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Offline tmw89

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Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« on: December 26, 2012, 11:34:36 PM »
Modern Concerns of Theft Concerning Digital Media and Intellectual Property
By J. F. O'Neill
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Linked article

Exodus 20:15

    Thou shalt not steal.

Theft is a violation of the virtue of Justice. That a person has the ability to possess and own a thing is a fact which has been addressed by theologians and is in general accepted by the people of the world (barring a few extreme ideologies) and that is not the focus of this post.

All the moral theological topics of theft did not include the the copying of digital media, which is now called, by the media industry and the laws for which they have lobbied, a form of theft. Morally speaking, this cannot be in terms of Catholic Theology. Consider the defining characteristics of theft by Saint Thomas Aquinas:

Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 66 Article 3:

    I answer that, Three things combine together to constitute theft. The first belongs to theft as being contrary to justice, which gives to each one that which is his, so that it belongs to theft to take possession of what is another's. The second thing belongs to theft as distinct from those sins which are committed against the person, such as murder and adultery, and in this respect it belongs to theft to be about a thing possessed: for if a man takes what is another's not as a possession but as a part (for instance, if he amputates a limb), or as a person connected with him (for instance, if he carry off his daughter or his wife), it is not strictly speaking a case of theft. The third difference is that which completes the nature of theft, and consists in a thing being taken secretly: and in this respect it belongs properly to theft that it consists in "taking another's thing secretly."

The "secret" is that it does not involve assault or physical confrontation, ie, it is distinct from robbery. Both are against Justice.

Now, the concern we have now is not involving a tangible thing. A musician or studio is not deprived of anything when something is copied without damaging the original thing. What is being "stolen" is not a thing possessed. It is something one considers to be one's own to license to others. Historically speaking, this was not addressed much at all. The printing of works and the creation of art was so labour intensive, that the primary cost was in the physical creation of a thing (which one could steal), and the idea of stealing ideas by copying them was an issue. Today, it is considered unlawful to photograph things in public which are considered to be the "property" of another to license.

Morally, digital replication and distribution cannot be theft or robbery. Intellectual property cannot properly exist, as matters of the intellect cannot be possessed or stolen, and property must be possessed by definition and it can be stolen.

But that is not the final answer on this moral and legal question. We have a duty to obey civil authority, as all authority is from God. If following the law does not contradict a higher law, then it should be followed. However, the law must be understood and known to be followed. The applicable laws are incredibly diverse and complex that many questions are not resolved at all. For example, consider the issues of DVD and Blu-Ray formats used for the distribution of movies. We buy the disc in order to gain access to a copy of the work we wish to watch. We pay not only for the thing which we possess, but the right to use it.

But it does not end there. We must pay again for the right to decode it. This is not known to most people, because the cost of the license to decode such content is part of the cost of the devices generally used to decode them. That is to say, Blu-ray and DVD disks purchased lawfully require you to pay to use them. Furthermore, many laws in countries (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in the USA) forbid even attempting to decode what is encrypted without permission, even if it is easy to do so. Morally, I find this to be troubling, as nobody agrees to this arrangement, and it is not stated on the items which are being sold. In fact, it seems to violate Justice, by making those who have paid to possess a thing (the disc) and access its contents, pay again to do it without their consent.

Most people will not encounter this, unless they buy a DVD player which does not include the codecs required to decode the disks. One can use freely available software to decode the disks, but technically, the creation of that kind of software may be illegal. I write "may be" because there are the following issues:

o    Law only applies to those under the authority which creates it. The DMCA of the USA only applies to people under the jurisdiction of the USA. What if software to decode DVD or Blu-ray content is made outside the USA...is it lawful for a USA citizen to use such software to view legally purchased media?
o    If such software is commonly used and freely available with nobody ever being prosecuted or sued for using it, is this indicative of consent to use such software from those who have the legal standing to claim harm done?

Software to decrypt DVD and Blu-ray content is freely and easily available and nobody has been prosecuted or sued for using it. Many popular media players on computers make use of such software.

The cost of a movie is more than the cost and reasonable profit of creating the physical media, because the information on it is also considered to be something of value. Legally, those who have copyright have the right to distribute and profit from this content and we are bound to follow that sort of law as best we can. The moral questions of copyright could be a major work, but ultimately, the course of action is to do what is legal whenever such a law is known. If the legal situation is not clear, then we are not called to speculate. If lawyers and law makers and judges do not know the law, then how can we? Until the law is defined, it does not exist. Many legal questions are unanswered, and therefore, they are not law.

This addresses the copying of copyrighted material, but not "receiving" it. To copy something copyrighted unlawfully (there are exceptions to copyright which are not the subject here) is immoral because it is violating the authority of the government.

Tobias 2:21

    And when her husband heard it bleating, he said: Take heed, lest perhaps it be stolen: restore ye it to its owners, for it is not lawful for us either to eat or to touch any thing that cometh by theft.

