IP and the 8th Commandment

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RyledPiper

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm thinking of going all digital with my music collection in order to declutter. If I rip my music collection, would it be stealing IP to sell the physical copies online while keeping the digital? Should I give them away? Donate them? Throw them out? What do you think? Looking to obey the 8th Commandment.

Thanks!
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Yes, it would be stealing. If you sell a CD to someone else, you should delete it from your hard drive. If you wish to keep your music as mp3, then you should just destroy your CDs, and maybe back up your mp3 files so that you don't lose the product you paid for, if something should go wrong.

I commend your desire to obey the 8th commandment, especially in an age where it is so very easy to duplicate music and distribute it freely.
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
Keep your CDs in a closet or somewhere after making digital copies. It clearly would be stealing to resell them.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
It's good to see you want to honor God in this. Make your digital copies, but don't sell the physical ones, whatever you decide to do. It would be stealing, yes.
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
No, it would not be stealing to sell your CDs. There is no such thing as IP, it is an unbiblical concept. You might want to check out Vern Poythress' well written article on Copyrights: Copyrights and Copying

The whole concept of IP and the laws surrounding IP have caused so much evil, it is due time to finally abolish them. However, it still may be against the law to sell your CDs, and as a Christian we should strive to be obedient to our authorities.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I keep all of my old discs in storage. That way there is no chance of being charged with piracy. I have an original on hand, even if I use Audacity to change the format. Also, if the unthinkable happens (my computer and backup drive crash or get stolen) I can put the sweat equity into creating the library again. Is it paranoid to make a second backup hard drive and store it in a safety deposit box????? :lol:
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
As Douglas suggested, it is actually a violation of the 5th commandment rather than the 8th commandment. It is wrong to call violating copyright law stealing, but it is disobedience. The government has decided that the invention of IP helps "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as the US Constitution puts it. This is pragmatism, not a moral principle. The government must be obeyed, but there is nothing in the moral law that would stop a Christian from advocating a change in IP laws.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Yes; it is stealing. Speaking from the standpoint of a publisher, if one were to make copies of one of my products which I spent a great deal of time and effort to produce, and sell or give the original away, it devalues the product and takes income from me.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Yes; it is stealing. Speaking from the standpoint of a publisher, if one were to make copies of one of my products which I spent a great deal of time and effort to produce, and sell or give the original away, it devalues the product and takes income from me.
Ditto.

I'll read the Poythress article tomorrow, but off the top of my head I'd say at the very least it is a breach of contract.

First, there is usually an express contract in the terms of purchase that you will not profit off of copies.
Second, there is an implied contract by operation of law to the same effect.

If you purchase the work, then you agree to the contract. Let your yea be yea. If you disagree with the contract, try to negotiate something else or don't purchase it.

And a breach of contract has implications for the 5th and 9th Commandments as well as the 8th.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
As Douglas suggested, it is actually a violation of the 5th commandment rather than the 8th commandment. It is wrong to call violating copyright law stealing, but it is disobedience. The government has decided that the invention of IP helps "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as the US Constitution puts it. This is pragmatism, not a moral principle. The government must be obeyed, but there is nothing in the moral law that would stop a Christian from advocating a change in IP laws.
Chris has already appropriately responded, but I echo it here. Violating copyright laws is stealing, period. Suppose, Scott, you devised a new, original process to create energy from a new resource previously unknown, and a neighbor took that idea, claimed it as his own idea, went to the government and sold it to them for $10 billion. Would you not view that as a violation of Biblical law (and not merely the 9th commandment) ??
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Arguably, intellectual property rights are the engine behind the innovative revolution and economic prosperity the US has enjoyed. Take away the possibility of making money off an idea, and why should anyone bother? (And I completely agree with the application of the 5th and 8th commandments above and another principle that has been brushed against: it is against the law that we US citizens are subject to follow.)
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
Yes; it is stealing. Speaking from the standpoint of a publisher, if one were to make copies of one of my products which I spent a great deal of time and effort to produce, and sell or give the original away, it devalues the product and takes income from me.
But there are plenty of instances where "taking away income" and "devaluing a product" isn't stealing. If you have the only widget shop in town and someone else opens up a widget shop, they will most likely take customers away from you and cut into your income. We say colloquially that they are "stealing customers," but this is not really a moral evil. Just look at all the posts on this board that defend Wal-Mart and say competition is a good thing.

