Thursday, October 25

Is breaking the law always a sin?

Can I break the law and still not sin? This is a question that I constantly think about. We live in a complicated world. My world offers few black and white issues. Most are gray in nature. To eat an Oreo cookie or spreading Kraft mayonnaise on your bread is supporting the tobacco industry. Both Oreos and Kraft are owned by the tobacco industry. Is eating an Oreo a sin? That's what I mean by we live in a gray world.

One could make the argument, of course, that some things are black/white. Those things that clearly go against Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. To kill someone is not only breaking the law, it is sin. But what about when I break the law by driving 70 mph in a 65 mph posted zone? I am clearly breaking the law, but is it a sin?

Years ago I was at a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary banquet. As a Church Music major, I happened to sit at the table with several professors from the music department. In the course of the meal, I casually asked if anyone knew where I might be able to BORROW a copy of a popular cantata soundtrack to use as accompaniment with our small Spanish church choir. You would have thought I had committed the unpardonable sin by even thinking such a thing! Everyone became deathly silent, and then one of my profs explained to me that doing so would be illegal and anybody doing so would be "breaking copyright laws" and could be held liable. End of the discussion. I continued to eat my apple pie but wondered to myself what harm there would be in our tiny Hispanic Church borrowing for a few weeks an expensive and unafordable soundtrack from one of the larger more wealthier churches in town who would have it gathering dust on some shelf? But since I didn't want to "sin" by "breaking the law" I did nothing more to pursue the matter. We ended up finding someone who could play the piano and used them instead.

May I ask a personal question? How many of us have honestly NEVER made a song sheet for church, or made a copy of a song we liked and shared it with family or a friend? Have you ever reproduced copyrighted material in any form without the permission or license to do so? Have you ever projected on a wall, or even written out the words to a song without having permission? Yes, I know what the laws say--to do so is a no-no--but is it a sin? And yes, I recognize that to do so subjects me to getting into trouble. But again, is it a sin?

I know the host culture where we live and serve does not regard copying and reproducing copyrighted materials as something wrong. Everyone--and I mean everyone--does it all the time. There is little to no regard for all the strict laws that are so much a part of life in more developed parts of the world. Now I am NOT saying it is OK to do so. That is still a debatable issue in my own heart and mind. What I am asking is this a sin against God that needs to be repented of and confessed? Before you say yes, read on...

A wild guestimate would be that for every legitimate copy of Christian music (in all its forms) there are literally thousands of so called "illegitimate" copies. Nobody thinks twice about it. There are no guilty feelings. Are all these tens of thousands of Christians guilty of sin? One could argue ignorance of sin is no excuse. Yet, if those participating in it are totally unaware of any wrong-doing, are they sinning? My American brothers for the most part would say, yes. They are stealing that which does not belong to them.

I am fully aware that a post like this sounds very odd to most of us coming from a Western mindset. We have been told that these kinds of things are wrong. To do them is to sin. But who is it telling us these things are sin? Isn't it our money-making, consumerism culture? If things aren't sold then the "sin" is that money isn't made. If money isn't made, we can't make more stuff! It is our society that has declared these things to be so.

Isn't everything that God gives to his Body freely given? Matthew 10 quotes Jesus as saying, "Freely you have received, freely give..." If it is meant to bless and edify the Body of Christ, should one "own" and charge money to others so that another can be "blessed?" Do we actually think we own what God has freely given to us for the benefit of his Body? Where did the commercialization of Christianity come from anyway? I truly wonder if Jesus were walking the earth today, would He not be spending a lot of time cleaning out today's temples who have made an industry out of his Word.

Now, I know that to take the above argument to its extreme would mean any of us could simply walk into another's house and "freely take" whatever we like. But what I am talking about are matters that are directly related to the building up of the Body of Christ; things like teaching materials, music, messages, songs, books, articles, media presentations, etc. As things stand, there are laws protecting these things, but I continue to wonder if this is what God intended from the beginning when He freely gave us all the gifts he has given.

