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. The Christian and Software Piracy

The topic of Software Piracy is a very sensitive issue as some Christians do not believe that they are actually stealing. We find all kinds of ways to justify our actions, and to find a way to say: ‘what I am doing is ethical’. And sure there those times when you can justify it ethically, like when you download a program that was on TV and all you did now was to access it via the net rather than recording it from your television. We all know that our DSTV decoders can store 100’s of hours of movies and programmes. This is not what this article is about.

This article is about those programmes, and those DVD’s and that software that you know, because we do know, is actually illegal. You had to pay for it, and because you did not, others have to. Most of the Computer Software is tremendously expensive because those who pay have to make up for lost revenue due to piracy. I remember years ago receiving a free game with a DVD Drive that I bought for my computer. On the DVD they actually told you how they made this one single game. I was horrified as far as the expense they went to. They built a 3 story building with studios, acting theatres etc., employed over 200 people, and did overseas trips to capture scenes. It was just WOW, and suddenly I understood that the price is not for that plastic disk the programme comes on but for that which is behind it.  The same goes for music etc.

Years ago I wrote a Database Package for churches called Exodus which I made available on 1 Stiffy drive (1.44 kb). All my pastor friends wanted it for free, because the 100’s of hours I spent to write it meant nothing to them.  The time it took me to learn programming, the cost involved in the studying and then the cost of the Programming Language, and then all my hours meant nothing to them.

Over the years I have spent an incredible amount on Microsoft and all their upgrades, Corel Draw from version 1 – 16, photo editing software, Bible programmes etc. But I use it free of guilt as I know that it is mine, and that I paid for its use, and in doing so did my share in ensuring that the prices do not go higher and higher. If you do not want to pay, the free alternatives are there. But they do not do everything I want. There is a simple answer – tough luck!

Before I let you loose on the article. There is a reason we at Logos pay an annual CCLI license. It is so that we can with a clean conscience sing the songs we do and display them on our screen. There are song-writers, our own Christian brothers and sisters whose livelihood depends on this.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you are a car or jewellery manufacturer and somebody figures out a way they can simply download cars and jewellery, and suddenly you realise that for every 300 cars or diamond rings you make that 200 are acquired free of charge through piracy – how will you feel?

Okay, it is impossible. But, I think you get my point.

One last example. I want to go to the USA, why can’t I at the last minute have that open seat on the plane that has not been booked for free. Let’s be honest, the plane is going in any case, and what a waste of space. Why, must I pay? Now we all know the answers.

Please do read this article written by Peter Makovíni and allow the Lord to use it to search your own heart. .

The Christian and Illegal Software

Throughout my life I have often met people that were deeply involved in working with computers; I experienced ministers that were using various software for projection, video or audio editing. All my friends in school and church always had computers and had installed a wide variety of different kinds of software, copied music, downloaded movies and burned CD’s every day. I was also practically raised in an environment where rules of CopyRight did not exist. CopyRight was a Right to Copy! As most young teenagers I as well acted according to the golden rule: ”Monkey see, monkey do.” I joined my friends and joyfully followed their footsteps. We passed games to each other, watched movies that someone downloaded and of course listened to all the new cool music CD’s of famous secular but also Christian interpreters.

Then, one day my brother threw out all his burned CD’s and for the first time in my life introduced me to the true idea of copyrights. I did not take it seriously and thought that he was way too much radical; however I can say that that was the time when I slowly started to think about the whole issue of piracy and software theft. As I started to notice this “only legal software” behavior at some other people I seriously put myself into finding out whether all what I was doing was wrong or just these few people around me were somehow weird?

