Is Digital Piracy Really a Sin?

Digital piracy is a problem that costs businesses billions of dollars a year. If you are considering copying something you don’t have rights to, read this. 

Is Digital Piracy Really a Sin?
Piracy is on the increase. I’m not talking about the kind of pirates who attack and raid ships at sea. No, I’m talking about those who participate in copying digital intellectual property, such as music, movies, software and games, without purchasing or getting permission.

Technology has expanded many people’s ability to access pirated material and store it with ease. In fact, this is one of the easiest forms of stealing there is. It is easily done from the privacy of one’s own home with usually a very minimal chance of consequences. Some may see this as harmless. But is it? Is digital piracy a sin?

Piracy is stealing

Some argue against comparing piracy with theft. A form of this argument that has made the rounds on the Internet goes something like this: “Imagine your car gets stolen, but it’s still there in the morning.”

The argument is that stealing must involve an item being removed from the original owner. So, according to this thinking, since the owners of digital content still have their content—it’s not stealing. But is that true?

Consider these examples that show stealing does not always take the form of items being removed from the owner’s possession:

  • A person goes for a haircut and leaves without paying. It is stealing because there is an understanding of payment in return for a service. The time and materials of the business were stolen.

  • An employee calls in sick when he is not really sick. Since the employee will be paid for sick leave, the employee is stealing company time.

Wrong is always wrong—regardless of whether it seems to be harmless at the time or not.The Bible says the “laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18). The principle is that those who work—whether by providing an immediate service or creating music, software or games—are to be compensated appropriately. Their services are not to be taken from them for nothing.

Of course, the Eighth Commandment is clear: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Effect on society

Those who steal intellectual property fail to consider the effects of their piracy. Consider these results:

  • Piracy exacts a high cost on businesses and jobs. As more people copy digital media, sales of the original will decrease, creating a loss to those producing the content.

  • It raises costs on honest consumers. Because of piracy, companies are forced to invest in extra layers of protection for their products in order to stay one step ahead of the pirates. Also, considerable costs are incurred fighting piracy through monitoring, courts and lawsuits. These extra costs add up and are passed on to consumers who don’t steal.

  • It stifles innovation. Piracy can cause small businesses and young entrepreneurs to be discouraged from producing their absolute best content—because they are expecting it to just be stolen by thousands (maybe millions) of people.

  • It facilitates the spread of malware. The FBI has warned that much of pirated media contains malware (malicious software). Once installed on your device, malware is very difficult to remove and can be very dangerous. Malware can be used to:

    • Steal usernames, passwords, credit card details and social security numbers.

    • Log your keystrokes.

    • Redirect Internet search results to dangerous sites.

    • Gather your contact information and send fake emails from your computer.

    • Identify and steal confidential information.

    • Allow hackers free access to your system.

    • Take control of your PC—for instance, using your device’s camera to record you.

  • Piracy can fund terrorist and criminal organizations. Piracy is a very lucrative business. The Guardian reports that terrorists and criminal organizations often use piracy to fund their operations. In fact, these organizations can make more money in piracy than they can in drug trafficking!

What should Christians do?

As the world moves further away from the law of God, sins like piracy are becoming more common and acceptable. But if you believe in the Bible and are serious about living right, this should not be acceptable to you. Consider some of the self-justifications people may entertain:

  • Everyone else is doing it! Christians are told not to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). As Christians, we are to follow what Jesus would do (1 John 2:6). Jesus, who perfectly kept the law of God, would not steal.

  • Originals are too expensive; pirate copies are much cheaper or even free! Even if that were true, would that justify stealing? Would you accept that as an excuse if someone stole your television because “it’s cheaper than buying one”? The Bible teaches us to do to others as we want them to do to us (Matthew 7:12).

  • No one is getting hurt! We already covered the effects piracy has on society. So the argument that no one is hurt doesn’t hold water. Ultimately, it comes down to this basic principle: Wrong is always wrong—regardless of whether it seems to be harmless at the time or not.

For further insight about the sin of stealing, read “The Eighth Commandment: You Shall Not Steal” or download our free booklet God’s 10 Commandments: Still Relevant Today.

About the Author

Isaac Khalil

Isaac Khalil

Isaac Khalil is husband to his lovely wife, Natasha, and father to son, Eli and daughter, Abigal. He loves to spend time with family and friends doing various things like watching movies, playing chess, playing board games and going out. He enjoys studying biblical topics and discussing the Bible with his friends. He is also a news junkie and is constantly reading and sharing news connected with Bible prophecy.

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