Yes; it is stealing. Speaking from the standpoint of a publisher, if one were to make copies of one of my products which I spent a great deal of time and effort to produce, and sell or give the original away, it devalues the product and takes income from me.
Ditto.

I'll read the Poythress article tomorrow, but off the top of my head I'd say at the very least it is a breach of contract.

First, there is usually an express contract in the terms of purchase that you will not profit off of copies.
Second, there is an implied contract by operation of law to the same effect.

If you purchase the work, then you agree to the contract. Let your yea be yea. If you disagree with the contract, try to negotiate something else or don't purchase it.

And a breach of contract has implications for the 5th and 9th Commandments as well as the 8th.
This is actually a far better argument. Certainly one could protect their product by making the customer sign a contract. However, it generally isn't the practice to sign a contract when purchasing a book or CD, but maybe it would be in a world without copyright.

Speaking of contracts, did you know that when you "buy" a book on Kindle or "buy" a music file you can't transfer what you purchased to another person. When you die, you can't bequeath your collection to your heirs; it dies with you.

Chris has already appropriately responded, but I echo it here. Violating copyright laws is stealing, period. Suppose, Scott, you devised a new, original process to create energy from a new resource previously unknown, and a neighbor took that idea, claimed it as his own idea, went to the government and sold it to them for $10 billion. Would you not view that as a violation of Biblical law (and not merely the 9th commandment) ??
Depends on how he got it. Did I tell him the secret? That was pretty foolish of me. Did he burglarize my office to obtain the secret? Well, yes, that is stealing. But that's not what we are talking about with IP.

To those who claim copying is stealing, what is the moral principle behind the various lengths of copyright and patent terms? What in the 8th commandment compels us to believe that an inventor gets exclusive rights to an invention for fourteen years, but the creator of Mickey Mouse gets exclusive rights to the character into perpetuity? Surely if it is stealing to copy at year zero it is stealing to copy at year x when the term expires.

Like many here, I've got my Kindle packed with works that are in the public domain. Have I been stealing from the heirs of the authors?
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
Flawed copyright laws does not mean that some acts prohibited by those laws are permissible.

I assume you would object on Biblical grounds to plagiarism - taking someone else's work, passing it off as your own, and gaining from it, either monetarily or academically. In your mind is that merely a case of lying, or does it violate the 8th commandment as well?
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
There is no such thing as IP, it is an unbiblical concept. You might want to check out Vern Poythress' well written article on Copyrights: Copyrights and Copying

Well duh it's unbiblical, but that still doesn't change the fact it is illegal. I would be quite content to abolish all copyright laws, but the laws are what they are.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Work has value, often paid in terms of a salary. If someone mugs me on my way home from work, they have stolen something from me: the outcome of my work, or salary. Writing music is more than "a good idea." It takes real work to refine an idea and shape it into a form that is commercially viable. Value is added to that work when musicians perform the music and a producer puts it into a marketable form. Those musicians have to be paid and equipment (often expensive) is needed to take the music to market.

If you copy CDs into a a digital format, then sell the CDs, you are stealing from the composer and those involved with producing and selling the performance. You are also defying the law of the land and the governing authorities who gave those laws. How long material remains copywrited, etc., is beyond the scope in the OP and really begging the question.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
The burden is on the person suggesting that Copyright laws are unbiblical to prove their point. I've yet to read a convincing proof in that regard in this thread.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
There is no such thing as IP, it is an unbiblical concept. You might want to check out Vern Poythress' well written article on Copyrights: Copyrights and Copying

Well duh it's unbiblical, but that still doesn't change the fact it is illegal. I would be quite content to abolish all copyright laws, but the laws are what they are.
If by unbiblical you mean that the Bible doesn't mention IP, that's true, but it doesn't mean that it's ok to steal IP... IP is a thoroughly reasonable idea and it CAN be stolen. Not every claimed theft of IP is actually theft... but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen and cannot rightly be considered an 8th commandment violation...

