Discussing
Kiwi Rock, Filesharing and the Eighth Commandment

Phil Christman

Rick
June 16, 2009

I'm not sure how this pertains to Think Christian except that we are Christians and here is a random issue to think about. I suppose you could say it invites a Christian ethical response. A few years ago I discovered LimeWire, before peer-to-peer file sharing was decisively labeled illegal. I blissfully downloaded, swapping with friends. When the new edition of Limewire was published it had a warning before you downloaded a song saying that it is illegal to download unless you had a license to that song–which of course no one does. I couldn't cross that line. It was so clearly a violation of the 8th commandment prohibiting stealing that a little siren goes off in my conscience. So I have learned to pay for things on ITunes or track down the band's website and order it online. <br><br>It seems like the dilemma you are describing could be remedied by someone putting together a makeshift on-line Kiwi alternative music radio station–Podcasting–to gain awareness and an Indy alternative to ITunes...or simply making sure the bands offer the music for sale on their own web sites. There are always legal alternatives for the persistent music fan.

sam30
June 16, 2009

Interesting...<br>I'm not going to weigh in one the file-sharing debate.<br><br>But as a Kiwi/New Zealander, I do have to say I think New Zealand makes a lot of terrible music. Just my two cents.

Joanna
June 16, 2009

Another thing to take into consideration is that as Christians we are meant to obey our governments. Given that there are laws against unauthorized file sharing in a lot of countries, then maybe that alone should be justification for christians not getting involved.

Mrben
June 17, 2009

Wow - so many points I could pick up on. Here are a few selected highlights:<br><br>1. Filesharing is not 'stealing' - stealing is where you take someone else's property, thus depriving them of said property. When you share a file, you are not depriving someone else of their copy. However, you are infringing the copyright of the author (depending on the license agreement).<br><br>2. Not all filesharing is illegal. This will depend on the license agreement.<br><br>3. There is an increasing number of musicians who are releasing their music under license agreements that allow you to share the music. The Creative Commons licenses are becoming popular for this. See <a href="http://www.jamendo.com" rel="nofollow">www.jamendo.com</a> for a load of freely available music, and <a href="http://www.creativecommons.org" rel="nofollow">www.creativecommons.org</a> for information on the creative commons.<br><br>4. Copying a file and then sending money to the band does nothing to change the system that is causing the problem.

Nbierma
June 17, 2009

Absolutely agree. Creative Commons is the way of the future. And the only good thing about copyright is when it keeps people from passing others' work off as their own. Other than that it's just a way to enrich publishing executives and quarantine music. It also favors those who can manipulate the legal system and navigate the very dense, ambiguous, and archaic intellectual property laws on the books.<br><br>Bottom line of reusing anything should merely be this: honor the source. Beyond that, copyright lawyer zealots are on a crazed campaign of protectionism that is doomed to fail. <br><br>Also, let's realize our Western bias here; not only is the concept of 'property' a peculiarity of John Locke and an idol of free-market capitalism, but the idea of 'intellectual property'--owning a song, owning an idea--is a particularly absurd and even offensive idea in many other cultures.

Rick
June 17, 2009

I’m suprised to see how easily you dismiss the concept of personal property, capitalism and the free market. I’ve always liked the description of the perfect wife in Proverbs 31. She is an entrepreneur, “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” She is motivated by profit “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” She uses the capital she accumulates to speculate in Real Estate “She considers a field and buys it”. And she does not neglect compassion for the poor “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy”. <br><br>Some people think the early Christians lived a form of socialism. But Peter was very clear about establishing rights of personal property ownership. He says to Annanias, “Why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” <br><br>And it seems to me that God established the first copyright with severe enforcement penalties “If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life” <br><br>I am in the advertising business and if I write a song used in a radio commercial and spend thousands of dollars producing it it is my personal property. I would get quite upset to see another advertiser simply take the song, and attach their product. If I spend thousands of dollars and weeks of time creating a logo for a company only to see another artist trace it and use it for another company, I get upset. What is so bizarre about owning intellectual property. It’s more than just honoring the source. How about when you publish your book and it goes to the top of the New York Times list, I cut and paste the entire thing, change a few names only, honor you on a blurb on the jacket and publish it under my name?

Nbierma
June 18, 2009

it's a unique Western paradigm and we have to be cautious about imposing it on biblical stories as we read them. <br><br>Free market economics can quickly become an idol, and it's clear that it's a system that inherently enables hoarding and inequity. (Socialism, for that matter, enables government corruption--pick your poison, corrupt corporations or corrupt governments.) <br><br>I think the Bible calls us to wise discernment about the powers that be, economic ones included, not just accept at face value what our society says is best. <br><br>And again, the one thing copyright is good for is preventing unwanted reuse (or at least it tries to). But Creative Commons or something like it could be arranged and put on the books to protect authors.

