Stealing Music and Software – Does Digital Data Make Stealing OK?

Articles about song swapping have filled the newspapers and web sites for years. Song swapping is the practice of recording songs from commercially produced CDs or purchasing them from Internet sites  and sending the individual songs to people who did not purchase the music. Some companies developed web sites and software to make it easy and free to swap songs, movies, books, and other commercial (sold) products.

At different times, companies that control the production and distribution of music have filed lawsuits against some of the offenders charging that their activities defrauded the music companies of the profits due them. Some of these suits were filed against families whose children downloaded hundreds, sometimes thousands, of songs. The media immediately focused on the parents, some who had low incomes, who faced stiff fines for their children’s copyright violations. These stories highlighted the shock of the parents receiving notice of the charges against them. The stories I read failed to highlight the parent’s lack of oversight of their children’s online activities. With the proliferation of pornography, stalkers, and improper reading material on the Internet, parents are foolish not to practice oversight of their children’s online activities.

In the whole debate over song swapping, one issue seemed neglected: stealing. In order to produce a commercially available CD, someone must rent a studio, hire people to work in the studio to insure the best sound quality and, after the musicians have finished recording, edit and put together the finished product. Artists must create the artwork for the CD jacket and graphic designers must put together the artwork and words together in the jacket. The CD master copy must be sent to a production facility where teams of people copy the CD, pack and seal the discs, and prepare them for distribution around the world. Software professionals must prepare the music downloadable files that will be sold over the Internet through iTunes and other music stores. Everyone in this process—the musicians, artists, production and distribution crews, and industry executives who take the financial risk of hiring musicians—must be paid for their work. The Bible teaches that “if a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat,” 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and that “the laborer is worthy of his wages,” 1 Timothy 5:18. The only way that these will not be paid is if someone is able to enjoy the product without paying for it.

When I started with computers many years ago, a friend told me about software piracy—copying computer software for your personal use that you did not pay for. He showed me the great difficulty in writing computer software and asked how I would feel if I sacrificed my time to write a computer program or did it full time as my job and found that hundreds or thousands of people were using it without paying me. Not only would I not be paid for my efforts which benefitted these other people (and they obviously appreciated my product), I would have to seek some other way to make money. He reminded me of the important words of Jesus, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,” Matthew 7:12. I would not want others stealing from me, therefore I will not steal from them by copying software or music that I did not purchase. Yet many people, even Christians, use expensive computer software that they did not pay for or have the right to copy on their computer. Perhaps they justify it by bemoaning the expense of the computer software whose profits will go to already wealthy companies. Maybe they consider that the work that they do using the software for Bible classes, preaching, or teaching justifies their use of software that they did not purchase.

Some prosecuted song swappers and their defenders complained that the record companies made too much money and so they were justified in their activity. Perhaps a socialist or communistic mindset rationalizes stealing because others have so much money. However, would a person be justified in stealing a car because the automakers have so much money? Can I steal a book from the bookstore because the bookseller and the publishers make so much money? Can I leave a restaurant without paying because the owners made a profit the last month? Can I rob a bank because they make so much money? Can I steal money or credit cards from a rich person since they have so much money?

Is it right to walk into the music store and take a CD or DVD without paying? Is it right to shoplift a copy of computer software or a game? Stealing the product—computer software or copyrighted music— using the computer is no different than shoplifting.

We must not rationalize our actions because others are doing it without being caught. The Christian is called to a higher standard – we do right because it is the right thing to do.

OMG: Does Not Mean “O Majestic God”

Guest Post from Edwin Crozier (www.edwincrozier.com – great site to visit)

I need to share a concern with my fellow Christian Facebookers, MySpacers, Pleonasters, Twitterers, texters and other social media types. “OMG!” doesn’t mean “O Majestic God” or “O Magnificent God.” It is not a means by which God is honored. It doesn’t even mean “oh my goodness.” When people read that, they see and hear in their minds the phrase, “Oh my God.”

Please recall that under the Old Covenant one of God’s 10 laws was, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). God’s name was to be held in honor or God would curse His people (Malachi 2:2).

The New Covenant demonstrates the same principle of honor for God. I Timothy 1:17 says, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” In Revelation 7:12, the angels, elders and living creatures cried out, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

I’m seeing a trend that concerns me among Christians online. More frequently I see Christians use texting shorthand for taking God’s name in vain—“OMG.” I just want to ask you to think before you type that shorthand on your computer. If you typed the longhand phrase, “Oh my God,” would it be appropriate? Would you think this use of God’s name was intended to honor Him, to give Him glory and praise?

