Sifting the Net ...

Are You Guilty Of Stealing?

Ron Milliner

I am on a listserv for Kentucky educators that deals with the use of technology in education. A listserv is an e-mailing list to which you can subscribe so that you can share common ideas on a common interest. A discussion on this list recently centered on the use of copyrighted materials by students. Most educators teach students the need to respect copyright laws. Yet, one of the responders on this list wrote, "I don't care about copy right (sic) for a student project. Period."

Many individuals seem to have this attitude toward copyright materials. Software, music CDs, video tapes, etc. can easily be duplicated and distributed to others. Yet, most of these materials are copyrighted, and such copying is forbidden.

The Web site ( has posted the results of a survey on the topic of obtaining copyrighted material without paying for it. This particular survey dealt with the downloading of music from the Internet. It found that "43% of Americans on the Internet feel that downloading music is not stealing, while 31 % feel it is." Possibly even more disturbing is the fact that "The study also showed that 22% of Americans who have used the Internet have downloaded music. 78% of those people think they weren't stealing, but 61% said they didn't care if it was."

It is sad to notice that some Christians engage in copying and distributing copyrighted material without any qualms about its illegality. I have seen teenagers at church giving copied music CDs to other Christians. Somewhat surprising, even some preachers are guilty of copying Bible software programs and other copyrighted software and giving it to their preacher friends.

It is a federal crime (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) to violate copyright laws. Those who break this law can either be fined, imprisoned, or both. It is basically stealing. Suppose you went into a craft store where the owner sold items which she had made. You spotted a baby blanket that the owner has knitted, and she has it for sale. Instead of paying for it, you just picked it up and walked out of the store with it. Would that not be stealing?

The person who has created that software program or written and performed those songs you like has also produced a product he has for sale. For you to copy it in order to obtain the product without purchasing it is the same as stealing the baby blanket.

Some argue, "Well, Bill Gates charges too much for his software, and he doesn't really need the money." What if I think the craft store owner's prices are too high? Does that justify my stealing the baby blanket?

Remember what 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says about thieves. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." -2004 Little Stream Run, Owensboro, Kentucky 42303-1891.


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