If I write a song, is it my song or God's gift to his Body through me? Is it really mine to do with what I like: make money, sell, distribute, etc. Granted there is nothing wrong with making money, but to think it is MINE and not God's gift is what I am trying to express. So what if everyone likes my song and uses it! It was a gift from God, I want it to be a blessing to all.

In Acts 8 Peter severely rebukes Simon the Magician because he wanted to "buy" the blessing Peter had. He rebukes Simon, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!" What God gives is done so freely. To charge, or think money is involved in any way, seems to go against the original plan of blessing God has for His Church. I don't believe we are to make money out of the Gospel that has been freely purchased for us by the blood of Christ.

So to conclude: the law says these things are wrong. Fine. One who breaks the law must be ready to answer for his/her actions and pay accordingly. But, we are not always sinning when we break the law. Just my 2-cents on what is still to me a highly controversial issue.


Lew A said...


Good topic, in the past I have been completely irked with Christians charging so much for these items. Lately I have been more irked that Christians charge non-Christians so much for these blessings.

As far as copyright laws and stuff, it's really just a matter of obeying the government, I guess. If it really is a sin against God to go against the government (when it has not conflict with God) then we would be sinning. Then it would not be the government that you are concerned about, but the people who produce these works under the protection of the government, instead of freely giving them away (or at much cheaper rates). By the way, is it really going against the copyright to borrow something? I had never heard that. Crap, I've even let someone borrow legitimate backup copies I've had of certain music. I paid for it... I should let whoever I want borrow it. That's like saying I'm not allowed to give something away.

It is interesting though, if I were to go to Russia, I could get some Christian music for much cheaper than America... so whose government do I follow? Perhaps God doesn't really care about these things? I dunno...

Interesting to think about though. Great post.

God's Glory,
Lew A

The Pursuit Online Store

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Love it! Sounds like you have a little Keith Green inspiration, eventually giving his music away for free.
The copyright rules really have gotten out of hand. I remember the days when we made tapes for one another to encourage one another. So many times I have wanted to burn a CD of a song- or a short message to give to a lost friend. But then felt convicted that is was against the law to do so. Sad though huh.
I believe it should be free to copy and share- it is a form of ministry, spreading and sharing.
It's not like it is for profit.
Fortunately, I am not tempted at the moment because myCD burner died.

GuyMuse said...

Lew and Beth,

Thanks to both of you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. It is a tough issue and frustrating to those of us who want to do the right thing. My culture, background and upbringing say one thing, but those we labor with hold a different set of values. Who is right? I will continue to struggle with these issues, but am not nearly as legalistic about all these things as I once was a few years ago.

Cahleen 何凱琳 said...

I too have thought a lot about this issue. My host country, Taiwan, also completely disregards copyright laws, along with many other kinds of laws! One situation that personally affects me is whether or not I should obey Taiwanese law and not teach any students privately. They say this is illegal because theoretically a foreigner could generate all of their income that way and never have to get an actual job, so they would be unregistered and in the country illegally. They also wouldn't be paying any taxes. But I am here legally, and it's a service that every Taiwanese person wants (including the lawmakers -- they're the first in line to get a private English teacher for their son or daughter so that they can get into the best college). This is very confusing, because it's a law that the lawmakers themselves don't take seriously or follow. Also, as a tentmaker English teacher, I would have more opportunities to share the gospel in a private teaching situation because I'm not representing a school or a business. Should I follow this law? I'm still trying to decide.

John Lunt said...

As a charismatic, I get really ticked off when I see suggestions of people getting a "word" from the Lord for a "donation."....
When you think about it, the whole publishing thing is essentially doing the same thing.

This is Kingdom stuff - not man's stuff. I guess I'm pretty miffed about the whole idea of christian commercialization anyway.

But hey, even the local churches do it. I knew someone who had been a member of a local church. They had payed in special offerings for a new building. Then when they wanted to get married, they couldn't even afford to rent the buidling they had helped build.... so they had to find another location.... something's really wrong with this.

