The Hebrew word for “stealing” covers a wide range of thefts, including music.
James Michael Stevens, a prolific musician, has written an article in which he tells of his experience with churches and Christians singers who use his music without paying royalties.
The following is an excerpt of his article:
The second example is of another church that has thousands in attendance every Sunday and which may indeed be the world's largest. The church was selling about 20 different CDs on the church's website that contained our song. I contacted them to see if I could get some copies of the CDs and to make them aware that all of them had been done without permission, without our knowledge and without paying royalties. Since the church was merely selling them and were not the record producers, I thought they would want to know since their church was one of the world's best known with one of the most famous pastors of all time. The next day, someone went on the church's website and removed the title of our song from the song list of each of the CDs. Now understand that they were still selling the CDs, and our song was still on each of them, they just removed our title from the list so no one would know.Read the article by clicking here.
Now let me share some of the reasoning that Christians gave for illegal copying:
One person said that the fault of the illegal copying was with the greedy record companies, because the record companies charged too much for their CDs. Since they charged "too much," then this made it OK for the music to be copied without permission. Hey, if they cost too much, don't buy them. Perhaps some in the record industry would like to give their input, but my guess is that they actually lose money on many if not the majority of releases.
Here was the logic from another party, which was actually a man in a Christian singing group. The young man said in essence that he had made illegal copies of a CD from a name artist and gave the copies to friends including a minister of music at a church. The minister of music listened to the CD and liked it so much that he invited the artist to his church to perform. The artist got a "gig" and was able to sell "legal" copies of his CDs at the concert. The question to me by the infringer was "Did my making the illegal copies hurt or help the artist?" .Or does the "end, justify the means?"
Another gentleman, who was also a Christian musician, suggested to me the bible does not even support the idea of intellectual property rights and therefore, there was no such thing as giving a valid "moral" argument for the refraining from copyright infringement, only a "legal" one. There were many other bizarre justifications as well.
To pilfer music without proper acknowledgment is one way by which countless Christians violate the eighth commandment. And this kind of stealing is not a victimless crime. Christians composers make a living from their work.
In his book, Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003), Philip Graham Ryken wrote: “There is theft of intellectual property, the violation of copyrights, including the unlawful duplication of music and videos” (p. 173).
It is sad that some of the people who are pilfering music are some of the same people who advocate that the Ten Commandments be exhibited in public places.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Christian Music, Stealing, Ten Commandments