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There are people and organisations that state that copyright is wrong, and that copyright law should be deprecated. I think the same way but as a Christian I want to be sure that such thought is not be against the will of God.

Would being an advocate for the deprecation or abolition of copyright law run contrary to any Biblical or Christian principals? Is there any justification for copyright stated in Bible or other Christian sources?

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+1 Very interesting question! –  dancek Sep 20 '11 at 12:50
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6 Answers

Copyright laws are written to protect the author (or translator, artist, etc, but I'll stick to authors for my discussion). Without copyright laws, it would be easy for a very skillful author to write a wonderful book, but for some wealthy publisher to come along and take their book and publish it for their own profit. The author then goes un-recognized and more importantly, un-paid.

Copyright, just like patent law, is designed to protect "the little guy," and to make sure that someone who spends a year writing a novel, or researching a particular area to write about it, or spends decades translating the Bible to their own language, etc, has the opportunity to be rewarded for their work.

Clearly, copyright laws can be used as tools for greed, too, but I don't think that invalidates the reason for the laws, any more than it invalidates the need for banks or supermarkets. Just because something can be abused does not make the thing inherently evil.

If a Christian author does not approve of copyright laws, he is free to release his book to the public domain (or with some other non-traditional copyright, as has become popular the last few decades). And in fact, if his purpose for writing a book is to enlighten others, and not to earn a royalty, he may well feel the desire to do this. This practice is especially common in certain areas of software development.

But I don't think a strong Biblical argument can be made that copyright is inherently immoral or unethical, nor that Christians ought to copyright their works. I think we can glean from scripture, though, that Christians are bound by copyright laws. See Romans 13:1-2.

To me, copyright is an important way to protect the rights of the "little guy." It clearly can be abused, but practically anything good can be abused, so the possibility of abuse is not a good enough reason to do away with something.

Because I view copyright as an important way to protect the rights of the otherwise powerless, I would could not in good conscience fight to abolish copyright law, as I would see it as violating the principles laid out in scripture, of caring for "the least of these," etc. For me, this would be a sin.

However, I cannot say that a Christian who feels copyright is wrong would be sinning to fight to abolish copyright. I would ask a Christian who feels it's wrong to explain why, based on scripture, they think it's wrong. If their reasons are purely selfish ("I want to download MP3s"), I would say they are behaving sinfully, and I would urge them re-examine their motives.

If, on the other hand, their motives are selfless ("I feel copyright victimizes people"), then, while I might disagree with their conclusion, I would see their motives as pure, and I would not consider it a sin.

Personally, I would support certain copyright reforms... as I think certain aspects of copyright law are in place only to protect large corporations--and that is not why I support copyright law. But doing away with copyright law entirely, to me, is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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It's stated and (mostly) original purpose was to "protect the little guy". Not that it has much of this function anymore... (patents are even worse, much worse) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 20 '11 at 21:53
Thank you. If work is done once, shouldn't it be payed once? Yes, I think copyright is greedy, since it was created to make money not from owner's work, but from consumer's feelings. And I want to know will that be a sin to fight a copyright law. What do you mean by "Christians are bound by copyright laws. See Romans 13:1-2."? –  Max Gontar Sep 21 '11 at 11:36
@MaxGontar: How is copyright law not government law? –  Flimzy Sep 22 '11 at 5:38
@Max such works are not "payed once", though; many works are paid on a royalty basis, rewarding great works, while making it possible for "new blood" to break into the market, while not getting completely ripped off for their early works. To work the way you seem to want, you would have to radically change that system, violating innumerable pre-existing contracts. –  Marc Gravell May 9 '12 at 8:19
@MaxGontar: I love open source software and other works. But there are many works that I am happy to pay for, because free versions simply don't exist, and probably could not exist, without paying people to do them, by means of copyright. –  Flimzy May 10 '12 at 19:44
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It's a very good question, and not one which is easy to answer. But we are all called to make use of our talents, which I think may vary from gifts. Information is not necessarily subject to copyright - only literary / dramatic / musical works, films, broadcasts and sound recordings - basically, works where the author/creator has expended skill and effort to create it. And surely we as Christians should support those authors and musicians who clearly have a talent and a gift for their area to continue to write/create so that the greater Church benefits?

