Torrenting media is quite common nowadays. Whether it is a movie, TV series, music, video game, or some other file. Many people have torrented at one time or another. Napster really shined a light on the industry way back in the early 2000’s when it was shut down for the illegal sharing of music between people on it. So many years later and we find ourselves still facing the same conundrum that the people of Napster had way back when. Is this considered stealing?
Torrents and peer-to-peer file sharing are nothing new to the internet. Even early on in the dial-up internet days, services like Kazaa and Limewire allowed users to search through millions of songs, movies, and shows hosted by others across the world. In the last decade, torrent trackers became increasingly more popular because one could just search for anything they want online and download files indirectly using a torrent client. With the advent of broadband internet, it became easier and much faster to download higher quality audio and video with the click of a button.
The ease is the deceiving part. Shouldn’t stealing be more difficult and dangerous?
Merriam-Webster defines the word “steal” as “to take the property of another wrongfully.” By purchasing a movie or album, you purchase the right to personally consume those works. When you don’t purchase a work, you haven’t acquired the right to use it and are therefore wrongfully taking the property of someone else. The Bible has plenty to say about stealing.
First and foremost, God gave His commandments to Moses. They are the very basics for living a Godly life. Exodus 20:15 says straight up:
“You shall not steal.”
(I like to imagine Moses looking like Gandalf as he delivers The Commandments.) A good suggestion as an alternative to stealing is given by Paul in Ephesians 4:28, where he says:
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
Have you ever had someone steal from you? Once, someone smashed a window of my van and stole a couple thousand dollars worth of DJ and photography gear from my wife and me in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon in a busy movie theater parking lot. It’s the worst feeling.
Someone just decides to walk up and take something that doesn’t belong to them and they get away with it. Torrenting isn’t too different. Sure, a movie, album, or piece of software might not be taking thousands of dollars directly from the pocket of the creators of those works, but you are messing with the livelihood of others. As Christ-followers, we’re called to help improve the lives of people with hope and love, not burden them a little bit at a time with a sin that seems so innocent and unnoticeable.
If you like someone’s work so much that you’re willing to steal it, contribute to them so they can continue creating those works.
David Austin Black
We’re all geeks. We all have shows, music, video games, etc. we enjoy consuming. I understand that and I get it. For about a year when I was in my teens, I torrented/illegally downloaded various media. In the back of my mind, I always had questions about whether or not my actions in that area were a sin, but every time those thoughts rose up I pushed them right back down. I saw it as sort of a “victimless crime,” per se.
One day, I mentioned to a friend of mine something about torrenting and she was taken aback. She had aspirations to become a musical artist, and saw no difference between torrenting an artist’s music and stealing money from said artist’s wallet. Like those thoughts I always had before, I pushed her comments to the back of my mind. I had purposed in my heart that I was going to torrent, no matter what. I wasn’t going to let questions of morality dissuade my musical desires. Thankfully, Jesus melted my stubbornness over this issue, as He is prone to do. I realized that torrenting really is stealing an artist’s work.
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:7