Question: "Is it a sin to share copyrighted material (music, movies, software) on the internet?"
Answer: The Bible tells us that we are to obey the laws of the government we live under (Romans 13:1-7). That is the key issue at stake here. God commands us to obey the governmental authorities. The only allowance we have for disobeying the authorities is if they demand that we disobey something God has commanded (Acts 5:29). It is not inherently evil to download and share music, movies, etc. However, it is ethically wrong to download and/or share copyrighted music, movies, etc., without the permission of the artist / publisher, which is piracy, because doing so is a violation of the law, and God commands us to obey the law.
A few years ago, Napster opened the door to this internet copyright issue. Today there are countless file-sharing programs that enable people to share files with others. Due to lawsuits, many of these programs require a fee for music and movie downloads and restrict the ability to share these downloads with others. The controversy is whether making copies of music (and other data such as movies) and then giving it to someone else violates the copyright laws and “intellectual property rights” of the company that produced it. For example, every time a song is copied and given to someone else, that is one less person that is likely to purchase that music. This costs the music industry money (or so they claim). The same is true with the movie industry. In many countries, the government has ruled this practice illegal, so, yes, it is wrong to use such shareware programs to distribute copyrighted material. If it were not illegal, it would be up to you—and your conscience—to prayerfully determine whether it is right or wrong (James 1:5).
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