As a Christian, personally I feel that copyright should not be abolished, though I do feel the term of protection is rather too long. I would be upset if Christians got into copyright court battles, as it is right if we want something to buy it through the correct and lawful channels, but not if we download it free from a torrent site or similar. There are of course flaws in copyright law - the exceptions, for example, should be wider and allow for non-profit institutions to do more with copyright works, but the general principle of others being remunerated for their work I think fits with the Christian faith insofar as it is not exploited.

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Thank you. I think it's right, that artists or authors should be supported by community, and it is possible in different ways - by having grants, by selling tickets on performances, by having donations from their fans. This may be not enough to be a multimillionaire, but may be enough to live and create freely. If work is done once - shouldn't it be paid once? –  Max Gontar Sep 20 '11 at 12:45
I agree, I think different business models come into play, which is no bad thing. Do you not think though that artists or authors should have some legal recourse if their work is used in a way which they disagree with? i.e. if a Christian band's song was used to promote a BNP campaign, for example? Copyright allows this sort of legal recourse, so I still see it as important. –  copyrightgirl Sep 20 '11 at 13:55
Not sure. In this example recorded song is a result of work they did, but not the work itself. It is the work of consumers fantasy to make use out of this song (ex. to feel happy). –  Max Gontar Sep 20 '11 at 14:19
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Ok, so far most answers are in terms of whether Christians/artists should work with copyrights. They give arguments like the musician, songwriter, etc. should get money in order to do what they do. But in all this, there is one important thing missing: motivation; what motivates the musician to write music - what motivated the people to write the Bible.

If you read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, then you must come to the conclusion that, if we talk about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit or the Bible, then it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the words to speak out. How we preach depends on the gift/talent God has given to us.

It was not talent, sound or system, that motivated the apostles to spread the word of God, no, it was love that motivated them to tell the Jews, Greeks, Romans and eventually us that Jesus died for us. Why? Because God gave His Son out of love. So if the motivation is love, how do you answer to that? With a thankful heart.

How can we show that we are thankful? Through prayer, yes. But also in the gifts that we give to the church. That rule counts for every Christian: preacher, musician, artist, worship-leader, etc. And what is the promise of that rule? That you shall be blessed (no not Malachi, but 2 Corinthians 8:4). What we say, sing or show is knowledge given from the Holy Spirit. And to be thankful for that, we give to the church. Not because the bible says it (in this case, the bible does say it) but out of love.

Another answer is that most of the apostles sacrificed their lives (and still are!!) to preach the gospel; what gives us the right to ask for money to spread the word of God?

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Welcome to Christianity--Stack Exchange! While I can see where you are coming from, we are looking for supported answers. I'm not sure, for instance, that 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 really supports your argument. How do you reconcile 1 Timothy 5:18 with this answer? –  Jon Ericson May 9 '12 at 0:28
(tongue in cheek) So... I can steal content from Christians, but not atheists? Fair enough. More realistically, though: the "what motivates" is dubious (and I'll stick to music here, not the Bible, to avoid issues): for many people, "to put food on my table and a roof over my head" is a big part of the answer to that. Copyright law is not about "spread the word of God"; you need to consider that the number of people for whom that is a driving concern is small even among believers. Odd, then, that many of the most brazenly evangelistic are so keen to ask for money... –  Marc Gravell May 9 '12 at 7:25
@Marc. Also, even if a work is designed primarily to spread a message, copyright law can be of assistance with that. If you're spreading a message, you may not want altered versions of your work to be distributed. Licenses such as CC-BY-ND depend on copyright law. –  TRiG May 9 '12 at 12:59
@TRiG yes, copyright law may assist to protect information from change, but to change a mesage is rather lie than a stealing. Using copyright law for this purpose reminds me a joke about using microscope to hammer in nails. Except that microscope is actually a good thing. –  Max Gontar May 10 '12 at 20:12
@Marc this all was about correctness of copyright law actually, not about stealing something, and the answer was pretty on topic, since I was asking about Bible background. Talking about information and a basic of it - a simply word, you may consider, and it's not a pun, that in the beginning was a Word, and who we are to trade a gifts of our Heaven Father? The work is something done once and paid once otherwise it's gambling or begging. You may consider praising and spreading the word of God is a duty of most Christians, same way as attending a church, and the same way it is neglected. –  Max Gontar May 10 '12 at 20:28
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Rightly or wrongly, copyright is something that someone owns. To breach that copyright is essentially to steal from them, and I'm sure you know what the Bible has to say about stealing.

