There was a very interesting op-ed article that ran the other day by an executive in the music recording industry who was writing about the theft of music online, and the impact that has on the music industry. He thought that “piracy” was too benign of a word; he wrote of the billions of dollars lost each year through illegal copying of music and of the toll this has in terms of jobs lost, which, according to him, was more than 70,000 jobs.
It cannot be overstated that theft is wrong. Within a Christian context, there are only extremely limited instances in which theft can be either justified or excused; stealing music, music piracy, online “sharing,” or any other form of illegal music copying is never justified. A person who engages in such activities is engaging in a sinful activity, and what follows should in no way be taken as a justification of such activities; two wrongs do not make a right. That having been said, there is another side to the music executive’s argument that I believe deserves pointing out.
It borders on laughable that someone who represents an industry that has been peddling sex, drugs and rock-and-roll (largely to minors) would seek the moral high-ground when he feels himself aggrieved and his industry cheated. The music industry’s stock-in-trade for fifty years has been moral corruption and rebellion against every form of authority, and now they have the audacity to complain of being themselves slighted when what they have preached for so long is put into practice in such a way that it negatively impacts their bottom line.
Certainly, it would be wrong to condone theft of any sort, be it the theft practiced when music is downloaded illegally online or the theft of decency that has so long been practiced by many record labels in their pursuit of absurd profits and in their pandering to the basest of prurient concepts and the glorification of all forms of immodest behavior. Theft is theft and is by its nature wrong, but the master thief has no right to claim grievous injury when the apprentice whom he trained steals from him.
That the music industry considers “piracy” too benign a word to describe the act of stealing music is, in my opinion, absurd. But, I do have a different word to offer them for their use: sin. It is a word with which they should reacquaint themselves. For far too long, they have ignored its meaning while glorifying its pursuit, and now the only possible outcome of such recklessness has become a reality: sin destroys always; that is its nature. It is hardly a surprise that the music industry now suffers the effects of what it has so long promoted.