Is it a sin to buy and sell digital items on the "black market?"

I have participated for some time on an online “black market” of sorts without even thinking of it as sinful. I don’t know how well I can describe what I’m doing for those unfamiliar with computer games, but here it is: people buy downloadable computer games for a discount and then sell them on this “black market” to other people for more than what they paid, but less than retail price. The buyer pays by giving a PayPal gift, which is technically a violation of PayPal’s terms and conditions. The seller then sends the buyer an e-mail or message on the forums with the key to download the game.

My question is if this is a sin, and whether it be grave enough to be a mortal sin if the other two conditions for mortal sin apply. It is definitely violating PayPal’s terms and conditions, so is that alone enough to make it a sin, or is it also a sin because I’m participating in a “black market?”

Also, if this is a sin, how do I confess it? I want to be as simple as possible when I confess this sin, if it is, in fact, a sin.

I presume this is all done to bypass tax?

If that’s the case, then I’d say it is immoral, since it is firstly illegal (unless there are some exceptions based on low volume or such).

“Render unto Caesar…”

If it’s done for other, more benign reasons, it might be a more grey area. But since the people buying and then selling on the items are making a profit, it’s hard to see how this is anything but tax evasion.

You say you did it without thinking it’s sinful, so obviously it can’t be considered a mortal sin for you. But equally, it 's not something you should continue doing, as far as I can tell.

No, this has nothing to do with tax, as tax isn’t applied to digital items such as games. This has everything to do with saving money. A game might be $19.99 on Steam, Origin, Amazon, etc. but only $8 if I buy from a person with an extra copy of the game. I’m also not aware that this is illegal. I guess the only thing I can see it is something like copyright infringement, as I’m not an authorized resale outlet for the game. It is a violation of PayPal’s terms and conditions, but I don’t know if that alone is enough to make it a sin.

Oh, OK. Violating PayPal’s terms and conditions may still be wrong (maybe/propbably?), but certainly not along the lines of tax evasion.

I don’t know enough about how PayPal works, or its terms, to comment further. Sorry.

I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard of it. I think there are two possible ways you are doing this. One way is to use a proxy to buy from another country, such as Russia, that has much lower prices. You then resell it to wealthy countries like America and make a profit on the difference. The other way is to buy when a game during a normal sale and then resell it to when the game is not on sale. Impatient buyers will go for the lesser discount if they don’t want to wait for the game to be on sale again.

You are taking advantage of loopholes in the law for your own profit. It’s not illegal, but still morally wrong. I would consider it a grave sin, but that depends on whether you knew it was wrong and how much money you made from it. Basically, I consider this a lesser form of software piracy. It’s not as bad since the game publisher still gets some money from each game, but you are still taking advantage of them. To the priest, I would say you took advantage of some loopholes on the internet to buy products low and sell those products high for a profit. If the priest asks if it is illegal, you can give more details (how it’s not illegal but against the rules of the websites you are using. Read: your account would be banned if they knew you were doing this).

This definitely crosses the line on several fronts.

First, only the owner of the intellectual property rights to the code has the legal right to sell it on the open market.

Second, I’m sure that when you buy games, like any software, they come with a EULA (end-user license agreement) or a software license agreement. This is a legal contract between the licensor and purchaser. I’m pretty sure that the EULA’s for the games would prohibit you from becoming a re-seller, for profit, without permission. Contrary to popular opinion they are not selling the game itself, they are only selling an individual a license to play it.

Third, you are knowingly violating the contract you’ve made with PayPal to use their services only as intended.

I would think those things would be sins. But it would depend on your culpability - which only you know.

Good point.

In most cases, I am a buyer. The games I have been selling are extra copies that I received when buying a bundle of games. Sometimes, there might be a bundle of 5 games, but I’m only interested in 3 of them. I have decided that for now, I should try trading the extra games, which is fully legal and can be done through official channels.

On culpability, I believe that for the transactions committed, they were probably venial sins because I did not have knowledge of the sinfulness of the action. If I do it again, it could easily become mortal sin.

