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Biblical Restitution (Ethics)

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  • Biblical Restitution (Ethics)

    I recently stumbled across a blog on this topic and want to discuss thoughts on this. If you have attained something by ill means, are we always required to pay back for it? Should we always confess, when is it better to not confess? Is there interest? etc. Discuss. Here is an excerpt from the blog I was reading, it is about media copyright:


    ... I am left wondering what I should do about the music I have in my library that I didn't pay for. Clearly I feel the conviction to make restitution. You may not feel that same conviction about this matter, but this is something that has pricked my conscience over and over again the last year or so. And so this morning, I finally went through my library and made a list of all the songs I did not buy (which is roughly 17% of my library). It's amazing how easy it is to remember which songs I got legitimately, and which songs I did not - even if I got those songs eight or nine years ago.
    But now I'm not sure what to do. There are a number of scenarios that have gone through my mind:
    1. I simply delete all the music that I've downloaded illegally and call it a day. This doesn't seem to be a good way of making restituation, though. The individuals I have wronged and withheld money from are none the better for this route.
    2. I go on iTunes and legitimately purchase all of the songs that I have downloaded illegally in the past, thus putting money into the pockets that I have taken from. This, to me, seems like the easiest and most reasonable solution. However, there are a few problems that arise in my mind: should I still enjoy the music that I have taken? What about the reality that I downloaded a lot of this music before there ever was an iTunes and songs could be purchased for 99 cents? The only way I could have legitimately procured those particular songs back then would have been to buy the whole CD. Thus, it seems as though I am still not fully restoring what I have taken. And what about those artists that don't even have their music on iTunes?
    3. God seems to have instructed the Children of Israel to add "one-fifth" to whatever they had stolen from people (Lev 6:4, 5). Should I not at least do the same? Zacchaeus, of course, went above and beyond that and restored anything he had taken "four-fold" (Luke 19:8). This is especially remarkable considering the fact that Zacchaeus, serving as a tax collector for the Roman government, was allowed by Roman law to take whatever he could get from people, so long as he got at least the minimum for taxes. Should I not follow his example - thus paying at least $3.96 for any songs I might have? And what about interest? And if I do that, should I still keep the songs? Certainly when Zacchaeus returned money to people he had cheated, he didn't still enjoy the benefits of that money.
    4. Maybe I should write a check and send a letter to each music company, admitting my fault and making things right with them. Not only will they get their money, but they might also be touched by the sincerity of someone who is trying to make things right. Of course, I am not so sure that these people will so much as bat an eyelash as they are going to the bank to deposit the $2-3 that I am returning to them. Still, should their potential reaction change my behavior? ... "




    The link to the full article can be found attached. Discuss! When should we make restitution?

  • #2
    A copyright violation isn't theft. If you've robbed anyone through illegal downloads, it isn't the music companies, it's the public for which constitutionally copyright laws exist, to stimulate production in the useful arts for public benefit. Although, I don't know exactly how useful most recorded music is, nor do I see a need to stimulate the production of music. Add to that, I stopped listening to background music years ago.

    A federal judge just ruled that the song "Happy Birthday" is public domain. No, the judge didn't commit an act of theft, because ideas and music cannot and are not privately owned in the first place.

    But, if you're feeling guilty, delete the music you don't listen to. Buy the songs you do listen to. Or, just stream free and legally any music you want, through countless websites.


    Comment>

    • #3
      Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
      But, if you're feeling guilty, delete the music you don't listen to. Buy the songs you do listen to. Or, just stream free and legally any music you want, through countless websites.
      I second that...
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        A copyright violation isn't theft. If you've robbed anyone through illegal downloads, it isn't the music companies, it's the public for which constitutionally copyright laws exist, to stimulate production in the useful arts for public benefit. Although, I don't know exactly how useful most recorded music is, nor do I see a need to stimulate the production of music. Add to that, I stopped listening to background music years ago.

        A federal judge just ruled that the song "Happy Birthday" is public domain. No, the judge didn't commit an act of theft, because ideas and music cannot and are not privately owned in the first place.

        But, if you're feeling guilty, delete the music you don't listen to. Buy the songs you do listen to. Or, just stream free and legally any music you want, through countless websites.

        What do you mean you haven't robbed anyone through illegal downloading (copyright infringement)? You're owning a license/media file of a product with a price tag on it that has not been legally licensed to you. That is stealing. If I steal from a store, I'm not robbing the public because the public allows a store to do business and own inventory; I've robbed the owner of the merchandise, the store. We can argue the details about tax, etc, but obviously someone was the original owner of the product.