Further, Joseph, I'm certain you would be happy to see all copyright laws abolished... until you yourself produced something (music, writing, research) that got stolen from you, that would otherwise have been protected under such laws. You might be a bit more sensitive to those of us who produce such work and value the fact that our hard labor is protected from theft.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
This is actually a far better argument. Certainly one could protect their product by making the customer sign a contract. However, it generally isn't the practice to sign a contract when purchasing a book or CD, but maybe it would be in a world without copyright.
But when you buy a piece of software, there is a contract. It usually says something along the lines of "purchaser agrees to not make copies for distribution without permission from . . . ."

And almost every published book says "all rights reserved" and something to the effect that you may not make copies without permission.

Under the common law of contract, those are either express or implied contracts and are historically enforceable without a copyright scheme.

In both cases you buy something produced by another subject to the rules of use. So your proper choice is either to try to renegotiate the terms or to refuse to buy it. But once you buy it, you are morally bound to what you agreed to honor regarding the restrictions.
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
The burden is on the person suggesting that Copyright laws are unbiblical to prove their point. I've yet to read a convincing proof in that regard in this thread.
Historically speaking, the burden of proof is on the person arguing for IP. The very concept of IP is a post enlightenment creation. Ironically, patents were created to establish monopolies, not to protect inventors or promote healthier more competitive markets. This unbiblical nonsense, that copyrights, patent, etc. help protect the “idea creator”, was created by the socialist to appeal to unwitting capitalist.

As for the exegetical argument against IP I would suggest reading the article I posted earlier. Its written by a well-known and trusted Reformed theologian (Vern Poythress). I could copy and paste bits and pieces from the article but it only takes 10 minutes to read and it answers many of the questions that have sprung up on the board.

I must admit, I’m quite surprised that the very idea that an individual, corporation, or State can own an idea isn’t appalling to the learned Christian. The effects of copyrights have been devastating. Patents are big business, look at Apple or Microsoft. Apple isn’t the most valuable company in America because it sells a ton of iPods each year. It’s because it owns the most patents and it uses them to put others out of business.

And then there’s Big-Ag. Watch Food Inc. and do some research on companies like Monsanto. The worlds food supply is the most unhealthy and unsafe that it’s even been in the history of civilization, and it’s all been possible because companies like Monsanto, which has patent protected 90% of the soybean and corn in America, can claim ownership of ever seed under the guise of IP. Since they genetically modified the seeds, and they “own” the IP of that “new” life form it is illegal for farmers to save seeds. Something that’s never happened in 10,000+ years of agriculture.


As I mentioned above, if you can find a copy of Food Inc. its worth watching if only for the 20 minute clip on Monsanto. Also, Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion's free culture | Video on TED.com this little clip from TED talks is pretty neat. It shows how most of the claims for Copyrights and IP really don’t hold water.
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
As a published digital author I can say most certainly that copyright laws are not a joke: they're how I get paid :D
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
As for the exegetical argument against IP I would suggest reading the article I posted earlier. Its written by a well-known and trusted Reformed theologian (Vern Poythress).

Dr. Poythress’s article starts out well in laying the foundation for analysis, then he falls into several naïve blunders that undo his conclusion.

I do not want to take the time to make an extensive critique, but I’d like to point out one obvious misstep or equivocation (which I assume is inadvertent, possibly because of failing to do some preliminary research into the history of property law). His failure to address incorporeal rights:

Dr. Poythress flatly compares a written work to an ax and concludes that “[c]opying is not theft” because “it does no damage to the original owner’s possession of his ax.”

This is facile and shallow. Owning property involves more than mere possessory rights. Ownership in general includes other rights recognized by Scripture. Historically, these have been called “incorporeal rights” because they are not tangible, but they still inhere to ownership.