In terms of something more specific about copyright itself, you could look at passages like Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. Copyright is usually applied to something that an individual or organisation has created through their own gifts and expertise. These passages say that different people have different gifts - we do not all have the same function and therefore don't have the right or ability to reproduce what others can whenever we want to. So if you're good at writing songs (say) and I'm not, I shouldn't expect to have lots of good songs to my name that I can do whatever I want with.

But you could interpret that same passage the other way, by heeding the very clear message in verse 5 of the Romans passage: "we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others". So although we all do different things, we do these different things for one another and with one another because we belong to one another. So the songs you write are my songs too because we belong to the same body.

Of course the body that Paul is talking about in Romans and 1 Corinthians is the body of Christ ("in Christ we, though many, form one body...") and this is an instruction to share gifts and resources within the church. It doesn't say that we, as one body, can take parts or functions from another body. So within the church we should share what we have freely, but in a wider context we don't have the right to own the fruits of other people's gifts.

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Thank you. That's what I'm trying to find out - why information is recognized as a property? So, the point is, there should be no copyright within Christians? Since Paul is talking only about Church and only about a gifts of Holy Spirit, can we apply analogy? –  Max Gontar Sep 20 '11 at 11:16
Certainly that's how I read it; that Christians can (and perhaps even should) copyright their work, but at the same time should make it freely available to other Christians. I'm not sure what publishers, professional authors and worship leaders would have to say about that, though! I'm sure there are other ways of interpreting "each member belongs to all the others" - and, of course, you have the tricky problem of defining who is and who isn't a member of your "body". –  Waggers Sep 20 '11 at 11:25
Copyright is not the same as authorship! I can understand that gift is a property of a person, but why a fruit of a gift, information, is a property also? One example, person A has a gift of healing, person B is sick, person A heals person B - now a good health of person B is a fruit of gift of person A. Would it be a property of person A also? No. –  Max Gontar Sep 20 '11 at 11:40
But is copyright law just? In the 19th century slaves were legally "something that someone owns", but that didn't prevent Christians from participating in the underground railroad. –  Bruce Alderman May 9 '12 at 3:24
@MaxGontar It's a common misconception, but information is not considered property under copyright law. Only license to reproduce that information is protected. Take a book, for example. I can purchase a book without the author or publisher's (copyright holder's) permission, but I am not permitted to reproduce the book. Ownership of the text and information itself is not granted. Even the copyright itself is not "owned" by the author. Rather, copyright law assumes the right is owned by the public, and a special limited-term exclusive license is granted to the author/rights-holder. –  Joel Coehoorn May 9 '12 at 3:36
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The Bible mentions nothing about copyright because it didn't yet exist. At a time when most people were illiterate, the concept of protecting ideas was absurd. That means to answer this question we have to find verses and try to make them apply, which gets dangerous. I will make my case for my beliefs, but to say "the Bible supports copyrights" or "the Bible says copyrights are wrong" would be flawed. However, I believe the FOUNDATION FOR copyrights is found in the Bible.

When Jesus sends out the seventy-two in Luke 10 he said, "7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house."

Copyrights protect intellectual property because we live in an age where ideas are very valuable. Copyrights allow musicians to make money, and therefore allow us to have a vast amount of entertainment. Copyrights allow authors to spend time writing excellent books. Like the men Jesus sent out, these people need to be able to eat, drink, and have a place to live. Without copyrights today, the people who create these songs, books, speeches, etc., would never get the money they deserve and therefore wouldn't be able to create them.

To get that music or book or whatever for free, or for someone else to make money off it would be stealing. Not necessarily stealing a physical object, but stealing the harvest of the work. The Bible says not to steal (Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:11, Deuteronomy 5:19) and copyrights are one way to help prevent people from stealing.

The argument comes down to whether you think intellectual property is something that should be free or if it can be stolen. However, if you think it should be free you are saying it has no value, it is worthless. If it has no value, why would you listen to/read it? If it is worth paying attention to, it is worth protecting. If it has value, the Bible says not to steal and that the worker deserves his wages...