Good post.

GuyMuse said...


I hear you. There are many laws that just don't make sense and are disregarded anyway. As stated in my post, if there is a law and we break it and get caught, we have to answer for our actions. But we are not necessarily sinning by breaking the laws. We stopped by a patrolman for speeding do we immediately break out in prayer, "Oh Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned!" What I do is sit there and wait for the consequences hoping the patrolman will grant me mercy!


I like your, This is Kingdom stuff-not man's stuff. Just imagine if we really lived this in reality. While I tried to keep my post about copyright, you open the door to the whole commercialization of Churchianity that exists in today's world. I can see the need of some rules and guidelines, but like most commenters so far, sense we have taken the whole money aspect of the Kingdom to ridiculous extremes.

Rick said...

I'm not sure about my own opinion. I understand how copyrights protect profits, but...

My question to you: is the thing from the Board where you can only quote in certain versions of the Bible a recent thing? I don't remember ever hearing about that before.

GuyMuse said...


Yes, the thing about quoting certain versions is fairly recent. I'd have to dig up the email informing us, but I couldn't believe it when I saw it!

Harold M. said...

My brother and I are musicians and occasionally get to share our gifts with other churches. We also take old hymns and rearrange them to sound more modern and sometimes write new songs. Neither of us has ever published any of our original music. If we did it would only be to protect it from others profiting from it. I consider these songs a gift from the Holy Spirit and for the edification of the church. We also never ask for money to go to a church or nursing home and play and sing. "Freely you have received, freely give."

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Good open and honest post. In response to the copyright stuff, the way our network does it, is that we pay for the license to copyright, I can't remember what it is called. Would we "have" to do it? Probably not. I mean who is "cracking" down on a few house churches using copyrighted materials. We honor the law of the land and we do it because we want to be an example to the world.

I think the question you are asking is: what is more wrong, the people demanding copyright laws or the people that disregard those laws?

As far as forcing certain versions to quote, that is ridiculous. However, when one commits to an organization, one should submit to their "rules" regardless of how right or wrong they are...or does one have to?

I'll be honest, I submitted to the "alcohol" rule at seminary for 3+ years. A rule that I thought and still think is no doubt extra-biblical and probably anti-biblical. However, I submitted because of my "yes" to the seminary. When I applied and was accepted, I agreed to say "yes" to their rules. I believe there is power in submission.

Anyways, some of my thoughts...


GuyMuse said...


I was interested to read your response about rearranging hymns. I too do this regularly and never mention they are "my tunes". It is such a joy to see people singing these great hymns to tunes that are more culturally adapted to the people we work with. I am currently working on Vol.3 of "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs". In it are two unknown hymns that I will teach the people with Latin-sounding tunes and rhythms that I have composed. We will see if they take hold!


Good points. I like your, what is more wrong, the people demanding copyright laws or the people that disregard those laws? I do feel the USA copyright laws are too extreme and are nearly impossible to enforce, especially overseas. I think a lot of it has to do with motive and intent. I know that judging people's motives and intentions is nearly impossible, but somehow they must factor into the equation of "right and wrongdoing". To say that all unauthorized copying is wrong, well, just wrong IMO.

Strider said...

Looks like you struck a chord here Guy! We dealt with this issue early in our ministry here in Gondor. One couple was copying all kinds of music and movies and passing them out to everyone. My wife was quite upset with this gross infringment of copyright law and challenged them about it. They took her seriously and tried to obtain permissions but they were told that since Gondor was not signed up to any international accords then there were no laws here that governed our behavior in these issues! We copy what we need to now without the any quirk of conscience to bother us.
But to the heart of your post I will comment. We can not hide behind man-made laws to do what we want. Many many laws in the lands in which we work were created to oppress the poor and guard the interest of the rich. If we follow these laws blindly then we are also oppressors and not His true children. Christ upset authorities who had the law on their side. If we follow Him we will also, but we must be very careful to only do what our Father is doing. If we are not careful we too can act out of our own self-interest. This requires the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who alone can keep us on right paths.

