Is sharing copyrighted material (music, movies, software) on the internet a sin?
The extreme ease of downloading music, videos, software, or other online content illegally has caused many to wonder if it is even wrong at all. What does the Bible teach regarding this issue?
First, Christians are called to obey governing laws. Romans 13:1 teaches, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." If something is against the law to download or copy, then a Christian is called to not do it.
Second, taking someone's content without permission or paying is a form of stealing. Though it may not feel like stealing to the end user, illegal downloads do take income from content creators who invest time and energy to make them. First Peter 4:15-16 teaches, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name."
Third, Christians are to show integrity in the usage of online content. Proverbs 11:3 notes, "The integrity of the upright guides them." If you know something is illegal to download or copy, then your integrity should cause you not to do it.
The many new forms of media available online sometimes make governing laws and what is right and wrong a gray matter. Use integrity to determine what is "fair use" and seek permission from the content creator or copyright holder when in doubt.
If Jesus lived today, He would not be pirating music or movies. Neither should we. Even Christian content should be used appropriately, requesting permission or making required payments to use materials. Groups exist to help churches and ministries in these areas, including CCLI.com, which includes licenses for audio and video. Their services oversee more than 300,000 worship songs and licenses for film clips and broadcasts for churches and ministries.
The general principles of Scripture teach the importance of following governing laws, not stealing, and showing integrity in the use of materials from others.
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