A few examples recognized by Scripture:

a. Right to reserve restriction on sale of property. (Leviticus 25:23-28). The terms of sale of land, and perpetual use of land, are restricted. This is an incorporeal right held by the original seller.

b. God reserves the right to restrict use of his written Scriptures: Rev 22:18-19, Deut 12:32.

c. Property rights of use held by the owners of improved resources like wells were recognized by Moses when dealing with Edom (although they could be acquired by war conquest). Moses considered use rights of wells to be equivalent to the rights to exclude others from vineyards and fields. (Num 20:17).

Dr. Poythress’s analogy of a book to an ax ignores the concept of use right. If, to use his example, the man copying the ax actually has to take the ax for a week in order to copy it, he indeed has deprived the original owner’s right of use for that period, which would be theft.

And what is the use right in a written work? Dr. Poythress doesn’t even attempt to define it. Stating that “it is not theft to breathe air or drink water out of a stream” misses the point. True enough, water in a natural stream might be free for all (until the tragedy of the commons issue creeps up), but water in a well dug by laborious effort of a well-owner is not necessarily free. The biblical principle that the laborer is worthy of his hire ought to at least be addressed.

So the blanket statement “copying is not theft” is far too broad. I would have expected some attempt to define how copying interacts with incorporeal rights like use rights and rights to restrict alienability.

There are many other issues I have with the article, but I don’t have the time to address them. His subsidy analysis sounds like modern tax-policy analysis that presumes that property rights are creations of state decrees rather than fundamental personal interests. His criticism of arbitrary law, while having pragmatic merit, fails to address a legitimate purpose of arbitrary laws: to make consistent the protection of a fundamental right. His argument against government “coercion” ignores the legitimate role of government to protect fundamental interests in property (would Dr. Poythress be opposed to criminal laws against trespass? That’s coercion too).

I agree with Dr. Poythress that the copyright and patent laws need fixing, and I have no problem with his advocacy to change them on public policy grounds (although I think many of his policy arguments are muddle-headed), but his conclusions that copying is not theft and that there is no biblical basis for reserving use rights in one’s work have not been supported.

Finally, what Dr. Poythress seeks to establish is completely undermined by his admission in footnote 4 that copies may be restricted by contract. Copyright law has theoretical justification in contract law. An author is allowed by Dr. Poythress to restrict use through contract. It has always been acknowledged that a general law regarding enforcement of contracts is properly within the authority of civil government. Accordingly, it is within the government's authority to establish a system of laws governing how such contracts may be enforced.

The fact that the system of laws it develops are unwieldy and confusing does not mean that they are not authorized by Scripture. It merely means they ought to be fixed.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Dr. Poythress flatly compares a written work to an ax and concludes that “[c]opying is not theft” because “it does no damage to the original owner’s possession of his ax.”
I'm generally a fan of Dr. Poythress's work, but there is a larger fault with his analysis here. With the case of the axe, the intellectual property is more the method of manufacture rather than the appearance. So I could buy an axe at Sears, copy it, and it would be a different (and far inferior) product. (That being said, I am aware of the position of Lockheed Martin with regard to the makers of model kits; on the other hand, LM IP attorneys have been known to push the boundaries).
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
On the other side of the copyright coin, here's this statement, printed on the copyright page of Loraine Boettner's book Studies in Theology (1947):

Any one is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit. In preparing this book, the writer has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein contained to be a true statement of Scripture truth, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use.

In other words, "Go ahead and copy stuff out of this book all you want, since I got most of my ideas from the Bible in the first place!"

I wonder how long Boettner had to argue with his publisher (P&R) to get them to include that statement?
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
In that Boettner was a close associate of the founder of P&R and his books were among the first published by P&R,
I'd say he had little trouble with that arrangement.

For literally decades, P&R provided boxes and boxes of books to Boetter at cost (or maybe even free?), which Boettner then gave away
free to Seminary students and others. Those who visited Boetter at his home in Rockport, MO were always treated by
Boettner and never allowed to pay his way. He had pretty much one decent chair in his house, and that was always
where the guest was made to sit.