Morally and legally, stolen property is still the rightful property of the owner, and receiving stolen property knowingly is unlawful, and when stolen property is acquired unlawfully without knowledge, it is still the property of the original owner. Copying copyrighted works is not theft, as has been established using the definition of theft, and the sin would be in violating lawful authority. However, the "reception" of copyrighted material is not so clearly defined, especially when this reception is done in an open manner, such as in viewing images or videos which are copyrighted which are copied unlawfully. Consider that copyright is specific to the legal codes which define it:

o    A work could be copyrighted in one jurisdiction, but not in another. Would it be unlawful to take uncopyrighted material into a jurisdiction were it is copyrighted?
o    If a work is publicly available online which is copyrighted, but there is no attempt to have it removed by the copyright holder and one has a reasonable belief such an attempt could have been made (for example, much of the content on Youtube is easily found by those interested in it, and many copyright holders do aggressively pursue the removal of content which violations their copyright, while many purposefully do not, and Youtube complies with such requests quickly), is it lawful to view or make use of that content?

Again, we are called to live morally, not be lawyers. If the law is not clear, and we can expect that if clarity were available, it would be known, we are not bound to follow what we may think might possibly be a law. These laws of copyright and "intellectual property" are entirely the creation of the civil authorities. They do not have grounding in Natural Law or Divine Law. That we are to follow civil authority is the only grounds for the moral imperative to comply with such laws. If the laws are not clear or if they violate a higher law, then they cannot be followed. With that in mind:

o    It is unlawful and therefore potentially sinful to copy or otherwise violate copyright. But be mindful of exceptions to copyright.

o    It is probably not unlawful to view public content which is potentially the result of copyright infringement especially when we have a reasonable expectation that the copyright holder would have taken action had there been an objection.
o    I personally think that the DMCA and similar laws around the world has led to injustice and it is not sinful to violate certain aspects of it, especially those which have never been the subject of legal review. This includes using libdvdcss or libaacs to make use of legally purchased and licensed DVD or Blu-ray content, or any means to decrypt what one has a legal right to use.

But in the end, this moral question is most likely of little moral concern, considering that to be a mortal sin, an act must be a grievous offense against the law of God, and breaking a technical law of incredible complexity and confusion is not usually of such gravity.
Quote from: Bishop Williamson
The "promise to respect" as Church law the New Code of Canon Law is to respect a number of supposed laws directly contrary to Church doctrine.

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Offline Bonaventure

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 12:15:45 AM »
I hope Mr. O'Neill joins this forum!
 

Offline tmw89

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2012, 12:17:46 AM »
So do I, Bonaventure.
Quote from: Bishop Williamson
The "promise to respect" as Church law the New Code of Canon Law is to respect a number of supposed laws directly contrary to Church doctrine.

---

http://tradblogs.blogspot.com

NOW OPEN:  A new Trad forum featuring Catholic books, information, and discussion!
 

Offline Lyubov

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 12:33:37 AM »
Haha. Both his forum and this one have the exact same layout and color scheme. I find that funny for some reason.
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Offline tmw89

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2012, 12:58:05 AM »
The color scheme of IANP isn't exactly like SD... in case it's been a while, check it out:  http://nonpeccabis.freesmfhosting.com/
Quote from: Bishop Williamson
The "promise to respect" as Church law the New Code of Canon Law is to respect a number of supposed laws directly contrary to Church doctrine.

---

http://tradblogs.blogspot.com

NOW OPEN:  A new Trad forum featuring Catholic books, information, and discussion!
 

Offline Lyubov

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2012, 01:09:43 AM »
The color scheme of IANP isn't exactly like SD... in case it's been a while, check it out:  http://nonpeccabis.freesmfhosting.com/

I am referring to this forum:
http://gaudeamus-hodie.com/sfforum/index.php
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Offline tmw89

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 01:11:39 AM »
I was not aware that forum existed...

...well, alright then!
Quote from: Bishop Williamson
The "promise to respect" as Church law the New Code of Canon Law is to respect a number of supposed laws directly contrary to Church doctrine.

---

http://tradblogs.blogspot.com

NOW OPEN:  A new Trad forum featuring Catholic books, information, and discussion!
 

Offline Lyubov

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2012, 01:12:10 AM »
I was not aware that forum existed...

...well, alright then!

No worries. It was linked in the article you posted.
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Offline tmw89

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2012, 02:23:58 AM »
100% overlooked that side of the page... observation skills are no longer what they used to be   :-[
Quote from: Bishop Williamson
The "promise to respect" as Church law the New Code of Canon Law is to respect a number of supposed laws directly contrary to Church doctrine.

---

http://tradblogs.blogspot.com

NOW OPEN:  A new Trad forum featuring Catholic books, information, and discussion!
 

Offline Heinrich

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2012, 01:13:22 PM »
Is JFO Ros?
Schaff Recht mir Gott und führe meine Sache gegen ein unheiliges Volk . . .   .                          
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Offline Penelope

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2012, 01:31:27 PM »
 

Offline Heinrich

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2012, 01:49:26 PM »
I hope he joins here.
Schaff Recht mir Gott und führe meine Sache gegen ein unheiliges Volk . . .   .                          
Lex Orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.
"Die Welt sucht nach Ehre, Ansehen, Reichtum, Vergnügen; die Heiligen aber suchen Demütigung, Verachtung, Armut, Abtötung und Buße." --Ausschnitt von der Geschichte des Lebens St. Bennos.
 

Offline LouisIX

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Re: Blog post RE Copyright and Sin
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2012, 03:35:35 PM »
Has anyone worked on getting Rosarium here?  I know that he's seen the forum as he's been posting on the thread on FE.
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