GuyMuse said...


I always wondered how other M's out there handled this whole matter. Now I know how you Gondorites handle things! As a general rule if it can be purchased locally we try to do so, but most items are not available in their original forms. All you can find are copies of copies. So we will many times make even more copies of those copies. Those times we are needing multiple copies of something, and there is only one original, we will buy the original and make the needed copies. I often would like to write and ask permission but don't know who to direct the mail to. In times past I have tried writing for permission but never gotten a response back. Other times I have had them write back and knock off 50% (pretty smart since they realize we are likely to copy anyway). I have even had a couple of software publishers send us complimentary licensed copies of their computer software once we explained what we would be doing with their product. We deal with these issues all the time, and have not had an easy time with it. We are torn between two worlds; one that highly controls these issues and has made it a "sin" issue creating guilt, and the other that has total disregard for these kinds of matters. I guess after 20 years on the mission field, we come down somewhere in the middle without going to extremes on either side. Right or wrong, God is our judge. Lord have mercy on us all!

John Lunt said...

I wonder what Jesus might think.

Matthew 17:24-27 (NIV)
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"
[25] "Yes, he does," he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes--from their own sons or from others?"
[26] "From others," Peter answered.
"Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. [27] "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

Guy, it looks like you're OK if you're not offending them. :-]

GuyMuse said...


I had never associated the Matt.17 passage with this issue, but can see your point. Thanks for sharing!

Frank (or Chip) said...

Guy, let me move from the legal/moral arguement to one of economics. My favorite justification is that if you do not comply with all of the copyright regs, "people will stop producing the material." To which I say, "Halelujah!"

I don't know about you, but I do not hold my elevated position for the financial gain. If I were not able to recieve compensation, I would do something to allow me to do what I am doing. I would be interested to see what would happen if professional Christian musicians were no longer professional. Would someone still write praise songs? Hymns? Or would the anger and bitterness from not being paid by banana packers in Machala, dry up all of the creative juices? Somehow I think the rocks would cry out and the church would go on.

GuyMuse said...

Francisco (a.k.a. "Frank", a.k.a "Chip"),

I hear you, man. Artists are entitled to a fair living just like anyone else, but what irks me are prices that are charged for materials. When blank CDs are 40-cents, why pay $16.95 for someone's latest release. We sell our original CDs for $2 (the ones I , my sister, and a few other M's personally recorded the songs for) and still make about $1 "profit" that we churn back into the ministry.

Jim Palmer said...

Guy, Great topic! I agree that artists and writers of Christian materials should receive remuneration for there work. At the same time there ought to be a sense that the material is the Lord’s and available to the church without undue burden when purchasing is not feasible. Recently the issue of copyright law came home to us. Viola (my Wife) has written and published (Hannibal Christian Publishers) a mission story book for Children and Youth. She did not write it to make money, but we certainly hope to break even. We have broken even and are now giving lots of copies away. The book “The Man in the Green Jeep” can be purchased on for $9.99. Recently some friends purchased copies on-line and realized that the cover nor the pages where of the same quality as one purchased earlier. It turns out there are on-demand publishers who buy one copy of a book and then short circuit the system selling bootlegged copies through the system. Viola nor the publisher is able to gain from the sale of these books. The selling a book this way is illegal and I believe is immoral (sin). The problem is now, how does one even know that what you purchased in illegal counterfeit? Yes the world is gray, sometimes various shades of gray.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for joining in the conversation and for brining up the "other side of the coin" in this whole matter. I agree that those who try to "short circuit" the process by reproducing illegal copies for profit--like the case you point out with your wife--are clearly wrong. It is one thing to make a copy of something for the work that is not locally available, and quite another to "go into business" in selling for profit someone else's work without their permission. I guess that is why there are laws about all these things. I tend to fall back to motive and intent. Is the motive to serve, help, edify, and not personally profit? Or is the intent to make money?