Certainly there are times when saying “Oh my God” is appropriate. We have songs that use that phrase. As we pray, we may praise God by calling out to Him, “Oh my God.” We are recognizing that He is our God; we are not. We are recognizing that He is our God; money is not. We are recognizing that He is our God; idols are not.

However, when someone has said something surprising or said something that really resonates with us and we want to accentuate it simply by typing, “OMG! That’s amazing,” are we really calling on God, honoring Him? Were we even addressing Him? Or were we just taking His name in vain because it was so easy and every one else does it?

God’s name is not meant to register our surprise, our shock, our amazement. God’s name is meant to be held in honor, to bring glory to Him, to address Him.

Please think about this before you type your next update. Let’s honor God in our speech and our online posts. He deserves it.

Does Your Facebook Activity Betray You?

Guest post by Aaron Beard

 It was a highly pressurized situation.  Jesus had been arrested on the way out of the Garden of Gethsemane and was in the process of going through one of a series “kangaroo court” hearings.  He had been mocked, spit upon, and struck with a staff on his head while wearing a crown of thorns.  During the last of these illegal hearings held by the Jewish leaders, Peter was standing outside in the courtyard.  He was there warming himself at the fire andwas surrounded by a group of people who were hostile to Jesus.  At that moment, people started asking Peter questions about whether or not he was one of Jesus’ disciples.   He likely assumed if he was identified as afollower of Jesus that he too would be arrested, beaten, or even killed.  At first Peter politely denies his association.  Then Peter gets even more adamant in his denial of his relationship with Jesus. At this point Matthew records these words:   “After a little while the bystanders came upand said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you'” (Matthew 26:73).   Sadly, Peter begins to curse and swear saying that he did not know Jesus.  Perhaps Peter began to curse and swear because he was angry and afraid.  Perhaps it was an added effort to cover up the fact that he really was one of the disciples ofJesus.  Peter did tried to cover up who he was, but he could not hide the truth forever.  Eventually it was his speech that gave him away.

 Does Peter’s behavior during the trials of Jesus shock you?  Perhaps it should, but considering the behavior of those who profess to follow Christ today, the less surprising his actions are.  When around the world, it is not uncommon for Christians to either hide their faith or to behave in such a way that their actions betray them.   One place where such contradictory behavior and speech is common is the internet networking blog called Facebook.  Facebook can be a usefultool to glorify the Lord and spiritual things. This is very refreshing, especially with the sinful garbage that dominates the internet.  But sadly, the Facebook activity of some who are supposed to be Christians does more to glorify sin and this world.  Some profess to be Christians, while their Facebook activity tells a much different story.  Whether we realize it or not, what we do on Facebook speaks volumes about us.   When you look at a person’s profile, pictures, updates, and comments you learn much about their life – their family, job, hobbies, dislikes, food preferences, daily activities, goals, dreams, relationships, and so much more.  So if a person is trying to please God, would that also not be evident in the things they do on Facebook?   It must be! Paul writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).   If this is true of us, Jesus will permeate all aspects of our life.  This would certainly include what we do on Facebook.

 Consider some ways people who profess to follow Christ can be betrayed by their Facebook activity.   Some will post pictures of themselves and others in clothing that is immodest.  Personally speaking, I have been saddened and even sickened by having to see way too much of some of my friends who are supposed to be Christians.  Our clothing should be consistent with that of a person confessing godliness with good works (1 Timothy 2:10).  Based on some people’s pictures on Facebook, they are certainly professing something but it sure isn’t godliness!   Occasionally you will find posts to links forvideos that are unrighteous in nature. Many times the video is supposed to be funny, but its humor comes from sinful behavior or speech.  Have we forgotten the admonition, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9)?  It is also fairly common to see people using language that is ungodly.  Sometimes it is suggestive words about a person’s picture, sometimes it is a vulgar joke,and sometimes it is the use of profanity or euphemisms.  Perhaps one wouldn’t dare type a curse word or take God’s name in vain, but they will use abbreviations like “omg” and evenworse without a second thought.  Paul writes, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4).  There are some who would not do any of these things, but they show their approval of those who do.  On Facebook you can leave comments under people’s posts and pictures as well as clicking that you “like” something posted.   Perhaps what we really need is a “dislike” option!  Remember how Peter’s speech betrayed him, making it impossible to hide that he was really one of Jesus’ disciples?   Christians need to carefully consider if their Facebook activity betrays their confession of faith and fellowship with Jesus.

 This Facebook problem is a reflection of the problem of conforming to the world. Romans 12:1 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  It is a great struggle to live in the world while still living above the world, but this is our duty and our goal.