Spreading Christian music by stealing it..

Seems the folks in the Christian Music industry are surprised to find that fans are pirating their music just as much as fans of popular music do.

The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Piracy hits Christian music

The findings were a jolt to many in the evangelical music industry, who expected churchgoing teens to be mindful of the commandment that states, “Thou shalt not steal.”

“I’m surprised and disappointed that the behavior isn’t that ardently different between Christians and non-Christians,” said John Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, the leading trade group for evangelical music.

But not everybody thinks the pirating is a bad thing. After all, some church leaders say, isn’t getting the Gospel out more important than getting paid? How can it be wrong if it saves souls?

“That’s convoluted logic,” said Barry Landis, president of Word Records, a major Christian label. “You would never steal Bibles to give them away. You shouldn’t steal Christian music to give away either.”

Christian music is big business these days with last year seeing sales top $800 million, more than classical music and jazz combined, and people in the industry are trying to figure out how to address the issue of pirating music without creating the same sort of backlash that Metallica ended up dealing with when they spoke out against it.

“We can’t be like Christina Aguilera and get all attitudey,” said Jaci Velasquez, a platinum-selling singer. “We’re supposed to be like Christ and turn the other cheek.”

Like their secular counterparts, Christian-music executives say digital-music theft is hurting sales. But they’ve kept a low profile in the war being waged by the Recording Industry Association of America against piracy a fight that includes more than 1,000 suits against illegal downloaders. (The music industry said sales have improved in the first quarter of this year, in part because of its suits.)

Mainstream music companies see piracy as purely a legal issue, Styll said. The Christian industry frames the issue differently, even though its major labels are owned by mainstream companies.

“We take it further and say it’s a moral issue,” he said. “But we’re not going to sue people. It just doesn’t seem right. And nobody really has the will to do it.”

And so the industry is grappling with how to discourage piracy.

“It’s going to take an enormous educational effort,” said Landis of Word Records. “Maybe we’ve missed this generation. We all know they shouldn’t take the music. We all know they do. How do you put toothpaste back in the tube?”

The article goes on to talk about how many Christian teens don’t think they’re stealing and many do it as an easy and cheap way to witness to the Gospel. The irony involved in stealing Christian music to help spread Christian values is particularly amusing to me and I think it shows that simply getting your children to adopt a particular religion doesn’t guarantee they will absorb the morals that religion is supposed to promote.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Teaching of morals is something parents have to take responsibility for first and foremost. If you don’t take the time to teach your kids the values you feel are important then you shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t share those values like you expect them to. Packing them off to Sunday School and hanging a Ten Commandments in their classroom does little other than give you a false sense of having dealt with the issue. There are no shortcuts to teaching your kids the values you want them to honor. This is true regardless of your religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

23 thoughts on “Spreading Christian music by stealing it..

  1. He-he-he…even the Christians don’t think that “thou shalt not steal” applies to downloading music.

  2. Hey, I love the music of Jaci Velasquez. She has this song called “you” if I am not wrong, very nice.

    Well to a certain extent the problem is often one do not see the actions one do is wrong but one is often takes the ‘holy road’ and criticise the morals of others. Much like issues of divorce and marriage, sex etc.

    Let us see what the folks will do if record sales further goes down.

  3. Religious music sells more than Jazz?  :rubeyes: 

    Jazz is the music of drinkin-smokin-fuxorin!  How the hell can religious music sell better than that?

    This country is in deep doo-doo.

  4. For the last time, copying is not steeling. artists want to make money, make good concerts.

  5. Sorry, Matt, but according to copyright law (which determines who has the “right” to “copy” something) then, yes, copying can indeed be stealing. There are fair-use provisions, but most of them don’t apply to file sharing of copyrighted songs. So while not all copying is stealing, much of what takes place on most P2P networks is, by law, stealing.

    Now, whether you agree with the idea that it should be considered stealing is an entirely different issue. A lot of people think it’s OK to exceed the speed limit too, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re breaking the law when they do it and will pay a price if caught.

  6. Quite true Matt, Copying is not “steeling.” Not too sure what “steeling” is (something to do with steel?) but copying sure is not it.

    Unfortunately, just as those people who drive past the speed limit whether they actually know they are speeding or not makes no difference to the fact that they are. Just because one believes in the tooth fairy does not make it true.

  7. Pop Tarts,

    If you want to question the religion beliefs of others, that is your right…but attacking their tooth fairy beliefs??? That’s just uncalled for.


  8. Dude, I think stealing is considered legal to christian’s! When I was working in the Educational Software industry, we had shows that we would attend to promote our software. We had nuns coming to the booths and taking the software boxes off the tables all the time! When confronted, they said it was for the children and was ok with God. It’s not the least bit surprising that it’s going on in other forms!