        The requirement of arts for the public, usefulness of music, or my personal experience with music is not relevant to the topic. I'm just using this as an example of the biblical topic of restitution.
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        • #5
          If you want to be technical the music you're downloading isn't really music as it is streaming through the network.

          Corporations are an interesting breed. They are treated like a person now-a-days, however, one cannot not go after an individual behind the corporate proxy or strawman. The strawman can come after you though, and they do so more today than they used to. Remember when people used to copy radio with those cassette tapes?

          You realize if you admitted to copyright infringement that the consequences are fines and prison time? I am just suggesting if you want to admit fault then be ready for the consequences. Not just some feel good about yourself gesture to the music's label company or artist.

          I think wisdom includes knowing how much information to volunteer. I still agree with what Cornelius wrote. An example of how legalistic things can be.... I could stop everyone quoting any bible here besides the KJV... which does not have a copyright.

          God bless,
          William
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          • #6
            Originally posted by RS Presbyterian View Post
            What do you mean you haven't robbed anyone through illegal downloading (copyright infringement)? You're owning a license/media file of a product with a price tag on it that has not been legally licensed to you.
            Copyright law doesn't grant or recognize ownership; it temporarily grants exclusive rights to the creator for the public good. If you illegally download a song, no one is being deprived of anything they own. It's not stealing. If you go into a store and stuff a CD in your pants, that's theft. You're depriving the store of the CD they own. If you sneak into a live concert, that's theft of service. But, if you snap a photo of someone's house, you haven't stolen that house.

            The requirement of arts for the public, usefulness of music, or my personal experience with music is not relevant to the topic. I'm just using this as an example of the biblical topic of restitution.
            It is relevant. Public benefit, not ownership, is the whole constitutional basis of copyright law. Copyright violation isn't theft. It's a statutory violation. BTW, You should move into a cave and get through your day with only grunts and wild berries, else you are guilty of stealing other people's creations thousands of times per day.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by William View Post
              An example of how legalistic things can be.... I could stop everyone quoting any bible here besides the KJV... which does not have a copyright.
              The KJV is still copyrighted in the UK.

              The Authorized Version is in the public domain in most of the world. However, in the United Kingdom, the right to print, publish and distribute it is a Royal prerogative and the Crown licenses publishers to reproduce it under letters patent. In England, Wales andNorthern Ireland the letters patent are held by the Queen's Printer, and in Scotland by the Scottish Bible Board. The office of Queen's Printer has been associated with the right to reproduce the Bible for centuries, the earliest known reference coming in 1577. In the 18th century all surviving interests in the monopoly were bought out by John Baskett. The Baskett rights descended through a number of printers and, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Queen's Printer is now Cambridge University Press, who inherited the right when they took over the firm of Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1990.[155]
              Other royal charters of similar antiquity grant Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press the right to produce the Authorized Version independently of the Queen's Printer. In Scotland the Authorized Version is published by Collins under licence from the Scottish Bible Board. The terms of the letters patent prohibit any other than the holders, or those authorized by the holders, from printing, publishing or importing the Authorized Version into the United Kingdom. The protection that the Authorized Version, and also the Book of Common Prayer, enjoy is the last remnant of the time when the Crown held a monopoly over all printing and publishing in the United Kingdom.
              King James Version - Wikipedia

              Most Bible publishers permit quotations from their Bibles as long as proper credit is given. I use the English Standard Bible and I always add ESV each time I quote from it.
              Clyde Herrin's Blog
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              • #8
                Originally posted by William View Post
                If you want to be technical the music you're downloading isn't really music as it is streaming through the network.

                Corporations are an interesting breed. They are treated like a person now-a-days, however, one cannot not go after an individual behind the corporate proxy or strawman. The strawman can come after you though, and they do so more today than they used to. Remember when people used to copy radio with those cassette tapes?

                You realize if you admitted to copyright infringement that the consequences are fines and prison time? I am just suggesting if you want to admit fault then be ready for the consequences. Not just some feel good about yourself gesture to the music's label company or artist.

                I think wisdom includes knowing how much information to volunteer. I still agree with what Cornelius wrote. An example of how legalistic things can be.... I could stop everyone quoting any bible here besides the KJV... which does not have a copyright.

                God bless,
                William

                Brother, you yourself can declare yourself a corporation, it is just one way of identifying a business entity. People form these business entities to avoid being personally sued and liable for damages that are far reaching (compared to a sole prop). I think you are trying to pose a red herring by bringing this up and distracting from the point from doing what is right. I am not restricting this conversation alone to online downloads but to taking what is not yours in general, and how a christian worldview should view various situations. Likewise, I don't think we are to make restitution to "feel good", but to try and make right the consequences of sin...