Nbierma
June 18, 2009

Those are great texts, by the way, though the direct implications for us, in a very different time and culture, aren't simple. To me those texts affirm economic activity that contributes to a common good. (Other texts, meanwhile, seem downright socialistic at first glance.) It's hard to disagree, though, especially after recent events here in the U.S., that our current system is rigged to favor private hoarding and reckless self-interest.

Rick
June 18, 2009

Capitalism is not rigged for anything. The human spirit is rigged for hoarding and reckless self interest. That’s like blaming the law for sin. The alternative is a system where you work as hard as you want but are prohibited from accumulating savings. Haggai referred to it as having a purse with holes in it. Whether our wealth benefits others (the common good) or we spend it on ourselves is a moral problem that occurs under any system. The OT prophets continually addressed our moral failings but rarely in Israel was a man not able to save and spend as he willed unless he was a slave. A slave is one who works without the ability to save the earnings from his work, who owns no property because he or she is owned. Socialism breeds a nation of slaves. Any economic system can be an idol, it is not peculiar to capitalism. In fact, I think socialism naturally encourages idols, think of the chairman Mao portraits, Stalin worship, Castro worship.<br><br>Free markets and the ability to save one’s earning is our natural default, a God-given ancient system that requires responsibility, ethics and morals. It is only in recent past that John Locke, Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman defined it as a science and codified the rules and theorms. Communism is a brutal, spirit killing and incentive killing system that enables dictatorship, destroys personal responsibility, and allows massive scale genocide (60 million killed in the gulags of Russia, 100 million in the great leap forward, labor camps and famines of China).<br><br>There is quite a difference between Jesus criticizing the rich man who hoarded only for himself and designing an economy that does not allow one to save the fruits of his labor or have personal property. As Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away“. I know you think I am viewing the Bible from a western free market paradigm, but I think you may be viewing the Bible from a Marxist paradigm.

Mrben
June 19, 2009

OK - you're mixing up a bundle of different things here.<br><br>Firstly Intellectual Property and Copyright are 2 different things (although copyright is part of intellectual property).<br><br>Secondly, illegal filesharing and plagiarism are different things. <br><br>Thirdly, creative commons licensing is a copyright license - it in no way removes your right to be identified as the author, and it does continue to place limitations on the use and distribution of your work, so your logo/book scenarios would be null and void. <br><br>Fourthly, the main objection that filesharers have is not against the rights of artists to retain their ownership of a property, but against the organisations and corporations who insist on infringing _our_ rights on the assumption that we will abuse any freedoms we have, and who are gradually eroding any concept of ownership in our culture. <br><br>I should underline here that I am fervently against illegal filesharing, because it is illegal. But I have a great deal of sympathy for some of the major causes behind it.

Phil Christman
June 19, 2009

Glad to see people weighing in on this. Of course I did conflate many different kinds of file-sharing in a rather analytically naive way. (I tried to use links to point people toward other more subtle discussions.) I did this mainly because, well, YOU try to (a) point people toward several of your favorite bands, (b) do justice to an issue on which TC readers will have wildly varying opinions, while framing your comments in such a way that both hardline copyleftists (mrben) and hardline defenders of the present system (rick) as well as hardline advocates of obeying-the-law-even-if-it's-a-stupid-law, will all at least be able to make it through the piece before they click away in disgust, and (c) tease out the historical, legal and metaphysical subtleties of copyright law in 500 words! Sometimes you have to let yourself sound a little stupid in order to get a discussion going. <br><br>Sam30, I suspect we're dealing with an instance of the British-TV problem. Y'all know how it is: until recently, most of the British TV that made it to broadcast in the US was the incredibly great stuff (Dr. Who, Monty Python, The Office, etc.), and so I figure the BBC must just be better than US TV. "Those English!" I'd think, admiringly. Then I visited England and realized we've all been getting the cream of the crop, and most British TV is as vulgar and stupid as US TV, if not worse. (See also: French movies.) Similarly, there's probably plenty of Kiwi music that sucks, but the stuff that gets latched onto by indie rock fans over here is, you know, the Clean, the JPS Experience, Able Tasmans, etc. <br><br>Unless you're hating on the JPS Experience, in which case, well, we're gonna have words, buddy.

sam30
June 27, 2009

Hi Phil,<br><br>I completely see what you're saying.<br>I agree to a certain point, you will be getting the cream of the crop. But at the same time, I realise that I'm not the target market for Indie rock. I'm a hardcore punk dude. So I find it hard to appreciate a lot of the music that is put out in NZ.<br><br>Two of NZ's current up-and-comers are worth checking out though - Midnight Youth and Luger Boa. I think those two bands are very listenable.

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