    I always got quite a laugh out of the stories I heard about the nuns at shows…

  9. Will somebody tell me exactly how much of a consequence comes from copying music anyway?  Financially?

    EXTREMELY LITTLE.  In fact, I would probably say that file sharing serves as an effective advertising tool, considering how much music SUCKS on the radio.  I’m not one to say that somebody should copy all the songs of a CD on to a disc, but downloading random songs that they LIKE isn’t all that bad.  Anybody who wastes four bucks on buying a single is an idiot (and I always thought the concept of “singles” was idiotic in the first place).

    File sharing is an increased opportunity for musical diversity.  You, Les, have even said it yourself - on your site.  Even if it IS illegal.  I think it’s becoming way too much of a concern to some people at this point.

  10. Oh, so stealing just a LITTLE bit is okay?

    I pay four bucks for a single.  It beats paying fifteen to twenty for other songs I don’t want. (Now I happily pay one buck on iTunes.)  I strongly believe in paying for the goods I receive, even if “they’ll never miss just this one” or “it’s okay with God” or “it’s good advertising for them” or “they have too much money already” or “they’re evil so they deserve it.”  All these are just rationalizations for the fact that someone created this work, they intended to sell it, and you’re taking it but not paying for it. 

    If someone wants to put his music/software/writing/art out there for free, great—more power to him.  I’ll take it.  But if he wants to sell it, I’m not going to steal it from him.  I’ll either buy it, or decide it’s not worth the money.

  11. You’re absolutely right, JoshMan, I have said as much, but the fact that I don’t agree with the law as it currently stands doesn’t change the fact that if I engage in sharing of copyrighted files I’m breaking the law. In Michigan blasphemy is illegal. It’s so illegal it’s been defined twice in our laws. Obviously I don’t agree with these laws as I violate them on a regular basis, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m breaking the law when I engage in blasphemy.

    Now that I mentioned it I hadn’t looked too closely at these laws before and I’m surprised at just how bad a violation of Church and State they are. Here, let me show you:

    750.102 Blasphemy; punishment.

    Sec. 102.


  12. That’s interesting.  InCREDIBLY disturbing, but interesting!  I live in Connecticut, which is a state that has a lot of “Blue Laws”.  It’s rediculous.

    As for Geekmom: I can’t help but agree with you on the fact that it IS the law, and by downloading music I AM breaking it… but then again, I don’t believe the law is practical.  I think it’s rather rediculous, actually.

    I also have the same issue with marijuana.  Does that stop me from occasionally partaking of the “dangerous substance”?  Rules haven’t stopped me from doing anything that I didn’t think was perfectly reasonable and didn’t harm anybody else.

    As stated before in a SCIENTIFIC study, it would take 5000 downloads to affect the profits of a SINGLE CD sold.  Music is an industry built on respect from the customer and their support.  We don’t get access to the good bands (as the ones out there only have drop-D power chords and 4/4 timing with crappy lyrics), so we find them.

    There is a law.  And I just choose to break it.  At least I haven’t been sued yet (knock on wood).

  13. JoshMan, you miss my point entirely.  I didn’t say anything about it being legal or illegal.  Regardless of which one it happens to be right now, I think taking something for free that the owner intended to sell is WRONG.  (Let’s stay away from the Ten Commandments thing right now and just talk about morals without religion.)  It doesn’t matter whether it would take them 5000 such thefts to stop making the money they intended to make (are you thief number one or number 5000?).  It doesn’t matter whether there’s “plenty more where that came from” (you wouldn’t refuse to pay a professional hair stylist for a haircut, even though he hasn’t “run out” of haircuts).  It doesn’t matter whether you’re pissed off because the bands you like aren’t giving away their music for free, so “you find them” anyway and download against their wishes.

    Bottom line:  they created it and own it, they want to sell it, and you’re taking it without paying them for it.  Just because you feel entitled to it doesn’t mean it’s fair for you to have it without paying for it.  You don’t get to decide the terms under which the owner of something shares it with someone else.

    Now, whether they will ever change the law to make it legal to download music is up for debate.  I don’t think it will happen any time soon because of that essential, capitalist issue of ownership and the right to make that service or item available under the terms that the owner chooses. 

    Will it eventually cost the industry money NOT to allow downloading?  That’s another question, and one that will probably play out over the next several years.  If it costs them real money in terms of goodwill and enforcement and whatnot, they may well decide to make music available for free download—but the point is, it will be THEIR decision, not the decision of the one who doesn’t own it.