                Let us not pull the "legalism" card when discussing ethics, it doesn't promote discussion and dialogue. Also, quoting chunks or scanning books at the library is permitted up to I believe 10% of the book's pages.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

                  Copyright law doesn't grant or recognize ownership; it temporarily grants exclusive rights to the creator for the public good. If you illegally download a song, no one is being deprived of anything they own. It's not stealing. If you go into a store and stuff a CD in your pants, that's theft. You're depriving the store of the CD they own. If you sneak into a live concert, that's theft of service. But, if you snap a photo of someone's house, you haven't stolen that house.



                  It is relevant. Public benefit, not ownership, is the whole constitutional basis of copyright law. Copyright violation isn't theft. It's a statutory violation. BTW, You should move into a cave and get through your day with only grunts and wild berries, else you are guilty of stealing other people's creations thousands of times per day.
                  Okay, but has not God set the government in place, and we are subject to the civil laws because God has instituted it? If we violate these laws, surely we are at fault



                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RS Presbyterian View Post
                    ...I think you are trying to pose a red herring by bringing this up and distracting from the point from doing what is right... . Let us not pull the "legalism" card when discussing ethics, it doesn't promote discussion and dialogue. Also, quoting chunks or scanning books at the library is permitted up to I believe 10% of the book's pages.
                    Well, I am certainly not attempting to get in between you and your conscience conviction, and a gesture or fruit of your repentance. Since we are not pulling the legalism card and we are ALL subject to civil laws because God has instituted it... . then you can always declare bankruptcy on the restitution if made payable to a person or entity other than the Government should the penalty be too much for you. That is, should the Government come after you while gratifying its revenge - Luke 3:14. There is virtue in the act of repentance when made voluntarily. I do not think that you're saying yours or anyone else restitution will atone for their sins, but rather that which we have acquired dishonestly is not our own. I think another point in Luke 19:1-10 was the laying up of goods where rust and moth could take hold rather than in heaven. It wasn't a matter of returning goods or money to its rightful owner (restitution) but a complete change of heart which resulted in charity during conversion.

                    God bless,
                    William
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by William View Post

                      Well, I am certainly not attempting to get in between you and your conscience conviction, and a gesture or fruit of your repentance. Since we are not pulling the legalism card and we are ALL subject to civil laws because God has instituted it... . then you can always declare bankruptcy on the restitution if made payable to a person or entity other than the Government should the penalty be too much for you. That is, should the Government come after you while gratifying its revenge - Luke 3:14. There is virtue in the act of repentance when made voluntarily. I do not think that you're saying yours or anyone else restitution will atone for their sins, but rather that which we have acquired dishonestly is not our own. I think another point in Luke 19:1-10 was the laying up of goods where rust and moth could take hold rather than in heaven. It wasn't a matter of returning goods or money to its rightful owner (restitution) but a complete change of heart which resulted in charity during conversion.

                      God bless,
                      William

                      OT law requires restoration of the amount wrongfully taken, plus a fifth as penalty (Lev. 6:5, Num 6:5). Though I likewise do not think we are saved by the law, I think it is something we meditate our minds on and do because they are the statues of the Lord. I'm not saying this is always possible in every case, but was wondering what differentiates situations and if this is applicaple. Just a note, I did not write the OP, it is quoted from the blog of a pastor.
                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Lev 6 identifies theft as refusing to return something lost or entrusted to you, or taking something by force or fraud. Copyright violation doesn't meet that criteria for theft. However, bankruptcy is theft. Bankruptcy is refusing to return money entrusted to you.

                        If one's concern is following Man's law, not God's law, then arrange payment for any music you "pirated", but instead following through with payments, declare bankruptcy. But, in this case, bankruptcy isn't theft. It's just a statutory solution to a statutory crime, all with a little legal dancing. Or, save the legal dancing and achieve the same result by just not worrying about the music you have already "pirated". The government is just as happy this way.

                        If you think you owe restitution, it's not lev 6 that applies. It's US copyright law that applies. That's a criminal penalty of at least $750 and civil damages of up to $150,000 per song. So, sorry, you're never going to make that unconscionable legal restitution. Mailing a check for the cost plus 50 is not legal restitution. I suggest you take the "just not worrying about it" option, concerning your past statutory infractions.

                        You don't owe restitution. Just don't "pirate" music again. Legally obtain the music you do listen to. If a Christian wants to earn his "chief of sinners" badge, I'm sure there are much better places to start than trumping up copyright violations.







                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                          If one's concern is following Man's law, not God's law
                          We are commanded to obey the laws of the government under which we live. That means that anyone who breaks Man's law is also breaking God's law.
                          Clyde Herrin's Blog
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