PCA Historical Center: Papers of Loraine Boettner - Manuscript Collection # 65
 

RyledPiper

Puritan Board Freshman
Wow, I asked for a hot dog and I got a seven course dinner! Thank you all for your well-reasoned responses. I've decided to trash the ones that I don't need backed up. I'm also going to delete everything that I got from the library or my college days. I think that I'm going to go all digital now. The iPod demands it.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
The very concept of IP is a post enlightenment creation.
Not true, actually. Read up on the history of the publication of the Bible and who had the right to publish it in England as well as other European states. The idea only post-dates the printing press and the advent of mass distribution of books, actually. For example, under the Tudors, only certain individuals were allowed (by letters patent) to publish music (most notably the composer Thomas Tallis) or to publish certain books. Royal permissions to publish things like the Book of Common Prayer and the various authorized versions were highly sought-after.

This unbiblical nonsense, that copyrights, patent, etc. help protect the “idea creator”, was created by the socialist to appeal to unwitting capitalist.
If you can explain to me how Tudor publishing policies are supposed to have arisen from Marxism, I would be much obliged.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
This is actually a far better argument. Certainly one could protect their product by making the customer sign a contract. However, it generally isn't the practice to sign a contract when purchasing a book or CD, but maybe it would be in a world without copyright.
But when you buy a piece of software, there is a contract. It usually says something along the lines of "purchaser agrees to not make copies for distribution without permission from . . . ."

And almost every published book says "all rights reserved" and something to the effect that you may not make copies without permission.

Under the common law of contract, those are either express or implied contracts and are historically enforceable without a copyright scheme.

In both cases you buy something produced by another subject to the rules of use. So your proper choice is either to try to renegotiate the terms or to refuse to buy it. But once you buy it, you are morally bound to what you agreed to honor regarding the restrictions.
I appreciate the point you have made, Raymond. It does seem that when contracts are involved, there is an 8th commandment violation. I still believe that in a context where there are no contracts, implied or otherwise, it is not stealing to copy someone's work. The operators of printing presses in early 16th century Germany were not guilty of violating the 8th commandment. When I want to obtain a work that has passed into the public domain, it is not my moral responsibility to track down the heirs of the author and negotiate the terms with which I will use their work. From what I understand, some here believe that copying is stealing regardless of the copyright or contractual issues. That is, ideas are inherently property of their creator. My question for them still stands. If this is true, why have IP terms? Why should a patent expire after twenty years?
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
Not true, actually. Read up on the history of the publication of the Bible and who had the right to publish it in England as well as other European states. The idea only post-dates the printing press and the advent of mass distribution of books, actually. For example, under the Tudors, only certain individuals were allowed (by letters patent) to publish music (most notably the composer Thomas Tallis) or to publish certain books. Royal permissions to publish things like the Book of Common Prayer and the various authorized versions were highly sought-after.
My understanding is that there we royal grants and patents as early as Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with the sole purpose to establish monopolies. However, the very concept of Intellectual Property doesn't fully come around until the 19th century, thus making it a post enlightenment creation.

If you can explain to me how Tudor publishing policies are supposed to have arisen from Marxism, I would be much obliged.
Just check out the Wikipedia page on arguments for the morality of IP. Intellectual property - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Some great quotes, but not exactly champions of the Christian worldview.

Even if I grant you that the concept of IP is created as early as 1500, were still talking about 9000+ years of civilization without the idea that one can have ownership of ideas.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
My understanding is that there we royal grants and patents as early as Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with the sole purpose to establish monopolies. However, the very concept of Intellectual Property doesn't fully come around until the 19th century, thus making it a post enlightenment creation.

If you can explain to me how Tudor publishing policies are supposed to have arisen from Marxism, I would be much obliged.
Just check out the Wikipedia page on arguments for the morality of IP. Intellectual property - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Some great quotes, but not exactly champions of the Christian worldview.
This doesn't nullify the concept of IP... Confucius, I am certain, believed the sun would come up each day, and the fact that he was not a Christian did not impact the probability that it would.

Even if I grant you that the concept of IP is created as early as 1500, were still talking about 9000+ years of civilization without the idea that one can have ownership of ideas.
This also doesn't nullify the appropriateness of IP as a concept. We also had thousands of years of civilization without the idea that gravitation follows an inverse square law. That fact doesn't negate the fact that it does.
 
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