The challenge

In the past there was nothing like stealing software, because there simply was no software. In the past everything was hardware and since earth was created, people took this kind of crime very seriously; everybody knew very well what theft was and was also aware of the repression consequential to it. So concept of software by itself is quite young, all together not more than 60 years, and for many it is hard to implement into their way of thinking. How do we define theft? Is it when we acquire something while someone else forfeits it? I believe that many different interesting opinions and ideas could arise out of these questions; I would resolutely say that response for the second question should go much further than to just a simple “yes” answer.  There are still millions of people in countries all over the world that did not meet with notion of software and thereby it is important to clear this out for ourselves in order to be able to communicate it further to these people in the future. Many are today convinced that software is too expensive to buy and companies like Microsoft or Mac are already very wealthy therefore they do not need the additional money for my one little copy of their product, but is that really true? Others say that the copyright law is not clear enough, it changes too frequently and they are not willing to study it every time it does change, more than that they see everyone around doing it, including their brothers and sisters in faith.  So how is it when even Christians do so, is it an excuse for us to do likewise when majority is doing it? Maybe they truly realize the gravity of copyright law and also see copying software as stealing, but still own some black copies and as they often claim, are planning to buy it later; Is this alright then? And probably the most common case occurs still when simply people say: “I do not have money for all of it, but I want to watch movies and I want to listen to music. I do not harm anybody, if I had to buy it I would not buy it anyway and after all nobody is inspecting it so they are not going to catch me.” Does lack of money excuse us to copy software that we did not pay for on our computer? Is not there something a little bit astray if our standard of doing something is based on considering the fact whether they are going to catch us or not? One of the most often excuses Christians make when downloading worship songs is that it is not the same, that it is different because they have good motives, they want to praise and give glory to God. And God looks first of all at the intentions of heart. So is it OK then to download music?

Time & Money

software piracyBefore I go any further I would first like to say that software piracy is theft and in following lines I will try to show how and why. When you get any kind of software (now I am leaving alone those meant for that purpose – FREEWARE, TRIAL, OPEN SOURCE…) that you did not pay for you are taking something that someone invested his time & money, for free. These people have every right to expect that for what they have made they will get adequately paid for. The ones we are now talking about are normal people like computer programmers, sound mixers, technicians, and photo, video and music artists. These people went to school in a same way as doctors, lawyers, electricians, or even bakers did, and in a same way they are dependent to be paid for their work. Now that we agree on this I will move on to the first and most obvious argument against software piracy. “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15 this one is, I believe, fairly self-explanatory.

Submit to Authorities

Secondly, most states around the world have a policy concerning software piracy and CD copyright. Regardless small changes in individual laws, I can with certainty affirm that the principle I brought up in first paragraph is ingredient in all of them. So if you are living in one of the modern civilized countries these regulations are surely applying to you as well. As we further read in 1. Peter 2:13-15 we must comply with these authorities instituted among men.

The BandWagon

In Matt 3:1-10 we see John standing against many rebuking them. Also in Acts we read about apostles Peter and Paul going to many and speaking boldly the truth. Throughout the Bible we find many examples were numbers did not play any role. It did not matter in physical battles (Judges 7:19-23; Nahum 1:12-13) as much as it did not matter in opinions, believes and understanding of the Bible. God is omniscient (Ps.147:5), He is omnipresent (Ps. 139) and omnipotent (Job 42:2; Matt. 19:26). He is not dependent on amount of people and He is also not looking at quantity. If we build our lives on counts we build on sand. Many Christians drive too fast, gossip and get divorced. From perspective of logic this behavior is called “Appeal to the bandwagon” in which because we want to belong somewhere we tend to do what people around do. But without a good reason it does not make sense to copy others only to fit in. There are many things around that people do, some are good and we can get inspired by them, but some are bad and we ought not to take advantage of it and use them as an excuse for doing the same. Our standards should spring out of the Bible. David urges us to search for our joy in Lord.

software piracy
Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

(Ps 37:1–4, NIV)

This does not mean that we will get everything that we want, that when we get rid of our illegal software God will make sure we will in a miraculous way get it back, that would be prosperity preaching. But we must put our trust in Lord and believe that he will give us, that he will provide what is good for us at the moment, and if we do not have something we so excessively want, there is a reason for it.

Leaders, leaders, leaders!

This especially applies to those in leading positions, to those who are called to keep themselves clean and stay above reproach, to be men with a good reputation among outsiders. (1. Timothy 3:2; 3:7; Titus 1:7). Software piracy hardly helps to achieve either one of them. When outsiders, non-believers, look at such a person the only thing they see is a very bad example of nonchalance and ignorance. The whole concept of light of the world and salt of the earth is being here totally missed and if one stays in such a conduct he is no longer good for anything (Matt. 5:13-14).