One other question: there is also a virtual currency known as “TF2 keys.” These are digital items that can be bought either through official channels, or on the black market. Obviously buying them on the black market would be similar to what I have been doing and would still be wrong. But what if I bought them through an approved seller (steam) and then traded them for a game again through an approved trading source (again, steam). That wouldn’t be sinful, would it?

Ummmmmmmmmm…this is a no-brainer to me. One question: How many lies do you get to tell to keep your goods and money coming? Sinful yet?


Well, when you consider that all major retailers buy products and mark them up around 200-400%, then I can certainly understand why people consistently buy items off the ‘black market’ or craigslist. I think most people dont really care or dare ask where these items come from, they generally only care about how much money they are saving.

I dont think its that harmful, after all, when you buy from the big retailers and pay up to 400% more than the item cost them, you are being gouged, and taken advantage of… just depends on the person I guess.

I wouldnt go as far as calling this sort of thing sinning though…they would also have to call the big retailers guilty of stealing as well, since they mark items up way beyond what they need to…this is just pure greed, the people selling on the black market and craigslist also mark things up, but at least they dont go to the extent of gouging people! LOL

Thanks everybody for the replies. I went to confession before Mass today and confessed this as “violating the terms and conditions for an online website” because I feel that’s where the sin was. I have decided that even though it might not be wrong to buy from a person reselling the game, violating PayPal’s agreement was wrong because it was something I agreed to. I will be trying to trade my extra games now instead of selling them, and give away some of them. Thanks again for the help.

It’s very similar to the black market for physical goods. It’s a crime. As far as PayPal, I’m not at liberty to provide legal advice. However, buying illegal copies of a game or similar, like a video, is wrong. Explain it to the priest in Confession just like you did here.

God bless,

Retailers mark up products. Yes. That’s exactly how retail works. The mark up is what allows them to pay overheads (rent, salary/wages, power, logistics, IT, warehousing, advertising, etc), taxes, and hopefully make a bit of money at the end of the day. It’s a legitimate business model and and without retail, modern society, especially highly urbanised society, simply does not function.

Considering many retailers, and most of the big ones, are publically listed companies, if you think they’re making such great money, you should invest and thereby become an owner, and enjoy the stream of easy money. However, a quick analysis of company reporting may well deter you, since retail has not had an easy time over the past 6 or 7 years now. The charge that “they mark items up way beyond what they need to” simply isn’t generally supported.

Im a corporate rep for a large gas station/ convenience store chain, we are in 15 states, mostly in the eastern and mid western states. I know how much the markups are for most of the in store items, like candy bars, chips, soda, cigarettes, etc. On average, the mark ups are at least 250%.

I dont care what anyone says, this is gouging, no 2 ways about it…these companies are no better than the criminals that sell goods on craigslist and other sites, but the public doesnt care enough to investigate this price gouging, they are quite happy to pay what the stores ask, but I think if they knew what the stores paid for the item, alot of people would stop shopping there.

Price of fuel is especially curious, Ive heard station owners claim they only make 1-2 cents profit on each gallon sold, but I do not buy that, I have tried to find out what my company pays for fuel when they get a delivery, but the receipt the driver leaves with the store only states the amount delivered and in the $ section, it says refer to price book, and unfortunately I do not have access to this, I work with the non-fuel side of the store, they have separate employees that handle the fuel side of the company. But I would bet anything they are making alot more than 1-2 cents profit from each gallon, if this was true, they would not bother selling it.

Im still trying to find out what my company pays for fuel though, and if I do find they are making a whole lot more profit than they claim, I most definitely will be talking to a reporter and get this story out to the public…they have a right to know imo.

So where would they shop?

As above, markups are fundamental to retail. Retail does not work without markups. As a rep you really should have a better understanding of the way the system works. You sell your goods to someone who sells them on to others. That person/company you sold to needs to cover all sorts of costs, including tax (render unto casear), and try to make some money at the end of the day.

