Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christians and the Internet # 2
Hey guys, I know I havent posted for ages - I'm sorry. Seeing as I've just started homeschooling I've been really busy trying to catch up the year. But anyway, I've got the house to myself this afternoon and a spare hour so I'll post again!

The Copyright Law ©

The symbol "
©" can cause so much trouble in some people's lives, while others might not even know what it is. The copyright law in plain simple english can be defined as follows:

"Copyright is a protection that covers published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works, whatever the form of expression, provided such works are fixed in a tangible or material form. This means that if you can see it, hear it and/or touch it - it may be protected. If it is an essay, if it is a play, if it is a song, if it is a funky original dance move, if it is a photograph, HTML coding or a computer graphic that can be set on paper, recorded on tape or saved to a hard drive, it may be protected. Copyright laws grant the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly. Exclusive means only the creator of such work, not anybody who has access to it and decides to grab it."

To some of you this may mean nothing, but to other christian computer users this is a pretty big issue which cannot just be overlooked. If my own conscience is anything to go by, this is a difficult law which I have often wished didnt exist. But it does and we need to find out how this affects us and avoid sinning.

There are two clear Biblical commandments which apply well to this law.

Exodus 20:15 states it so clearly that even a child could not misunderstand the commantment: "You shall not steal." There is no way around that one, no matter how you twist it the words still stand "You shall not steal".

Secondly: Heb 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves..."

Ok, so there we have it - we must obey our governments who came up with these laws, and we must not steal.
Your next question might be: "Well what am I stealing when I copy a program/game/song? I provide my own disk or hard drive which I bought legally from a shop"
This brings up the weird realm of intellectual property. Intellectual property is something which is intangible, yet it can be owned eg. ideas, or information etc.
I call this "weird" because when you think about it for any length of time it begins to make sense and no make sense at the same time - does that make sense? :D

This means that you can own a thought as long as you have recorded it on some tangible medium!

The practical implications of intellectual property means that copying a song from a cd is stealing the artist's idea. The artist has the sole-right to copy his idea and market it.
This brings forward another strange concept... you dont own a single program on your pc, or a song on your cd's no matter how many you think you own. Not one of them is truly yours! You may think you have bought Windows XP, when infact all you own is the right to use Windows, play that song or utilise that program - Believe it or not.

There are open - source, freeware, and shareware software which may be copied, but I wont go into detail with these - they make it abundantly clear that they are free - Linux is a good example.

Mp3 downloads are also illegal unless they come from a site that pays a percentage to the artist for every download - these will most likely make you pay for the song too. This is still much cheaper than buying the cd, and is nice because you dont need to download the whole album either.

Ok - so maybe you're still unscathed? Unfortunately even most pictures on the internet are copyrighted. This means that a lot of the pictures we use on forums etc may be "stolen"!

BUT... as long as you credit your source you can still use the picture. If you do this properly it takes ages to write it all out, but a simple http addess and the name of the website should do.

When I was reading up for this post I found something which I disagreed with, but its true none the less. Al lot of Bible versions are copyright protected! This is the reason the KJV is often used by churches like my own who print Bible tracts, and gospels. The NIV on the other hand is copyrighted and is extremely hard to come by with regards to Bible programs. (E-sword is public domain software and is a really brilliant program! -their motto is great! "Freely you have received, freely give") Just in case you get a fright, you are allowed to quote passages from the Bible, just not extended portions like a whole book... I'm not quite sure how they define that though... I think it's ridiculous!

There are "fair uses" of stuff though... you need proof for these, so its a bit dodgy :-|
Fair use of copyrighted material allows you to use the stuff without permission for educational purposes, parodies (like Appologetix), news reports and research.

Some conclusions I've come to:

  • I've spoken to many people about this, and some older men who I respect find nothing wrong with copying a program to test it. I see no fault in this either. The trial versions are always very limited and dont give an acurate impression.
  • You are entitled to a single copy of a cd that you own. This is for your own use though and try though you might, you cant justify copying someone elses stuff like this.
  • I dont think there is anything wrong with playing your music at a party, get together of your friends
  • I dont believe that you need to buy a licence to share a game with your friend for a LAN over a weekend for example provided he deletes it afterwards.
  • I believe there are exceptional circumstances which allow for copying, but they are few and far between
  • Quite aside to all this, I've come to the conclusion that cracks are good things! They are completely legal as long as you own an original copy of the program - this saves cds big time! (Cracking programs is downloading a piece of code some geek has written which overwrites the code in a program which requires a cd to be present in the CD-ROM before it will run. Pirates use this to copy games, but it can be used to preserve cd's and save the hassle of putting a cd in, and taking it out...)
You might have come across websites which claim to have free mp3 downloads... 99,9% are lying. But here's a principle to use: If you have any doubt as to whether or not the stuff is copyrighted, dont use it.

A few months ago I was convicted of this sin... I didnt have much copied stuff, but I still had a few cd's and other things. I made up my mind to do the hard thing and throw them all away. You can try every way thinkable to justify copies, but you just cant. It's wrong and although you will probably never get caught for copying something, 1 Chronicles 28:9 says:

"And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever."

God sees all hearts and Romans 14:12 reminds us: "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God."

So to all those who like me know you are breaching this law I encourage you to do the hard thing for the sake of righteousness!


Anonymous said...

Antz, good article. Well thought out. The scary thing is that most of us don't even realize we are breaking the law. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

dude said...

nice post dude!long(well, very long)....but good. i know i am guilty of this. well, that means goodbye to some stuff. :-) thanks anyway Antz.

sam said...

wow! that was a good post antz! it's a long post but good. all your posts give me so much to think about! :)

caleb gage said...

:) long post? u have to be kidding me!

i agree antz. the major problem with copying, etc is when you start selling them (if you already have the original). you are stealing someone else's idea and using it for your own profit.