I recently came across a set of DVDs that are extremely edifying and helpful. Since I plan to use them soon in our work, I made copies of three of them. BUT, I also ordered them online, paying the full price. They should arrive sometime before Christmas. In the meantime, I will use the copies I made. Since they are readily available for purchase, I paid for them, but also copied them for the ministry.

BTW, I would love to get a copy of Viola's mission story book. You say it is on, but did I understand you to say the amazon copies are the illegal counterfeits?

Chris Irwin said...

Wow, this is a topic that I would prefer to leave alone (guilty conscience). As I sit here in my office surrounded by Bibles and spiritual books... and tons of pirated dvd's...

If it were only my question as a North American living here, I could assuage my guilt. But in the last 6 months I've had two Ecuadorian Christians speak to me about this. In one case, asking me the missionary whether it is right. In the other, discovering that a young Christian man had decided 3 years ago to no longer break the law.

Part of me wants to utter the horrible saying "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission." But as Ecuadorian culture adopts more Western principles and laws regarding copyright, shouldn't our ability to say "Well, it's ok in this country..." change?

GuyMuse said...


Glad you stopped by! Yeah, I know what you mean by having a mixed conscience about all this stuff. We have never had any nationals question or ask us about copying, they just do it! When you get it all figured out, we'll invite you to do a taller for us. Let us know! :)

Stan Meador said...


Is the worker-musician any less worthy of his wages? After all, if he were working a 9 to 5, who would then write the music?

Also, you're on a slippery slope toward Christian socialism - if you carry your thinking to logical conclusions.

Here is the story that confronted this issue in my own life. As a Journeyman, my supervisor told me of something that happened in his m career, back when we had m's leading seminaries. The seminary wanted MS products on their computers and were planning to purchase pirated copies. He challenged, "If this is truly necessary trust God to provide it legally, otherwise presume it is not really a necessity." God did provide legal copies for them.

Most of the things you mentioned in your article do not appear to me to be true necessities, especially not things worth actually stealing. After all, is a Christmas musical really necessary? Can we not find people among our own people groups who can write praise songs that are probably more culturally relevant? Will God not provide these things above reproach in His own perfect timing?

I hope this doesn't seem too harsh. I do not mean to condemn. I just wanted to share the story God used to solidify my thinking on the subject.

Blessings - Stan Meador

Jim Palmer said...

Maybe we need to promote a two tier system in Christian publishing. One level would be copyright with no copying exceptions. The other would be copyright with permission to copy for ministry use. Let the author decide. Would not most author make sufficient money on those who purchase originals that they would not be affective by those make limited copies for ministry use?

Viola's book "The Man in the Green Jeep is available on

GuyMuse said...


Welcome to the "M Blog". I hear what you are saying, and no, you are not sounding too harsh. A few years back I would have written even stronger words, but over the years have mellowed on this issue. I am intrigued by your term "Christian socialism" not ever having thought about it along these lines. I think it does express the kind of thinking that myself and many of the above comments are at least leaning towards. Is Christianity capitalist? Consumerism oriented? What kind of Christianity do we see in Acts where all things were freely shared with one another? If we have to lean towards one side or the other, wouldn't Jesus teachings lead us to freely sharing with one another? I don't want to take this to extremes, but it is something to think about. Thanks for your input.


Your two tier system in Christian publishing is another interesting thought. In a sense it already exists, but most of the "good stuff" is not available freely. Another possible help that the publishing industry might implement more is to offer full access to their materials in exchange for an affordable "licensing fee". I recently paid $69 that gives me free access to download around 50 software titles. I probably won't use but 4-5, but it is still nice to know I have access to ALL of their offerings. I would like to see Lifeway and some others take up this same practice. For $100 fee have the freedom to reproduce responsibly certain copyrighted materials that are difficult to impossible to get overseas.

