by Ben McEachen
Is it illegal to illegally download something?
That’s not a trick question.
Australia is, officially, a nation of modern-day pirates. In 2014, Australia was responsible for the fourth highest amount of illegal downloads of TV shows. In the world. That phenomenal statistic suggests many things, including: do you and I think downloading something illegally is, actually, the wrong thing to do?
Piracy statistics from last year point to an answer. In 2015, illegal downloads of movies and TV shows slowed in Australia by about 25 per cent. That drop was sparked by the increased availability of legal streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Presto.
Such a turn-around sounds like we’ve seen the light. That the issue was our frustration with not having legal channels to bring us all the screen content we deserve.
But Netflix waging war against those who use “geo-dodging” technology reveals something else. Despite international copyright laws and licenses meaning Netflix can only lawfully provide individual countries with particular swags of content, a lot of Australians continue to use technology that allows them access to Netflix in other countries (such as the USA).
While such “geo-dodging” technology is not technically illegal, using it does breach terms of service with Netflix. Which sounds a whole lot like walking the fine line between the letter of the law and the principle behind the law, don’t you think?
Right to do wrong?
But whether or not we go so far as to label “geo-dodging” as piracy, the core issue remains: when it comes to downloading stuff illegally, do we actually recognise we’re doing something illegal?
Australia might have cut down on piracy but it is still, per capita, an international leader in illegal downloads.
When we run through our digital libraries of movies and TV shows, what do we find? Legitimate versions or an archive of torrented copies?
Think about how, during the past decade or so, illegal downloading became swiftly accepted as being okay for all of us to do. From kids to grandparents, Christians to atheists, piracy is an illegal activity often not seen as such.
Strange. We can uphold so many other laws yet, when it comes to entertainment, we’re happy to ignore laws to get what we want. Even Christians who, supposedly, live by such biblical teaching as “submit to every authority because of the Lord [Jesus]… For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” (1 Peter 2:13-15) The same passage implores those who have given their life to Jesus to “conduct yourselves honourably” among society, “abstaining from fleshly desires that war against you” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
The language might sound odd to modern ears but the sentiment remains clear-cut. Christians are to live an upstanding (ie LAW-ABIDING) life, wherever they are, because they’re doing that in loving tribute to Jesus. Such an honourable stance will reveal God’s goodness to anyone ignorant of it. Plus, not embracing wonky desires — like the kind that tell us something is okay, when we know it’s not — will help to release the choke-hold they can have on our moral compass.
Truth hurts pirates
Feels weird, borderline hysterical and almost “unAustralian” to even be calling for us to consider our thoughts on illegal downloading. But, as 1 Peter 2 continues to reveal, the truth about doing something illegal — even something as “harmless” as pirating a movie or TV show — still remains the truth.
So, you know, we shouldn’t be doing it (as hard as that might be to admit and put into practice).