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Question about Christians and ethics?

Submitted: 4/1/2010
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Question: My questian is on the topic of international copyright laws, plagiarism and interlectual copyrights. I know from first hand that many of our apostolic leaders do plagiarise. I have seen it in my own local assembly, where the leaders goes to internet finds an article that fits into what they are going to teach and copy it and then in some instances make minor adjustments to fit the doctrine of the local assembly and then teach the church from it, I believe this is wrong. It is plagiarism and punishable by law which would mean that it is punishable by God I belive. Is it not wrong for them to do these things or is it a minor offense that we can overlook. I know of ministers and many christians who download softwares from pirated sites, (I used to do it myself but have come to the light)and use them, is not this wrong too. If these are sins are they not all like any other sins, punishable by death according to the Scripture which says that the wages of sin is death? Is it not also wrong for churches to download music that they have not paid for to use them in the worship services. I was just looking at the whole idea at ethical misconduct the other day and realise that (if I'm right that these things be wrong) that we are committing many sins in what we are doing as children and servants of God. Brothers tell me, am I being just overlly paranoid or am I on to something here. I just want to know the truth so as to shun the very appearance of evil. I would never like to be at church one Sunday and the authorites raid the church and the leaders taken into custody over these things or the the church be charged with such an offense for I know that these things are against the law in most if not all countries. It know certainly it is in the country I'm from.

Answer: You are wrong about plagiarism. It is only a crime if you print copyrighted material and claim it as your own or quote copyrighted material in a written article and fail to give proper attribution. But to use the material of others in teaching is perfectly okay, although it might be more honest to acknowledge the source. Nevertheless, it is not a crime anywhere that we are aware of and does not violate copyright laws.

As for downloading bootlegged copies of songs, movies, or software, that is clearly theft. Using recorded music in worship is not a crime as long as the churches that do it compensate the artists by paying an annual fee to Christian Copyright Licensing International.

Concerning making copies of music CDs, we believe it is okay IF the CD is no longer available. If it is, it's theft. The whole purpose of copyright laws is to encourage innovation and creativity by making sure that authors and creators get compensated for their work. Of course, if a particular work is no longer available, then the creator is not losing any income when someone makes a copy. Generally it is accepted that the owner of a CD can make a copy for his own use, say for in his car, but not to give another person. That would deprive the artist of income he has a right to. Having said this, we should be aware that with the advent digital recordings, the ability to protect copyrights has diminished greatly. For this reason, new ways of compensating creators and authors and artists are coming along which may one day obviate most copyright laws.