GuyMuse said...


Earlier today I received a copy of an email that had been sent out in regards to the Bible translations IMB missionaries are supposed to use. After reading the email, I realize my statements in my original post are inaccurate, and would like to post the correct information here as received today:

Following my recent email, I've received a few questions concerning the Bible translations. Here is a clarification in case you are fielding those questions too...

In our process of editing, we use a Style Manual which includes
guidelines for use of commas, capitalization, spelling of country names,etc. The list of Bible translations appears in that Style Manual. It is not a judgment statement concerning the translations but merely a selection of five that we use as our standards in IMB-published, printed

When we prepare the Loving the Lost prayer guides and include a
scripture at the top of the page, we will select from the list of five as we have done in the past. When choosing CompassionNet requests for use beyond the CNet website and e-letters, we will cross-check the scripture references for complete quotes or include an ellipsis (...)
when a phrase is omitted. Because there are dozens of translations
available and checking all of them would require a great deal of time,
references would be changed to one of the five.

This listing of translations is simply for editing purposes and does not reference which ones are being used by individuals on the field, or in your prayer letters, in CompassionNet requests, etc.

Please excuse any misunderstanding my previous email may have caused.

After receiving the above, I have stricken the incorrect statements from my original blog post. I am greatly relieved to have received the above clarification.

Stan Meador said...


It's good to finally post here. Thanks for the welcome.

Some of the others have commented about a two-teir copyright. I think, to my knowledge, Wikipedia is leading in this area. Look on their cite about the rights available to people who post pictures and such. They have several different "copyright" options. It is very interesting, these developments.

I used the term "Christian Socialism" because I really don't think you're talking about "Socialism," but the implications lean in that direction. And, I do not think Christianity is Capitalist either. I try not to link my faith with any political system or idealogy.

There are many factors that go into a discussion like this one. I think the keys are that God's desire for "business" is that we have "just scales" and let mercy rule the day. In other words, the laws of the harvest required a land owner to leave some of the crop around the field for those who had true need to be able to harvest for themselves. How would that apply to music - something that probably doesn't even qualify as a true need?

You also mention the situaiton in Acts where all things were shared freely. I find it very interesting that the selling and sharing of possessions is only recorded as having taken place in Jerusalem. No where else do we see it recorded as having taken place. Certainly the poor believers in Macedonia gave generously out of their poverty, but there giving is not recorded in the same way as the Jerusalem situation.

Even in Jesus' teaching we see that if I have 2 coats and my brother has none, but is in need of one, I must give it. The key in all of these situations is "need" on behalf of those who apparently have nothing.

I still find it a stretch to say that I "need" a song and therefore can ignore copyright laws.

By the way, does anyone know the percentage of that high price of a CD that the song writer actually gets? Most song writer's are not getting rich writing songs. Only the songs that "make it big" generate a lot of income. Most of the income goes to the production companies, if I understand the system correctly.

Blessings - Stan Meador

Chris Irwin said...

Sixty minutes had a show several years ago about the music industry and it was shocking to find that most artists make very, very little through album sales! They generate the majority of their income from concert tickets and merchandise sales.

When an artists gets really big, they often sue to get out of these unfair contracts (a la dixie chicks) so that they can actually make money off of their music. But you have to have a lot of clout and money to do this.

Thats my understanding anyway.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks once again for your good comments and perspective on this issue. In our context, many of the brothers who actually have work, typically earn anywhere from $4-$15/day. This money has to cover expenses for a family with children, food, housing, medical expenses, transportation, schooling, etc. Is it any wonder why there is little regard for copyright laws when common items such as CD/DVDs, software, and books are priced above what one earns in a whole day (or more) of work? I don't know how much you make per day, but if a CD cost an entire days work, wouldn't you be inclined to buy the $2 pirated version rather than the original? Again, I am not saying it is right, but it is also not right that the prices are so high for items that only the "rich" can benefit from copyrighted materials. There has to be a better way to regulate all this. You and others have mentioned alternative possibilities. I would like to see some of the Christian publishing/distributors begin to be more aggressive about pursuing some of these alternate pricing options. None of us is going to solve this problem, but for me it is not so black and white as simply labeling it as "stealing" as those less fortunate are accused of when they buy pirated media products or make "illegal" copies.


