Piracy – parodied, dismissed, or unregulated – still a sin

Shall I count the many ways I’ve heard to excuse piracy?

Prices are too high.” 

The artist only gets like 1% of the money, anyways.” 

Some artists tell people to copy their stuff so they can get their name out there.” 

It’s just sharing.” 

With the box office success of Pirates of the Caribbean, nominated for 5 Oscars, and grossing $2,673,091,461 worldwide, Disney successfully turned villains of history into entertaining quasi-heroes. In a surprising coup d’état, kidnapping, barbary, and plunder were toned down through Disneyfication. According to Disney’s franchise, to be a pirate is to be part of an ignoble and misunderstood class, men and women who have embraced their real selves, but who can, on occasion, pull up their bootstraps and save the day.

This popular Disney romanticization helps me understand how the stealing of intellectual property, “piracy,” is so prolific, among the religious and irreligious alike.  

Recently, a Christian friend of mine asked if I would like to burn his copy of Fleet Foxes. Politely, I refused and asked what album he recommend I buy, which was followed by his rote defense of why he thought it ok to rip music (I recall he used reasons #1 and #2 from above).

Some artists, including Neil Gaiman, Sigur Ros, Coldplay, and Derek Webb, give away samples of their work to entice readers and listeners for more, but it’s the difference between the owner giving and the thief taking.  

I was saddened, but not surprised, to find my Christian brother participating in intellectual theft, a vice that is overlooked (like gluttony) in the smorgasbord of pseudo-religious America. But what is common among the children of wrath ought not to be practiced among the children of God (Ephesians 2).

Some would argue that the writers of Scripture did not understand copyright law and intellectual ownership – it’s not really stealing if the person can’t see you do it, after all…a ridiculous excuse, no different than the blame-shifting that happened in the Garden. 

Piracy is just that timeless sin of covetousness, wrapped in old excuses and faulty reasoning, desiring what belongs to your neighbor without making the sacrifices to obtain it:

You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:21

You may be wondering, why does Rivene rant so harshly against piracy? 

First, I am an artist. Unpublished, with vague, hopeful dreams of selling some of my stories, I sympathize with artists whose work is stolen by covetous fans.

Secondly, I think it is a sign, a billboard so to speak, announcing to the world either ignorance or stubborn blasphemy. In the words of Martin Luther, the first of the ten commandments is encapsulated with,

Thou shalt fear, love, and trust in Me as thine only true God. For where there is a heart thus disposed towards God, the same has fulfilled this and all the other commandments. On the other hand, whoever fears and loves anything else in heaven and upon earth will keep neither this nor any.

Piracy, like pornography, adultery, murder, blasphemy, and countless other sins, is the fruit of breaking the first of the ten commandments – “you must not have any other god but me.” 

The heart behind piracy is the same heart that led our first parents to the Fall. It is a subtle twisting of words to hide the breaking of commandments, no different than modern couples that distort the biblical view of marriage.

The typical American views monogamy as an antiquated ideal, propagated by ancient stoics, men who were unable to uphold sex as pleasure without propagation. This realist understands (but certainly won’t admit) that unfaithfulness is inevitable – with separate career paths, emotionally entangling friendships, and constant pornographic visual bombardment – so rather than bending the heart to the ideal, the ideal is devoured by the world. 

Like the Apostle Paul, I would remind you dear friends, what is common among the children of wrath ought not to be practiced among the children of God. 

And so dear friends, please do not entice me to blaspheme, do not offer me your wife, and do not tempt me to steal. And as much as I am able, I will reciprocate likewise.

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Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 6:34 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Well-said, Scott. As an amateur musician, I’ve often marveled at how pirating music is seemingly exempt from being defined as theft in people’s mind. Even though I’m pretty careful about avoiding piracy, your blog has convinced me to be even more so, and to be clear with friends about how I feel about it.


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