Monday, December 26, 2005


Unreasonable offenses

I've just gotten back home after a very enjoyable visit with my family. Among other activities, I had the opportunity to give my dad a listen to some of my favorite vintage recordings that I'd burned onto a CD-R. He enjoyed the first few tracks on the CD so much that he asked me if I'd make him a copy. I'm a person who loves to share, so I would have gladly done so but for one little detail: I'd be violating U.S. copyright law by doing so. Although the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law allows me to make copies of CDs, etc., for personal use, it doesn't allow me to distribute copies to others: family, friends, etc..

Although I wholeheartedly agree that the indiscriminate file sharing that's emdemic today constitutes robbery against the intellectual and artistic property of both record companies and artists, I regret that the law against sharing is so restrictive so as to make me choose between obeying the law and sharing my blessings with those closest to me. Even though I can't think of any Biblical law that prohibits such sharing, this is one instance where I think man's law is far more draconian than God's. Although I reject any notion of doing anything such as making my music collection available to the entire Internet, whether for free or profit, I'm grieved that man's law forces me to keep my treasures to myself with the only exceptions being the occasional temporary loan. Instead of making my dad a copy of that CD, I felt bound to do nothing more than to allow him to borrow it for a few weeks. What a shame!

In my opinion, the problem when man enacts such overly strict laws, with very small "offenses" constituting a violation of law, he provides much temptation to go beyond the minor to the major. With music sharing, one might think, "If it's against the law to burn a copy for my brother or best friend, I'm already a crook, so why not go ahead and share my music with the world?" Likewise, when the speed limit on a road is set unnecessarily low, it's all too likely that people will thus think themselves free to speed on roads which do have reasonable speed limits. Therefore, I think that good government would do best to ensure that laws are reasonable and avoid making such acts as copying a CD for my dad into an illegal act. With reasonable laws, people are, I think, more likely to obey, but with unreasonable laws, they are likely to progress from minor to major violations.

On account of Scripture's teaching regarding the Christian's responsibility to the governing authorities, I count myself as being bound to obey such unreasonable laws--thus my reluctant refusal to copy my CD for my dad--but so many other folks aren't as scrupulous as me. What a shame that man's laws so often fall so far short of the utterly reasonable and just laws of God, and what a reminder this is that I won't experience true justice until I depart to be with Christ.

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