  14. I wrote the previous entry with a time constraint, because I wrote it at school in the last period of the day.  So allow me to elaborate on it:

    By the way, Geekmom, just so ya know, I was exaggerating on the “idiot” comment in my first entry.  I don’t think you’re an idiot.

    But back to the point - I believe in paying for everything you get too.  I don’t think stealing is right, nor have I actually stolen ANYTHING in my LIFE (with the exception of snagging some of the little candies they sell at the gas station I work for).  But there’s a difference here.

    “Stealing” the songs over the internet through file sharing isn’t the same thing as stealing a CD.  Printing and producing the labels for the CD, as well as the disc itself, costs some money.  You’re not stealing it from a store that payed for the stock from the manufacturer, nor are you screwing up an inventory.  All you are doing is sending the songs through the internet, which can be played on a computer (which ain’t cheap, by the way, despite the fact that it’s a separate industry) and burning it onto a CD (if you have a CD burner on your computer).

    The reason MOST people download music online is because they’d rather get a couple key songs from a cd, like on a single - but there aren’t singles for every song out there.  I usually download songs from bands whose CDs AREN’T usually sold by FYE or Best Buy (which are the only stores within 45 minutes of my house), but I don’t download the whole CD.  I probably would if I could, but I really can’t.  And why?

    Because file sharing occurs between PEOPLE, not COMPANIES.  There is NO PROFIT made from the selling of these things.  So a lot of the time I spend “downloading music” is spent trying to find a freakin’ person to download it FROM, who won’t disconnect me halfway through it like a douchebag (or, as is the usual case, like someone who has something more important to do than sit at the computer looking for a specific song for hours on end).

    There use to be a central server who DID have songs to distribute called AudioGalaxy (which was a non-profit organization), but they shut down and turned into a commercial web page that sells the songs to cover a copyright fee after the Napster case put pressure on them.  Perhaps it was for the best at that point, considering that I’ve never had an easier time downloading music than from that program.

    These days, I have to use Kazaa - a program that bogs down my computer with spyware bullshit that pops up ads any time I don’t block it with a firewall.  I just wish there were a program like Napster again, where it was simply a bunch of people online, connected to each other for the purpose of listening to music.  Even with a cable modem, downloading a whole CD’s worth of songs while trying to find them in a sea of millions of users is not much easier than driving to the store to find a readily made CD.

    And I still buy the damn things anyway.  I have an enormous collection of songs, but I still bring at least $100 with me to New York to buy the CD’s I’ve already downloaded half the songs from.  The music industry profits more from me than probably a lot of people - I have a collection of probably more than 200 CD’s, and I’m 17.

    I’m a visual artist.  Does that mean I’d be MAD if people were gathering online to share my paintings and drawings?  Of course not!  Is a CD the same thing as an internet download?  Absolutely not.

    Believe me, I believe wholeheartedly in Capitalism and free economy, and those record companies can get as rich as this economy will allow them to and I won’t be remotely jealous or vindictive.  I don’t think the top five publishers DESERVE all that money from all the drek they keep putting out on those censored, standardized piece-of-shit radio stations, but nor do I think they should be kept from it based on “principle”.  What I WILL say, however, is that people should have the freedom to be able to share these mp3 files online, because in NO WAY does it majorly reflect on their sales.

    Since when did music become an industry, as opposed to an art form?  The copyright laws in this country protect the artists in the way that other people cannot make copies of their work for PROFIT.  Considering my downloading ventures so far, I’m in the hole about a thousand bucks, and I haven’t sold a thing.

  15. Josh, you seem to be missing the point with regards to intellectual property. A song is an information-good and that it is non-excludable and non-rival good. Non-excludable means that it is hard to exclude others from using it and that one good can satisfy many people. While non-rival means that the mere fact that I possess it does not mean that you cannot possess it. Intellectual property protects to information from being reproduced without the authority of its owner. The fact that it occurs between people rather than companies make no difference at all.

    Let us assume that piracy increases music sale because it operates as a form of advertising. The reply to that is that it make no difference. The music belongs to the companies and that if they want to adopt a bad decision, it is not your place to correct them. If you see a restaurant, which closes during lunch and dinner time, does that give you a right to force the owner to keep the shop open since it is better for his businesses?

    If you do not think the music industry deserves such money because of the bad music, the law does not anoint you to be the scrouge of music companies. And if the music is bad why do people download them?

    Intellectual property laws were set up to protect people from copying their work without permission. The laws were set up such that it affords protection to its creator and thus encourage its production. If you or any creator wishes to allow their creations to be freely available the law or the music company is not stopping you. Unlike laws on blasphemy, actions that violate intellectual property actually affects the rights of another.

