Recently, I was at a friend’s house downloading new maps for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for his X-Box 360. It took some time, and my friend complained, “It’s taking forever ‘cause my brother is using up the bandwidth downloading his CSI shows.” The irony was beyond thick. He was more upset that it was taking time away from playing, than he was that his brother was “downloading episodes illegally”.
Unfortunately, many people share this habit, especially with music. As Glen from Transformers (2007) shrieked, “so I downloaded a few thousands songs off the internet! Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t?” Questions regarding the right or wrong of how we behave should never be based on “who hasn’t”; but instead, based on what God wants us to do and how He wants us to behave (Eccl. 12.13-14).
Here are some questions we really need to ask regarding downloading music we do not purchase: what’s the difference? We must obey the law. Who cares anyways? God cares and so should we. Who gets hurt? Many people get hurt. So let us dig into these issues a bit deeper below.
(1) There are anti-piracy laws that protect media content. Unauthorized duplicating and downloading of copyrighted media is illegal. The FBI issues warnings against this behavior on every CD, DVD, and Movie Theater showing. Breaking these laws is regarded by the FBI as an act of piracy – robbery. And, no, pirates are not cool.
(2) God desires a people that obey the laws of the land. Paul clearly wrote: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13.1; 1 Pet. 1.13-17). Obeying the law so long as it does not violate God’s law is our daily obligation (Acts 5.29; Mark 12.17). Consequently, if we do not pay for it, we do not download it.
(3) We delude ourselves if we think we do not hurt anyone when we steal. Some think, “It’s just one song, other people will pay.” Or, “I’m sure they’re not gonna miss $1.29.” There is no question that people made the media we like, but they deserve to be paid (1 Tim. 5.18). These “laborers” are being robbed of the ability to take care of their families and to help others (1 Tim. 5.8; Eph. 4.28). The thieves are hurting themselves, too, because they are jeopardizing their entrance into heaven (1 Cor. 6.10; Prov. 1.8-19); all for a little Taylor Swift on their iPod? It makes no sense.
Sometimes it feels so convenient to download. “It’s right there… just press download”. However, if we rely on God’s wisdom and step back to see the bigger picture it becomes crystal clear that we should not give in to our emotional fixations that tempt us to illegally download media (Jas. 1.14-15; Prov. 3.5-7). We are God’s people, let us not make it easy for Satan to download us to hell.