Downloading Music: Theft with a Purpose?

All right, my first real post 😀

And I’m going to go over a blog post I was recently shown regarding music piracy and the warm and cuddly Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

For the record, I do not download music or burn other people’s CDs, and I think it is generally a sin to do so. That’s not to say I approve of how the RIAA conducts itself; I just don’t approve of piracy and believe no child of God should.

I have recently started a bit of a dialogue with some of my brothers and sisters at my school, and one of my brothers showed me this blog. It’s been said that it does a good job of justifying music piracy for the purpose of changing the music industry. I thought I’d give some thoughts about it from my Christian perspective, since after all, this is a blog and therefore I assume you who read it are interested in what I have to say (for which I am very grateful, and hope you don’t leave disappointed).
This is actually based on a response to some longer, written dialogue, but I think it stands alone as well.

Here’s the blog in question:
http://www.demonbaby.com/blog/2007/10/when-pigs-fly-death-of-oink-birth-of.html

I have not taken the time to read any of demon baby besides this one post, so for all I know it may be a wonderful blog. All I’m interested here is the argument defending music downloading.

As far as I’m concerned, this blog did a terrible job…the writer admitted that downloading music is theft.

Now, I don’t know anything about the writer, and he probably wasn’t writing to a devoutly Christian audience. As far as I can tell he wasn’t trying to convince me, and as far as the goals of the writer are concerned, he might have met them. But here is what I say, for myself, and to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am in no position to judge anyone else, as the apostle Paul wrote himself “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside…” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So if you’re not a believer, well, I hope you eventually become one, and in accordance to what the Lord commands I will love you as myself (or at least try to), but, ya know, most of what I write is more directed fellow believers (though if you agree with what I say, I certainly would not be displeased).

Anyway, about the argument regarding the RIAA and theft…

Stealing is stealing. It’s not as though we’re talking about someone stealing a loaf of bread to avoid dying, or stealing something from a thief to return to the rightful owner. This is theft; the writer admits as much. Some argue that music piracy isn’t theft. That’d be one thing, but that’s not even what this movement appears to claim, at least according to this blog.

Yeah, the RIAA really sucks, and I agree even more that their attempts to take on piracy have been overly harsh and just plain stupid. I hate them too, but they still have a legal right to their profits, they still are part of the creation of the music, and they still do it in exchange for the compensation (as excessive as it is) that they are legally entitled to.

No matter how much a corporation sucks, we don’t get to steal from it. We don’t get to steal Nike shoes from a Nike factory because of their labor practices in hopes that more money goes to the worker. There are ways to bring about change without resorting to sin. The blog gives 4 ideas, and 3.5 are perfectly fine. The first half of idea #1 was to boycott. That’s fine! But just because you stop buying doesn’t mean you get to steal instead! When the blacks down in Montgomery boycotted the busses, they didn’t steal a bunch so they could drive themselves. They boycotted and went from there. I’m sure it was really hard, which means all the more props to them. They wronged nobody and the sacrifices were far greater and the cause far more noble.

And I would also like to add, this is NOTHING like newspapers and the internet. Here’s the thing; nobody creates the news. All that a person or corporation creates is the publication, and, as far as I know, it’s never been legal to scan a newspaper and put it on the web for all to read it’s full contents. People and companies who put out their own news reports are putting out their own product. It’s competition. THAT is capitalism at its best. But the song itself is created. Taking that product someone else’s product and fiving it away. Someone who writes their own news publication has every right to do with it what they please; if they want to put it up for free, so be it. Nobody has the write to copy the New York Times and put it online for the world to see for free (except of course, the New York Times).

And what is that about how iPods hold more space so they can’t expect us to pay for all our music? I don’t care if filling your iPod would cost $32,000. Ya know, really expensive restaurants make good food. If I wanted to eat at those restaurants I’d have to spend 32,000 as well. That doesn’t justify me pulling a dine-and-dash. What was even the point of all that?

I really do sympathize with the urge to stick it to the man. I don’t have sympathy for wealthy and greedy record executives. But theft is theft. Theft is theft. To my family, that is, all who worship the Lord Jesus Christ, I say this: we’re people of God now. We’re not part of the world. We don’t get to do that stuff anymore. That part of our lives is over now.

I do hate to sound like that fat, white-haired, bigoted fire and brimstone breathing preacher who tells everyone they are going to hell because their shoes are untied who doesn’t see the gray in anything, but it really is this simple. Yeah, there’s a lot of gray and a big picture too, but as far as theft goes, this is simple as Simon. It doesn’t matter how legit the bulk of the claims against the RIAA are (and they are), we can’t steal just because the victim sucks.

There’s a time for breaking laws and doing what would otherwise be sin where those actions are justified (and therefore not sin). But we’re not dealing with saving lives or spreading the gospel or anything like that. It’s one thing to boycott, it’s one thing to only buy certain things etc. If it’s theft it’s theft, and if it’s theft it’s sin, and if it’s sin, then we are dead to it.

I don’t know if this blog was written by a Christian. I would guess not, but I could be wrong. But he had me at “I mean, let’s face it, no matter how you rationalized it, it was stealing.” Of course, it still is… Don’t get me wrong, I read the whole thing, but there was nothing later on in the blog like “now I realize I was wrong and it’s not theft at all, and here’s my really strong argument why it’s not…” Rather, “it’s not wrong because we no longer have sympathy for the RIAA.” It just tried to explain why it’s okay. We’re children of God. It’s not okay.

That’s what I have to say about downloading music in order to change the music industry.

(Originally published 02/22/2009: http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2009/02/downloading-music-theft-with-purpose.html. Immaterial changes have been made)

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