    For example, if lets say you created an operating system that will blow microsoft away but after selling one copy, microsoft or another company to your product and sold it instead or simply allow people to download it for free.

    And as for the ‘bad’ music created that has been partially attributed to music piracy. Only 1/10 records generate profits. With music piracy hitting the profitability of music, the music industry is being forced to dump less popular niche music that are not profitable in favour of mass market ‘britney tune’ which generates more money.

  16. What PopTarts and GeekMom said.

    There are but two valid moral choices in this context - either pay the rights holders or abstain completely.

    What damage, if any, is done by P2P networks and the like is another story; whether the business model of the recording industry is sound yet another.

  17. Pop Tarts:  Are you even familiar with the music industry AT ALL?  Because I happen to hang out with a LOT of garage bands - some popular, some not.  It absolutely does not matter AT ALL what the piracy level is in the music industry in regards to the internet, because the figures are so fucking insignificant that it shouldn’t affect their business.  The top five publishers publish the people they do because THAT’S HOW THEY STAY AT THE TOP FIVE.  To say AT ALL that internet downloading is STIFLING smaller bands is like saying MTV is actually a channel based on music.

    I know I don’t have the right to decide how the music industry handles their copyright laws.  I was simply questioning it.  Of course, my actions certainly go past the criticism now that I BREAK those laws; then again, I really don’t give a shit.  I know what the laws are - as I said before, I choose to break them.

    They did a scientific study from an unbiased group of statisticians, elwedriddsche, and they’ve discovered that the effects of internet piracy are worth chicken feet.  One album sale for every five THOUSAND song transfers - quite far from the “crippling” effects the recording companies talk about.

    So now that I’ve made my point, please let me reiterate: I KNOW THAT THE LAW FORBIDS INTERNET FILE SHARING, AND I CHOOSE TO DISOBEY THE LAW BECAUSE I DON’T BELIEVE THE LAW IS REASONABLE.  It’s the exact same thing I have with smoking pot - I’m not allowed to, but I do it anyway.  Please stop telling me the laws, because I already know them.

    And Pop Tarts, I can see your point, as well as GeekMom’s.  I just disagree on your point.  I know that the laws are in place to protect original ideas and such, but the way they’re handling it with the internet, I think, is bullshit.  The state and government like to say that marijuana is an “incredibly dangerous” drug, but I know for a fact that smoking cannibis CANNOT KILL YOU unless you have some sort of respitory or brain disorder.  So I do that too.  And I haven’t been reprimanded for EITHER of them by the law.  Not yet, anyway.

    The only reason I’m repeating all of this is because I want to make the point that the recording industry is not dumping “less popular niche music” because of internet downloading.  The fact is that they don’t usually hire those people ANYWAY, and considering that they’re regarded as an INDUSTRY nowadays, their main pursuit is that of money.  Of POPULAR products.  The fact is, they just don’t waste their time with the less popular stuff.

    Of course, if you can find me a specific example of when this happened in the recording industry, you can go ahead and prove me wrong.  But at this point, I haven’t seen any physical evidence to suggest otherwise.

  18. People choose to break the law by downloading/uploading and so all the owners of the copyright are doing is enforcing their laws by suing these people.

    So what is this survey? Source, link. And besides as I say it does not matter whether downloading increases sales or not, the owners are free to exercise their right to prevent any infringement.

    Not every artist that signs on turns out to be profitable. If a the company knows who will turn out to be profitable and who would not then obviously they would go for the profitable one. Where profits were greater in the past, the company could afford to try out artists in hopes that they will make it big. But with low profits, the company have to focus on artists who has a higher probability of success. Hence, in so far as piracy reduces the profits of the company, the company will be less willing or able to try out newer artists.

    Furthermore, legitimate paid downloads should take care of your earlier point regarding liking only one song in the entire album.

    Finally, Josh apparently we are on the ‘opposite sides’ about knowing people in the music industry. The people that I talk to are lawyers that actually are conducting the litigation against music swappers and VP of one of the big music company.

  19. Screw the RIAA. $20 a CD is ridiculous. If I like ONE song on a CD, I’ve wasted my money. It’s not worth it. It’s better to download the song and burn it on a mixed CD. There are thousands of people who download music….the RIAA simply doesn’t have enough man power to go after every single person. They’re going for the people who are sharing the most files. Luckily, that’s not me. I don’t open my HD up to anyone. However, I can see the artist’s point too….especially with GR taxing the musicians that come to town (really dumb idea, GR)……I’m just so glad to see that Xtians are not exempt from theft.

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