the basis for God finally holding men accountable for their own work.
It is beautiful and gracious when artists both online and on the streets, who need to feed their children and who need to pay their bills, decide to give away their work for free- here is one Christian website that does that.
But who are we to decide for them? “Are we in the place of God”?
2. Uploading files is illegal in India but downloading is not. Why are you imposing a law of your own that we cannot download? Isn’t that legalism?
Counter – Is downloading without the owner’s consent, right in God’s sight? It is great to see when we Christians submit to the laws of the government as the Bible says we should (Romans 13:1-7). Downloading from file-sharing websites maybe legal in India, but is our right to be entertained more important that the owner’s rights to earn profits from the sale of their product- online or offline?
We need to “cut-and-paste”, not “copy-and-paste” movies, songs or TV series that are not up for mass-distribution without the director, producer or artist’s consent. Otherwise we are just stealing possible sales from an artist rightly expecting earning due to their hard work.
Since we are talking legality, this news report might be helpful- actually, shocking.
3. I actually respect copyright laws and had intended to only buy original stuff. But recently, I bought a DVD that played well only 2-3 times. Then it started getting stuck while playing, developed scratches and now is hardly usable. I purchased a USB drive that crashed after 3 months of use. We are being sold sub-standard work while being promised great quality. Why should I not get the right-quality when I am paying for it? I might as well download a better copy from Torrents, right?
Counter – Surely, we are called to not return evil for evil? It is real. Many consumers are sold products or services that are bad quality. But such a response shows either an eagerness to get what we think we deserve at any cost, or an attitude that refuses to accept bad service even if God sends it our way. Yes, sometimes we must fight for consumer rights. Sometimes we will see though, that we can get only so much for our precious money in a fallen world.
But does this give me permission to increase the corruption this world is already immersed in? Of course, we should put our hard work in letting the artist or producer know that such low-quality stuff is being sold in their name. And who knows, we could even ask for a better product via e-mail or phone.
We need to be careful, to not believe the lie that God is not in control of the times when we get cheated by a DVD-maker. We are also telling anyone who is watching that we are unable to be content with the situations we have sovereignly been placed in.
Because I was wronged, do I have a right to now avenge myself in any way I choose? Then I may not have even properly understood the incredible Good News Jesus offered me when I was deep in sin.
“Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets. (Matt. 7:12, GNB).
4. I am a student and I can’t afford the mind-boggling prices of songs and movies! I am sure God wants me to learn much from the latest Christian music artists and movies that speak into relevant matters.
Counter – Maybe God knows your needs better than you do? Some of these products are priced to create large profits. Personally, I wonder if there could be a regulatory body that could make these prices a bit more affordable across the world. But then, here is something we need to know- we live in a world that thinks possessing more stuff and acquiring more things is the right way to progress.
This selfish line of thinking is probably at the heart of consumerism. We have assumed that having 200 artists and possessing 150 GB worth of Christian music is normal and essential for our sanctification. Last time I checked with the Bible, Jesus preached something completely different (Matt.16:24).
Does our God know about these expensive albums? Yes. Does He need these songs to make His church holy? No, He doesn’t.
Mr. X is an upcoming Christian singer who felt called to create good Christian music. His earnings support his wife, four children and two missionaries in Cambodia. Mr. X could have sold 10,500 more copies of his latest album but was affected financially by his own fans and fellow Christians who downloaded that many copies of his album from file-sharing websites, instead of buying them.
Is he more popular because of those downloads? Yes.
Are more Christians encouraged because of his powerful songs? Yes.
Will his daughter be able to afford an education this year?
I really hope that decision won’t be hindered by his fans’ download history.
“Like all other segments of the music industry, our album sales have been affected by the ongoing music piracy committed by consumers”
“If you download music using the Internet without paying to do so, you are robbing its creators of the right to make a living-and that includes every artist nominated for an award tonight”.
– Gospel Music Association President, John W. Styll.