Thou Shalt Not Steal Patriots And Pirates

he issue of theft of intellectual property is not at the top of the list for most remnant Christians, but in this arena Satan has managed to continue to retain a very old stronghold. For decades, in the "pop" Christian culture, the taping of Christian and secular music has been an extremely widespread practice that robs the artists, record labels, and other sectors of the industry of billions of dollars every year. In the Patriot and remnant Christian community (those that have rejected the apostasy of the state churches), two groups that decry the 'grace leaning' hypocrisy of mainstream Christianity, the identical practice is also thriving. Ironically, among these latter groups, we find a much greater emphasis on the Ten Commandments, therefore, this would seem to be an unlikely place to find those that routinely steal from others in their ranks.

Recording piracy has been a large problem ever since recording technology made it possible to cheaply and easily copy a record or CD to cassette. Please understand we're not talking about someone that buys or borrows a CD to make a cassette to listen to in their car - I'm referring to commercial piracy as well. Nowhere is the problem more entrenched than in the area of Christian and Political videos.

At the largest Preparedness Expo held in 1998 in Salt Lake City, one commercial exhibitor was openly selling bootleg videos of almost every title on the subject of Conspiracy, UFO's, the New World Order, and various Christian videos that fit the market sector. I observed the sale of bootleg copies of videos that ranged from The Clinton Chronicles to The Crash - both widely distributed titles in the anti-New World Order sector. We saw all the Waco tapes, Catastrophism from Donald Patten, Financial advice from Larry Burkett, and many, many more.

The bootleggers (read thieves) have a common configuration. Utilizing the extended play mode of 1/3rd speed that is standard on all VHS recorders, they stack 5 or 6 titles on one tape and sell those compilation tapes for a modest $5 to $10 dollars. No royalties or revenues of any kind are being paid to the owners that financed the original productions. Furthermore, no permission is ever granted to these shady operators. In short, they are stealing the revenue from the video program owners. This is commercial piracy in its simplest form.

At a prophecy speaking event in Albuquerque, I was exhibiting several videos that my ministry has produced. At this event there were other exhibitors and I found a vendor offering an index of all the video titles he had available. Everyone of them was a bootleg in the compilation format I just mentioned. I was careful to inform him that under no circumstances did I wish to see any of our titles on his list in the future.

At a patriot gathering in Medford, Oregon, that included merchandise tables, I encountered another individual selling compilation (read bootleg) videos in exactly the same format. Over the years I've heard from others around the country confirming that the same practice is routinely found in every state.

There are other variations on the theme. A certain political/Christian Radio talk show host and one-time video distributor once confided an astonishing tale to me. Years ago he had been promoting an interesting video called UFO'S: The Hidden Truth that he had a commercial interest in. It had been arranged for him to be a guest on a very well known national radio show. The program was to discuss the video, and the show's 800 line would then take call in orders for videos which the show's producers would then purchase from the guest. This is a very common marketing plan - particularly in the area of videos.

A couple of hours after the show, the guest called the network to see how sales were going. He was told they hadn't sold one copy! Suspicious, he later called the order line at the net and changed his voice. He inquired about the video as though he had just heard the broadcast. He asked the salesperson on the 800 line if this was the video "he had seen advertised that has the big UFO on the cover." The rep said "No, this one comes in a plain brown sleeve with no label." In short, this "patriot" talk show host that decries so much of what is wrong with America was simply selling bootleg videos right under the nose of the actual authorized distributor!

In Hawaii, one of our readers operating what he calls The Christian Jural Society Of Hawaii had made at least one copy of our Secret Sixes video that was being circulated as what he termed a "loaner." His justification was if he loaned the original out, it wouldn't come back. When we wrote a polite note suggesting he might loan a factory authorized copy out, he reacted angrily and wrote accusing us of being "committed to the commercial world of Caesar" and he will no longer "promote" Christian Media in his group. This is the equivalent of the child caught with his hands in the cookie jar who responds that the cookies weren't any good anyway!

In yet another case, a personal friend of ours went to an anti-IRS seminar where the speaker offered an instructional video at a list price of $50. Our pal was enthusiastic about the program and jubilantly announced he was going to buy one and make copies for about 8 of his friends who all were also very interested. Oddly enough, our friend happens to be a Sabbath keeper who places an emphasis on being an upstanding Christian in all that you say and do. Somehow the act he was contemplating just didn't register as a clear-cut violation of the 8th of the 10 commandments he holds in such esteem.

In our modern world, we have what has been called the "hacker" chic - a term derived from a slang word for computer enthusiasts. This mindset has extended into the Internet where the consensus perspective seems to be that all information should be free for the asking (or the taking).

We commonly hear people say "Oh, I wouldn't have bought your video anyway - I just wanted the copy for personal use." Others defend piracy with the rationale that videos are too expensive and if they didn't bundle them without a license, many people would never have access to the information. The truth is, the decision to release or not release a program (or book, tape, computer disc, etc) should be in the hands of the creator of that program - not hundreds of others acting on their own with some twisted sense that they are doing their part in "getting the word out."

When the $5 bootlegger says the practice is acceptable because he's not "really making anything on it," he is sidestepping the basic issue. It wasn't his property to sell in the first place - at any price.

In our particular case, we have made the conscious decision to allow unlimited free distribution of our books, newsletters, newspapers, studio audios, and radio programs. The only proviso has been the information must not be sold and it must be complete with our name and contact info. Our Secret Sixes: Subliminal Imbeds In The Movies video is a different tale. Because this is a broadcast quality 75 minute television program that took 8 months and thousands of dollars to complete, it is our right to seek to re-coup that capital expenditure. We choose not to give the tape away, or have others dilute the potential market for the tape at this time. That is not "serving Caesar" as the above critic put it, it is a prudent stewardship of the resources the Lord has placed in our hands.

We are currently in development of a sequel and are faced with the expenditure of a large sum of money with which to purchase the studio time, master tape stock, duplication stock and services, packaging, graphics, and much more. While we do have contributors that send in money telling us to "use it as the Lord sees fit," those involved in bootlegging never seem to be among them. It is particularly egregious to find those that are doing this continue to convince themselves that this practice is not actually wrong, it is right because they're motives are good - or they're part of the team helping to spread the word. When a person rationalizes their actions as acceptable to the Lord because it is the desire of their heart, something has gone very wrong.

Peter rebukes those that use their "liberty as a cloak of maliciousness" (I Peter 2:16).

Jeremiah is just as articulate with "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbors service without wages, and giveth him not for his work" (Jeremiah 22:13). These are but two more elaborate ways of re-stating the basic truth of Exodus 20:15: "Thou Shalt Not Steal." We would do well to recognize the wisdom of that fundamental directive.

-- James Lloyd

©2002 CHRISTIAN MEDIA RESEARCH, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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