Last week I was at Hastings and as usual when I am there, I browse through the CD section. As I sauntered through the aisles trying to curb my CD buying habit, but still wanting to at least tempt myself. Who knows? I might find something I “need.”
All of a sudden I stopped short. There was a Jason Mraz CD*. I could really use this. I had heard only one of his songs, his hit, I’m Yours. It was acoustic and kind of catchy and the King’s Singers even covered it on one of their albums. I was in a dilemma though. I didn’t really feel like spending the money on it.
Strange, but I didn’t really stop to filter the irrational thoughts that were going through my head. Surely it wouldn’t be a problem if I just sort of took it. That was probably the only good song on the CD anyway and if he was going to make a record with only one good song on it, he deserved to have the rest of it stolen.
It was on the bottom shelf so I bent down over it and pretended to tie my shoe. Grabbing it in my teeth, I carefully dropped it on the floor. In front of myself and still stooping over, I put it in my Quicksilver hoodie pocket. No one saw me and my body easily concealed my actions from the security camera. I causally walked out the door.
That evening I ripped the CD to my computer and I was right. There was only one good song on the entire CD. I felt very good about myself for being so frugal and wise with my money. My parents had always taught me about good stewardship with money and I’m sure they are proud of me for this particular application of their teaching. I had the whole album on my iPod but I never listened to any of the songs except that one. After all, I wouldn’t have boughten the CD anyway, so in my mind that made it okay.
Besides, the record company would have gotten most of the money anyway. They are already so filthy rich they probably don’t even care anyway. They probably like it actually because it gets their name out there, it and probably promotes the album if I tell my friends about it. It makes the music more popular even if they don’t get a red cent from it. That’s a good thing, right?
I also think I might remember a verse in Nimrod 5:10 saying that it’s okay to steal from people if they are really rich. Score one for frugality and beating the system!
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Okay, so that story was completely false but I think you get the point. I would say piracy of digital media (especially by Christians) is one of my biggest pet peeves. I have a very serious problem with that; perhaps in part because being a musician would be one my dream jobs. I used to share some music and rip friends’ music to my library, but eventually it was ridiculous to try to justify it.
Since most of the people who read my blog are Christians, I feel I can appeal to not only to the side of respecting the artists, but also the morality side of taking digital media without paying for it. I won’t bother appealing to the fact that it’s illegal. Laws are for the lawless and that shouldn’t describe Christians.
Pirating and sharing digital media is not funny, cool, or clever. It’s stealing from those that have the creativity to produce it. Be it music, movies, software, or photos, the people who work to create the product should receive the money that is due them.
I have a big problem with people who say they are Christians who think it would be wrong to shoplift, but think its okay to share and download copyrighted media without paying the rightful owners of the copyright. It doesn’t matter if it’s easy or not. It doesn’t matter if file sharing sites and willing friends make it simple. A petty theft is no more right than a mastermind bank robbery. They are both stealing.
If you think the music is worth having, than you should be willing to pay the artist for it. It’s that simple. They went to a lot of time and effort to produce it and they should be able to get the profits from it. If you don’t like it well enough to pay for it, then don’t buy it. Just don’t steal it either. No one is forcing you to have music you don’t like very well on your iPod. That doesn’t even make sense anyway. If music is not worth buying, it is probably not worth having at all.
There are plenty of ways to listen to music you like without stealing it. Internet services such as Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify are good ways for casual listeners to listen to music they like if they don’t care to have it in their library.
You expect a paycheck when you work from seven to five. They expect a paycheck when their product hits the shelves and every time someone buys it. If they are very successful with their art, they get more money. If you are successful and do well at your job, you expect more money. At least that’s how it should be. The copyright on that art says that they have the right to profit from, in the case of recording artists, that particular combination of sounds.
A lot of artists are getting robbed because people are not willing to pay for the music they like. If you buy a CD and share it with ten friends, that’s around one hundred dollars that is not making into the hands that deserve it.
Furthermore, if unbelievers are stealing digital media and their Christian friends are doing that as well, don’t you think that will cause them at the very least to question their testimony? I realize that it is so easy and in some ways a little intangible, and I used to dismiss it too. It was so convenient and nearly everyone else did it, but we really need to think seriously about what effect our actions have.
Respect the artists, software designers, film makers, and photographers who make the art you like and pay them what you owe them. They make the world a better place with their art. Yes, the world would be somewhat boring and uninspiring without anyone creating any art. Think! No music, no paintings. . . The list could go on.
Artists have chosen the arts as their means to make money. Most of them are doing what they love but they have to make a living too. Struggling artists need a paycheck just as badly as you do and might even work a second job to make ends meet. Successful artists have worked hard to succeed in one of the most competitive lines of work, to make so their art is top notch. At both ends of the spectrum they should get profit from their work.
If you like their art well enough to own it, buy it. If you don’t, make your own. Just don’t steal other people’s paychecks because you’re too tight to and selfish to buy from them. At best, it’s unethical. At worst, it’s robbery, plain and simple.
*No insult to Jason Mraz intended. I really know very little about him except for his one song. He was simply the most convenient artist to pick on at the moment.