Friday, May 28, 2004

The Plague Of Piracy

Yes, I am about to climb into my favorite bully pulpit and talk about the plague of piracy. The practice is especially bad in Russia, based on the knowledge I've gained from working at National Journal's Technology Daily, and as is the case in America, too few Christians grasp that stealing "intellectual" property is no different from stealing "physical" property. Theft is theft, and more to the point, it is sin.

The topic came to mind again yesterday when Tom took Jeff and I to a discreet room on the first floor of an apartment building, where a friend of his sells music and movies dirt cheap on CDs and DVDs. Earlier this week, when I let Tom listen to a CD of "Diamond Rio," he also said perhaps he could burn a copy of the CD for his use, and he offered to do the same for me with his copy of a Ricky Scaggs CD.

I avoided the topic on those occasions just because I know how passionate I am in trying to persuade my family in the flesh and in the spirit (you know what I'm talking about, don't you Darren, Dad and Mom) that even if we don't like the parameters of copyright law, we must obey them. I usually come across as a self-righteous blowhard when I talk about violations of intellectual property law. I suspect that's because I'm in the publishing business and thus make my living from my intellectual property.

When Tom invited us to peruse his friend's CD/DVD stock yesterday, however, and then wondered why we didn't bother to look, Jeff began to explain to him the concept of intellectual property law. We can't say for sure that Tom's friend is in the piracy business -- his stock of goods looks legit, and he could just be in the business of buying and reselling used CDs and DVDs -- but Tom couldn't tell us anything about his friend's suppliers, either. Tom also noted that the software he buys for his computers (he has two that he built himself) is not "original" material because it is too expensive.

Tom's thinking on the issue is much like many Americans: Why pay more if you can buy the same product for less, especially if paying more means that you are priced out of the market altogether? Tom clearly thinks intellectual property laws are unfair to consumers -- I would agree to some extent -- but what Jeff and I tried to show him is that it doesn't matter whether it is unfair. It is the law. And unless it conflicts with God's law, man's law is God's law, and we as Christians must obey it.

I think more teaching on the issue will be necessary before Tom fully understands, but I think that is also true of most American Christians. As our world has moved further into the information age, I fear that too many Christians have forgotten the simplicity of the command against stealing, one of the Big Ten and one that is still in force today. Computers, the Internet and other technologies enable us to get many things for free or on the "black market" (music, cable, satellite signals), but that doesn't mean we are justified in doing so.


Blogger Libby said...

It's a good thing some of us don't have to make a living from our intellectual property.....mine is not worth much! How nice to have intellectual property of value1

6:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home