The prime reason that every person in the
Second, “file swapping” is indeed illegal in and of itself. In 1997, the No Electronic Theft Act (NETA) was passed which makes it a federal felony to file swap, even through peer-to-peer networks. Furthermore, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is an additional law through which music pirates can be held to account.
Third, though some individuals claim that the government’s and music industry’s non-enforcement of these legal provisions is tacit assent to download, this is logically incorrect. Most Americans (including myself) drive over the speed limit. In fact, in a majority of cases were a police officer is visible, the officer is actually driving faster than I am. Merely because law enforcement agents do not adequately enforce the speed limit does not give me (or anyone else) liberty to go whatever speed we want and disregard the law by traveling 100 mph. Our society simply does not work that way. In the same way, even if the government or the music industry is not adequately enforcing the law, this does not in any way give us an excuse to flout the law.
Fourth, whether you agree with intellectual property rights (IP) or not is irrelevant. If you are against upholding IP you can work to change the existing laws. However, just because we as American may not agree with a certain law does not give us an excuse to radically disregard it. If I do not agree with our country’s laws regarding murder, I am not free to kill someone.
Now that we have established the more than questionable legality of downloading copyrighted material from sources such as Kazaa, Grokster, or Limewire, let us look at several other points which are applicable to this discussion. In addition to the legal reasons against illegally downloading copyrighted material, there are also economic concerns. The following is an example from usinfo.state.gov:
“A good example is
Though some artists may have no problems with downloading music illegally, empirical evidence suggests that the majority of musicians and music companies are working hard to mount a defense against the problems of music piracy. Music piracy also works to stifle creativity. When there is no incentive for invention, our economy will suffer. Once again from usinfo.state.gov:
“Many new musical voices, new authors, and new stories on film around the world have never been made available, simply because the incentives were not there for these artists to take a risk. They have known that whatever they produce will be immediately pirated -- stolen -- and they will not be provided the means to develop their talent.”
Rampant piracy will have the effect of discouraging innovation and the development of new talent. In actuality, “file swapping” works counter-intuitively. The same people who download the music will be harmed by the decrease in music available for sale. After all, why would artists and studios continue to produce if there music is readily available to the public for free?
Most importantly, however, we must also see what the Bible has to say on this issue. I believe I can say most assuredly that we are not given any example in the Bible regarding “file swapping”. However, we are given many passages which shed light on this issue.
First, the Bible mandates that we submit to those in authority over us. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13: 1-2) God has called us to subject ourselves to the laws and rulers of our government. To disobey this decree is a direct violation of God’s command. The only time this earthly law should be disobeyed is when it contravenes God’s law. I am unconvinced that laws against “file swapping” violate God’s law.
Second, we are not to use our Christian liberty as an excuse for illegal (or even unethical) actions. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with welldoing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As fee, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” (1 Peter 2: 13-14) Even though Christ has taken the penalty of our sin, He has called us to obey not only his law but the law of the land.
And third, we also need to exemplify Christ-like behavior. When non-Christians look at our lives they should see a stark contrast between the world and us. Obeying not only God’s law but also the laws of this country is a shining example to others of the difference that Christ makes in the lives of those who follow him.
“File swapping” is more than just downloading music to listen to: it is a legal, economic, and moral dilemma. I hope that I have helped to bring clarity to this debate and challenged many longstanding assumptions to music piracy. Please post comments to let me know what you think.Levi W. Swank