What's Legal & Christian in Sharing Music?

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What's Legal & Christian in Sharing Music?

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Suzy has a great ear for music and wanted a CD of the greatest hits of Johnny Cash. She had a file-sharing program and was beginning to download the songs when her bookish 12-year-old-sister Jane asked her what she was doing.

Jane informed Suzy that this is a copyright violation and that she could get into a lot of trouble.

Suzy told her that no one was going to worry about a senior in high school. Jane wasn't so sure about that. She told Suzy that over 20,000 people have been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for file sharing and that the RIAA recently went after a single mother to the tune of $222,000 for sharing 24 songs.

Why do they care so much about a few songs?

The issue here is that these songs are the property of the artists who wrote and/or performed them. These artists have a copyright to their intellectual property that gives them the right to choose who may copy the work or perform it publicly.

If others copy a song through file sharing, the artist does not receive a royalty (money) for that use of his work. For every artist at the top of the Billboard music charts, there are many people behind the scenes who wouldn't get their allotted share as well, including songwriters, sound engineers and label employees who help create those hits.

The law varies from country to country regarding the legality of downloading and uploading of copyright-protected songs. (For example, in the United States it is illegal to download or upload; in Canada it is only illegal to upload.)

The case Jane mentioned above was decided in Duluth, Minnesota, and marks the first case of its kind to go to court (Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas). Others have been settled out of court.

The possibility of being sued over file sharing should not be the principal consideration for vertical thinkers. Our main concern should be to follow God—including His directives that we not steal, that we treat others as we would have them treat us and that we follow the law of the land in which we live whenever it does not violate God's will (Exodus 20:15; Luke 6:31; Romans 13:1-7).

It's wrong to take what doesn't belong to us without permission, whether it be from a small shopkeeper or a billionaire entertainer. Our standard should be that found in God's Word. Beyond just telling us not to steal, Philippians 2:4 positively tells us, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." VT