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"intellectual property" isn't. Property, that is. I just get temporary exclusive rights to it. And it (copyright) doesn't protect ideas, but the expression of ideas. Important distinction. And how does Luke match the fact that copyrights extend beyond the creator's death? See... it's a bit more complex than it looks. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 20 '11 at 22:07
It is the property of the one who came up with it (wrote it, said it, etc), not the person paying to use it. And I was looking at Luke as an example of people deserving pay for their work, even if it doesn't produce physical products, not as an example of the longevity of the protection. I began my post stating the Bible says nothing about copyrights, only the basis for them. Therefore, the technical details cannot be supported or argued against without extremely stretching the meaning of the verses –  CameronW Sep 21 '11 at 13:52
Thank you, but I can't understand why Luke 10 is foundation for copyright. Preaching and healing is a real work, and sure it should be paid. Musician is working when he actually playing music, and then I'm ready to pay for a tickets. But I can't see there foundation for intellectual property. Besides, Matthew 10:8:"freely ye have received, freely give" –  Max Gontar Sep 21 '11 at 14:38
@Cameron: since you seem to be in the US, let me quote the constitution, "The Congress shall have Power To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" Not property, just temporary exclusive rights. If they had meant "Property", then they'd have said so. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 21 '11 at 15:01
@MaxGontar While I love going to concerts, it takes a lot more work for a musician to write a song than to play it after it is already written. If not for copyrights, anyone who knows how to sing/play guitar/whatever can sell tickets for you to listen to them play other people's music. –  CameronW Sep 21 '11 at 15:26
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It's hard to answer while stuck in manmade-law, in end-time "Babylon" with secular govt (not to be obeyed*) ruled by phoney money loaned at interest from the Fed Res conspiracy creators: a kind of treadmill to keep most folks working (for Conspirators & game players), not freed, as was original Eden for Adamites (sons of God, Luke 3:23-38). Not all humans are Adamites (some are pre-Adamites Cain built a city of); or Satan's brood, Gen 3:15, the force at top of the Conspirators, and game-players. Jesus returns to impose his Order (Zech 14:9) over all Earth (Adamites rule other "living" as in Gen 1:26-28), with a ("man's") Adamite's role set by how well he kept God's laws & prophecy orders, Mat 5:17-19. REWARDS to some for their great actions toward this! Rev 22:12. Grace will save (resurrect) called ones who at least recognize Jesus as KING and got baptized (if not tied on cross!), but rewards and your position in the Kingdom depend upon ACTIONS. (Don't "rapture"/"grace" yourself into conforming to world and doing nothing!) Leave Babylon! Seek its destruction Rev 18. We're to have OUR OWN COURTS: I Cor 6:1-6 logically of Bible Law (perfect Ps 19:7)

  • So "higher powers" to obey (incessantly misused Romans 13:1-2) are NOT MANMADE-LAW MEN, but Jesus and the Power (Father) descending from above in clouds (Mat 26:64) and his law! Heb 13:7 speaks of ones with rule over you - being ones who spoke God's Word! (not man's)

While we are not to covet/steal what is our neighbor's - used to justify severe private property rights, patents, copyrights - at no time is CORPORATE LAW established by God for having any (often hidden) persons or cartel owning an artificial person (= corporation), contrary to God's order NOT to make stuff in likeness of what he made! Not only is it a technical violation of Second Commandment, but it allows non-Adamites to rule Adamites, and even Satan's brood to gain control, and enslave Adamites - as warned. Our world now! See?

Oddly, after Jesus ascended, as a model for our end-time stuggle, the Holy Ghost instructed Christ's folks (told to get out of Babylon in end of end time, Rev 18) to live together as a brotherhood; own all things in common. Act 4:31-5:20 [Vastly different from 1917 Marxism, a Conspirator's scam for a small related group to rule all others with the excuse it would be paradise. Study Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) got vast funds & guns from Rothschild banker Warburg to push revolution ostensibly for workers. Trotsky was in cahoots with cabal of hundreds who were inner circle of USSR power enslaving others in humanist Marx's name.]

So now we really are in end of end-times. Time to depart Babylon, set up godly communities, courts & defenders; live in close-knit ethnos brotherhoods of Bible Law. In that grouping is no use for patents or copyrights to become personally/corporately rich. Do do research, create POWERFUL technologies to be free of paper $ economy and stop manmade regime force. Write great things and give it freely! Make music/film to teach our folks the way (freely)! If enemies of God oppose us, and then get pushed out of your area. What of their stuff? Mechizedek got a tithe of what Abraham took from God's enemies (Gen 14); he's like a separatist group's leader. Form brotherhoods. Act. Get rewards. Vast media networks pander to advertisers of lies to bewitch/enslave us. Do they have a right to this "private" stuff?

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Welcome to the site! While I don't want to discourage you from participating, I'd invite you to read the FAQ, as well as these posts: What makes a good supported answer? and What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) Your answer seems to be one about answering Truth, which isn't really what the site is about. –  David Stratton Jan 6 '13 at 13:56
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