What is it about, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL that many people just don’t get? Is it simply a fact of human nature to want something for free, even if it means hurting someone else to get it?
Since the birth of the internet, theft of music, movies, software and video games by illegal uploading and downloading has exploded to epidemic proportions.
This is now a massive problem, causing huge harm to industry and to the lives of ordinary people with extra-ordinary talents and artistic giftings.
Illegal downloading has made it virtually impossible for talented young artists to make a career in the music industry, because as soon as they release a new song or album, some person will deliberately upload their music to the internet, mostly through ‘peer to peer’ (P2P) file sharing networks.
This activity is not only clearly illegal, it has the potential to completely destroy industries, and it is already discouraging many talented young people from entering the music and/or entertainment industries. In time, this will seriously impact the creation of these artistic works, will reduce their production, and will reduce our choice of new music and entertainment as it becomes unprofitable to invest time and money in these endeavours and industries.
The human cost of illegal downloading.
From reliable data from the International Chamber Of Commerce and US government, by using well established models it is estimated that in the US alone, illegal downloading and copying of music, movies, software and video games costs the U.S. economy $58.0 billion annually in total output, costs American workers 373,375 jobs and $16.3 billion in earnings, and costs federal, state, and local governments $2.6 billion in tax revenue that could be used for social services like healthcare, education and other essential public services.
Beyond the cost to the copyright industries, this lost revenue translates into lost production of legitimate copyright products, which in turn means lost wages and lost purchases of downstream products and services throughout the U.S, and every other country that illegal download affects.
As these numbers show, the true cost of copyright piracy, illegal copying and illegal downloading cannot properly be measured by its impact on the producers of copyright-protected works alone. Piracy and Intellectual Property (IP) theft harms not only the owners of intellectual property but also consumers, workers, and taxpayers.
The Global Cost:
When we consider that these figures only represent the annual cost of illegal piracy, copying and downloading of music, movies, software and video games to the US economy, it is hard to imagine what the annual global cost of illegal downloading might be, but it would not be hard to believe the true figure could well exceed USD $200 billion, and more than 1 million jobs lost as a result.
In fact, data from the International Chamber of Commerce confirms that the full cost piracy and copying of all product types in the G20 countries alone is more than USD $600 billion annually, (six hundred billion US dollars). This at a cost of some 2.5 million jobs, and tens of billions of dollars in lost tax revenues that could be used for social services. Once again these figures don’t include downstream losses of profit and jobs by wholesalers and retailers, so the actual cost of product piracy in the G20 countries alone could be as high as USD $1.2 trillion dollars annually, and as many as five million jobs plus or minus. As we can see, piracy is epidemic, and the financial and human cost resulting from Product and IP piracy in dollar value, profit losses, job losses and lost funding for social services is staggering.
Justifying ourselves in disobedience:
There are many reasons why some of us might choose to illegally download and steal the intellectual property of other people and companies, and then try to justify ourselves for doing so. We may try to justify ourselves in this illegal practice because we believe some of these products are too expensive. Using this thinking, would we also choose to steal products from a retail store if we considered a product we wanted was too expensive? Of course not! If we believe something is too expensive, our moral choices are clear and simple;
The creators of these artistic works have a right to make a profit from their products. If their products prove popular and sell well; good for them; they deserve to profit from their endeavours and investment. The cost of development of some of these products can be huge. Sometimes the cost of development can range from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars, so the developers deserve to make a good return on their investment of time and finances.
What can we do?
While we have no control over the actions of other people who deliberately choose to copy, upload, make and/or sell pirated products, and/or encourage other people to illegally download and steal the intellectual property of other people; as Christians, we know that involving ourselves in this activity is outright theft, plain and simple. We know that if we participate in this illegal activity it causes serious financial harm to the creators of these artistic works, we are robbing them of their livelihoods, causing serious damage to industry, robbing people of job opportunities, and most importantly, acting in disobedience to God and his commandment; THOU SHALL NOT STEAL.
Using the example Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:37-39, we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves. Clearly if we participate in any form of theft including theft by illegal downloading, or knowingly buying and/or selling pirated goods, we are breaking one of God’s Ten Commandments, and; we are NOT treating our neighbour or others as we would like them to treat us. When we participate in this illegal activity, we are not only demonstrating that we do not love our neighbour and fellow man as we love ourselves, we are also hurting ourselves and damaging our relationship with God.
By adopting this principal given by Jesus in Matthew 22:39, if this was my music, movie, video game or software, would I be happy if someone stole it from me and robbed me of my rightful income and livelihood?
While we cannot prevent others from participating in this immoral and harmful activity, we can choose to make a stand and not participate in it ourselves.
Let’s pray together.
We thank you for the life giving principles you have demonstrated and provided for us in your Holy word. That we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, ‘Matt 22:39’, that we are to treat others as we would want to be treated, and to walk in obedience to your commandments and laws ‘Exodus 20:1-17’. We pray that as we navigate the internet and as we live our daily lives, you will help us to only go where you would go, and keep us from any activity that will hurt us, hurt other people, and grieve your heart. We pray that you will guide us by your Holy Spirit and that you will keep us from wandering into dangerous websites, and keep us from dishonest or corrupt practices. We pray that you will give us hearts that desire to please you in everything we do, everywhere we go, and in the way we conduct our lives for you. We pray that you will help us to overcome in every area of our lives so that we will be a light to those around us, and an expression of your love to the world. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.