Thanks for the input. My personal concern is not so much for the secular music industry as it is concern for the Christian publishers and distributors and the unaffordable prices for their materials being charged to most of the world's Christians. It would seem that if they are truly ministries and not first and foremost a business, they would seek out better and more creative ways that truly help address the problem and do everything in their power to make sure their great materials are a blessing for the Body of Christ.

Nick Jesch said...

In US copyright laws, there is what is called a "fair use" exemption..where material can be freely copied for "educational" use. Example: teacher copying a written or recorded work to pass out to students. Also, I can buy one copy, make "working copies" which I carry with, while archiving the original. Then, when my car gets broken into and all my CD's stolen, I still own the original, and can copy again. (this has happened). What really irks me, though, is that the copyright laws have been enacted at the behest, and for the benefit of, the publishing companies who retain the hungry lion's share of sales proceeds. Even the major "christian" labels are most all subsidiary labels of the major music labels. It is these publishing companies who vigourously persue copyright is to THEIR benefit. In short, a system put in place (thanks, lobbying pressures) to protect and promote their money making machines.
In regards christian content--what needs to happen is that the christian artists need to refuse to deal with these huge conglomerate publishers. Self-publish, go with a small, low-profit label, whatever. As long as the lion continues to be fed, he will continue to devour all he can. I have heard of agents of the large publishing companies looking for things like coffee houses who host live music making demands that the house buy "performance licenses" at high cost to continue...or threaten lawsuits. Never mind the agent never heard any music performed that was recorded on their label. This sort of intimidation is at least as wrong as copying a CD to "share". One more point--copyright must be secured in the specific country in question before it can be enforced. If I buy a CD in the US that is not distributed in Ecuador, and Ecuador copyright has not been secured, copying that CD once it gets to Ecuador is not illegal. There are, however, some means of securing "international copyright" in groups of countries who are signatories to some agreements. A cheap way for the publishers to restrict reproduction in many places. Yes, it does seem to all move one way....

I would think that most uses to which missionaries and church planters would put material should fall squarely under the "fair use" exemptions. Sending home copies of a music work for choir members to learn certainly does, as would copying printed material for some class. Projecting the words to a song to teach teh congregation would, as well. Especially since no one takes home a copy....
Must recorded music will carry two forms of copyright...the song itself, the rights accruing to the author of the words and music, and the specific performance being recorded. In cases where a song is in the public domain, words and music can be freely copied and distributed without violation. It is only the specific recording that would not be legally copied. It is complex--and deliberately so. And heavily biased to protect and promote the interests of the huge publishing companies. And this is why you will almost never get a response..what is your two peso request to a company with a multi-billion dollar annual take? Not even the flea on the back of the cuy at the carniceria.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for all the interesting comments and observations about this particular post. I found it interesting to read your words about, "if I buy a CD in the US that is not distributed in Ecuador, and Ecuador copyright has not been secured, coping that not illegal..." To me the issue goes back to intent. If one's intent is to make a profit by illegally copying materials, then it would seem this is wrong; however, if the intent in copying has nothing to do with making money, and is trying to impact lostness, then "freely you have received, freely give." Yesterday this issue came up again. There is one bookstore in the country that sells a particular workbook we are wanting to use. We agreed to purchase ALL 70 copies that they had on hand. However, they went and sold the entire stock to another entity, leaving us in limbo. Since there are no more books in the country, and we have no way of getting them, and even if we did cannot wait around 6 months for them to arrive from, we are looking at the option of copying the number we need. I know this sounds horrible to most of my readers, but what do you do? Before condemning, give us another solution.