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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians

By Kirk Noonan (3/14/04)

With a few clicks of the mouse and a couple of keystrokes on a keyboard, a computer user can obtain virtually everything he or she needs for personal entertainment: music, movies, games, audio books, computer programs and much more. The best part is, it’s free for the taking as long as one has Internet access, a hard drive and — some would say — a willingness to sideline one’s morals, ethics, integrity and Christian witness.

Each month an estimated 2.6 billion music files are downloaded off the Internet. Many are illegal because the files are copyrighted and permission to download them has not been granted. Some experts say downloading copyrighted material without permission is akin to walking into Best Buy, pocketing a couple of compact discs and leaving without paying.

“The motive for each person is unique and complex,” says Christian counselor Richard Dobbins, 75, founder of EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio, of what has become known as cyberpirating. “But there is a mark of sin on us that tends to identify the sin with being caught and not with what has been done.”

The Record Industry Association of America, a trade group tied closely to major secular labels such as BMG, EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal, contends that persons smart enough to know how to download copyrighted material must know they are breaking, or at the very least, bending the law.

To combat cyberpirating the RIAA has been suing everyone from adolescents to grandparents.

“Every year, by assisting in criminal trials and initiating civil litigation, RIAA wins hundreds of guilty pleas from, or convictions of, music pirates, plus scores of settlements and judgments,” proclaims the RIAA’s Web site. “The online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished by up to 3 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.”

Despite the suits and an RIAA-led campaign to educate consumers on what is legal and illegal to download, there is still much confusion.

“I am under the impression that it’s not illegal,” says Scott (who asked that his surname not be used), 31, about downloading music and more from the Internet. “I’ve always thought of it as borrowing rather than stealing because I am just duplicating something. There’s a big difference between duplicating and stealing.

“It’s such a gray area,” he contends. “I am not really sure where the copyright laws start or end.”

According to, a group determined to protect copyrighted music, there are several ways Internet users can break the law such as when they:

•Download unauthorized music from pirate sites or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks.

• Make unauthorized copies of music available to others on P2P networks.

• Pass along copyrighted songs via e-mail.

• Make MP3s available through P2P networks, even if the sharer owns the CD.

According to Jeff Jackson, label director at Gotee Records in Nashville, Tenn., cyberpirating has hurt the Christian music industry.

“You can tie some of it to the economy,” says Jackson, 32, of record company profits that have sagged at times over the past three years. “But when you see how many downloads there are — it’s definitely got to be the downloads, too.”

Derrick, 38, a Christian who admits he is a cyberpirate, says the main reason he downloads material is so that he can “test-drive” it to see if it is worth buying. In many ways, he reasons, he is just being a good steward of his money.

“It’s just like going to Borders and listening to it at a listening station,” says Derrick (a pseudonym). “I download and listen to it to see if I like it. If I do, I’ll buy it.”

Many people don’t buy that logic.

“The record industry doesn’t care what our reasons are for downloading songs,” says James Christian, 34, who has become an expert on Internet piracy because of his position as the director of information technologies at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. “The fact is, unless the record company is giving it away, the person downloaded something that took money out of someone else’s pocket. If you haven’t [bought it] then more than likely you are ethically, morally and legally in the wrong — no matter how you rationalize it.”

Christian notes there is material that is OK to download from the Internet. But knowing what is legal to download can be tricky business because much material is not labeled as such.

“It’s not up to the music, software, film or publishing industries to tell us whether it’s OK to download something,” Christian says. “That’s our responsibility. Ignorance is not an excuse.”

Besides the possibility of getting sued by the RIAA, there are other costs.

Hours may be spent downloading a file that supposedly contains a full-length feature film, but when opened it contains a pornographic video. Some music files are also only “spoof files,” which are nothing more than an unplayable version of a song. There are also viruses to consider. Perhaps the biggest risk is to a person’s integrity and Christian testimony.

“Are you any less of a thief if you steal $10 or $1,000?” asks Dobbins, adding that when Christians cheat or steal, even in instances when everyone else seems to be doing it, they erase the line of demarcation that separates how Christians and non-Christians live. “The unbeliever feels that the Christian is no different than they are, so why should they become a Christian?”

Internet pirating also takes a toll on the one who participates, says Dobbins, and that cost is simply not worth paying.

“Growing calluses on your conscience in this area of your life is likely to desensitize your conscience in other areas too,” he says. “Anytime we override our conscience we lessen the intensity of its voice to our spirit.”

There are several legal ways to download music off the Internet. Last year Apple introduced its economical and user-friendly iTunes Music Store, which had more than 1 million downloads during its first week in business. Since then other companies have followed suit.

The success of Apple’s store and others like it has signaled to many people that the record (or in this case the computer) industry is catching on to the demands and needs of it consumers. It also made clear that there is a growing coalition of Internet users who are willing to forgo pirating and pay for their entertainment.

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