Secondly I would like to take a closer look at the word “reproach”. The Greek word used in Timothy “anepilẽmptos” can be also translated as irreproachable, to bring this even closer, Paul used a different word in Titus 1:7, “aneklẽtos” which also means guiltless, blameless and free from accusations. Holman’s dictionary offers us even more alternatives of what a word reproach is: a state of shame, disgrace, dishonor, discredit, humiliation, rebuke, scorn or disappointment. In KJV the word or its derivative occurs more than 130 times, so this further indicates its significance.

When we indifferently watch stolen movies, listen to stolen music and use stolen programs we are putting ourselves into a very vulnerable and triable situation, which is directly against God’s law of staying above of all of this. Pirating harms our walk with Jesus and is raising walls of palaver in connection with spreading the gospel to others. In a moment we know about a sin in our life we must rise against it and put on a fighting line. We must not keep it for ourselves in some kind of a fixed agreement because in a moment we do so, we become lukewarm and God will spit us out of his mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). Nothing should stand between us and our relationship with God, we must unceasingly examine ourselves and instantly start removing all the impurities we find in order to be closer in His presence.

“You don’t understand, this is for a good purpose!”

At last I want to look at the problem of good motives in relation to using software possessed in ways mentioned above. Comparing to relatively new idea of software this problem is quite old. People since time out of mind were, and clearly still are, often justifying their sin by affirming their good intentions behind it. Saul was also one of them. In 1 Samuel 15:1-25 we read a story of disobedience towards God that was not overlooked but rather chastened.


But Samuel replied:

good purpose

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

(1 Sam 15:22, NIV)

This shows again how simple this dilemma is. If one leans here solely on the argument of a “good motive” then he must realized that the number one thing God wants us to do is to follow Him and obey H is word. Instead we do our best living our lives, keeping our own little spots of gray zone and time to time even dare to rationalize it as it would be a good thing that is worthy of admiration.“…No one can serve two masters…” (Matt 6:24, NIV) the only thing we must do is to decide which one is it going to be, for the rules are simple. (Mal 1:6-10)

I hope that after reading all foregoing there is no rational reason for you to retain your standpoint, that nothing holds you back anymore and you are free to move on to the next step, which is going into a process of removing sin from your life.

“…He who has been stealing must steal no longer…”

(Eph 4:28, NIV)

So, what’s next?

If you are like me, and you grew up having software piracy a part of your everyday life it might not be so easy to delete all those gigabytes of illegal data stored on your hard drives, but I can promise you that the reward is worth it. There is nothing better here on earth then a life close to Jesus, as well as eternity spent with him. And when we are cleansing ourselves from all that is impure and polluted he will reveal Himself to us and He will acknowledge us as His own. In the end the situation is not as terrible as it looks like. There are thousands of online radios and websites which offer music streaming for free: www.grooveshark.com; www.deezer.com; www.we7.com. Most people do not have a treasure box somewhere in a secret stash just in case they would one day like to buy all their software legally and therefore we must look for other solutions. Find your music, movies and software used in thrift, second hand stores or online. With programs like iTunes, Rhapsody or Spotify you can buy single song for 99 cents, which is better than paying for a whole album right away. You can also borrow DVD’s from your friends.

Plan B

For almost any program out there we can find its “gratis” alternative which is free to use.

EasyWorship (400$)EpicWorship, EasiSlides, OpenSong, ChangingSong, Quelea, Lyricue,

Microsoft OfficeOpenOffice, AbiWord, Lotus Symphony, or online – Google Docs, Zoho,

AdobePhotoshopGimp, InkScape, ArtWeaver, ArtRage,

AdobeAuditionAudacity, Free Audio Editor 2011,

…and much more.

Software is a product made by men as any other and if we get it without paying for it, it is stealing. Luckily for us there are other solutions that we can reach for. They might not be as convenient as the original ones, but we surely aren’t in the position to say that without them we cannot live. God wants us to have obedient heart and that must lie above all else.

 

'Years, numbers and history of Software Piracy' is an interesting and catchy way made by STARMEDIA communications. Click on the link below to access it.

Written by Peter Makovíni