Again, if you think they’re making extreme profits, perhaps you should try to get shares in the company.

Also, keep in mind, without those retailers you don’t even have a job. I find your attitude and lack of understanding of why markups are necessary to be strange.

:thumbsup::thumbsup: My husband and I own our own business, and people are always complaining that we charge too much for our service. But, we charge what we need to to meet expenses and to raise our family. Greed does not enter into it. Also, I believe that the reason so many retailers are having problems is because of black market stuff. Especially in the music industry, where people pirate songs all the time.

It’s stealing.

I’ll never forget the first time I was sitting in a movie theater and thought “Wow, this movie seems familiar.”

Then I got that icy, icy feeling when I realized it was mine.

I agree, but the music industry brought this upon themselves, back when they sold music on CDs, mini discs, etc, we didnt have much problems with pirating, but now that music is sold in a ‘computer file’ format…of course its going to be pirated and shared on the internet! LOL, what did they expect would happen with distributing music in this format?

I think they should have came up with some kind of different format besides MP3/ files format if they did not want this kind of thing to happen, Back when CDs were popular, most people thought the next format would be some kind of storage device you could hold in your hand, buy and sell at stores, etc. not a computer file!!

Maybe when the time comes for the next format, the music industry will come up with something similar to a CD, or something material they can distribute and sell more securely.

I always thought Mini-disc was going to replace CDs…LOL

It does make you wonder what the next format will be though, seems logical they have learned their lesson about music files though!

Pirating anything is both a crime and a mortal sin - theft. Thou shalt not steal. Face it, it gets done because it is harder to prosecute than other types of theft.

Quibbling about who actually owns the “rights” to “extra” copies isn’t taking away the actual theft and misrepresentation of the true ownership of the goods, the games. When I download a freebie from the Net that is offered to me, it is understood that the freebie is meant for me and my use only. It usually comes with some advertisement for an updated version of said game, etc. or an inducement to go to a gamesite and purchase more games or better versions of the same game. They are in business to sell games. I would never think of copying the game and re-selling it. I know better.

The justifications used in this discussion show how many more lies you get to tell after you tell the first one. After a while, you’re the only one believing your own BS and you wonder why you feel so alone in it all and if you’re lucky you see what is really wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to years of mortal sins of the same kind and worse.

Stop now before it is too late.


It would be a violation of the 7th Commandment if unauthorized copies were made and distributed. It would be a violation of the 8th Commandment if the EULA was knowingly violated by the unauthorized transfer of an existing license (or some other term or condition in the software license). I say this because the person may claim to agree to the terms and conditions of a license, knowing full well that he/she will not hesitate to comply with those terms and conditions.

In other words, it is not simply a matter of theft. It may be theft. It may be theft and lying. It may be just lying.

I am in no way trying to justify one being able to bypass just licensing fees through making additional, unauthorized copies of a work.

Having said that, how many of us have downloaded Shareware and then not paid the Shareware author for his work? Sometimes shareware is given with limited time licenses or with some functionality disabled, but sometimes they just ask you to pay if you actually make use of their product.

Having said that, have any of us studied the EULA sufficiently to see if the software publisher allows you to make a backup copy of the media? Granted, most allow a single backup copy to be made…but that is not universally the case. Do you study the EULA to make sure that this is the case? (I used to do that but haven’t for several years…)

How many of us own music CDs…and then rip them so we can use them on our **own **iPods/iPhones/MP3 players? (Not to share the mp3s, but to be able to play them on our own devices). Technically, that is a violation of the license that is on the CD. Or, remember back in the day of vinyls and tapes…how many of us recorded a record on a tape so that we could listen to the music in the car?

For that matter, if you’ve ever been involved with your parish’s school, did you pay the appropriate ASCAP or BMI fees for the public performance of any music – such as at school dances or fundraising dinners or the like? At your kid’s birthday party in a public place…like a restaurant, did you pay the appropriate royalty to the owner of the ditty, “Happy Birthday”?

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