Listening to "pirated music" that you "bought"

I bought songs A, B, and C from iTunes and they are on my home computer.

On my work computer I have songs A’, B’, and C’ which I pirated and brought to listen because we can’t install iTunes.

Is it sinful to listen to A’, B’, and C’ which have been objectively stolen even though I already bought the songs A, B. and C legitimately?

From a reasonableness standpoint I would vote for it being not a sin because how else could you listen to music at work? But then I guess because you perform the objective act of thievery that you are objectively in a state of sin and even buying it does not justify your actions.

Despite iTunes DRM, it is perfectly legal for you to make as many copies as you like of anything you own, be it music, games or film, for your own personal use.

You’re fine! Because you bought the songs you own the rights to them. You can put as many copies, gained through almost any means, for your own personal use anywhere you want. You can not, however, give them to other people. Also, if you buy the CD you can download “pirated” music from that CD for whatever reason. The same is true of video games. So long as you own the original copy, you can download the ROMS and play them on your computer. :thumbsup:

Couldn’t you convert the AAC file to an MP3 file at home, put it on a jump drive, and then bring it to work? Or else, get a small speaker to plug your iPod into and use that at work? At the very least, I would think that would be safer. I wouldn’t trust those pirated music sites not to give my computer some sort of virus. :o

For me, I’m still not 100% convinced that dowloading music illegally is technically “stealing.” I believe it’s sinful for other reasons, but I’m not sure how the transmission of data from one person to another (without the original owner ever losing possession of the original) is stealing in the most technical sense. Since the capacity for digital file sharing is a recent phenomenon, I don’t think that the moral theologians have really tackled it completely. I would like to see that done.

If we were talking about stealing, it would be sinful. We simply have to look at an analogous situation with tangible copies of the music to see that. For example, if you had songs A, B, and C on CD at home, but your work only had a cassette player and forbade you from bringing in your own CD player, it would not be okay to go down to the local thrift store and steal a cassette copy of songs A, B, and C so that you could listen to them at work. Thus, if downloading music illegally is stealing in the technical sense, it would be sinful to do what you have described.

If downloading music illegally is some other type of sin, then perhaps one could justify it. I’m not sure, though.

Of course, all this is my own pontificating based on my understanding of Catholic moral teaching. I could be wrong.

He mentioned he originally purchased them from iTunes on his home computer and is making copies of the songs to play at work; iTunes Store is a legit site owned by Apple, you have to buy the songs and they are scrupulous about copyrights. Moreover, there is very little possibility of downloading a virus.

In the OP’s case, there’s no need to worry about these sorts of analogies. The moral use is governed by respecting the Terms of Service you agreed to when downloading the music. For Apple, in the USA, these terms can be found here:

iTunes Terms of Service

Specifically clause 10 (vii) says: “You shall be entitled to export, burn (if applicable) or copy (if applicable) Products solely for personal, noncommercial use.”

So the original poster is fine, it respects the terms and conditions, he is not doing anything illegal, so there are (were) no moral implications to what he did. On the other hand if he was to distribute copies to his friends, or put them on the network at work so others could listen as well, then that would be illegal and constitute piracy, because it does not respect the EULA.

Maybe I misunderstood the OP. I understood the OP to be saying that he/she bought songs A, B, and C from iTunes at home, but then at work downloaded the songs separately, presumably from some questionable file sharing site. In other words, they are not mere copies of the files he/she bought. Rather, they are completely distinct files from completely distinct sources, but they just happen to be of the same song.

If the situation is as you described, then I agree with you. It would fall under the iTunes terms and conditions and would be just fine.

Could be that I misunderstood. I re-read the OP and he’s not clear on how he “pirated” them. If he only made copies from his originals and brought them to work, no problem as per the iTunes EULA.

But if he downloaded them from another, illegal site, that’s quite another matter. Then the download is illegal. Even if in theory it is exactly the same song, by using an illegal merchant, even if the product is legal, I think that is morally wrong. You are benefitting from someone who steals from others to obtain the good.

An analogous situation would be this: you need to have major repairs made to your car. There are two garages in your area that you know from word-of-mouth, are capable of doing the repairs. One charges $80 per hour for labour but is licensed, and has a reputation for honesty.

The other charges $40 per hour but makes use of stolen parts, rolls back odometers to defraud purchasers of used cars, and has helped process stolen cars in the past.

You aren’t technically stealing but the cheap rate you’re getting is taken on the backs of victims of fraud and theft. It would, IMHO be immoral to use that garage.

Similarly the “convenience” of the other, illegal download site, would be obtained on the backs of those who have had their copyrights infringed.

I wouldn’t judge morality based on the EULA.

Sometimes EULAs contain clauses which are legally unenforceable.

For example. Open a book. On the copyright page it may say something like

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher.

Then read the US Code title 17, section 107:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

Clearly there is a contradiction between the legal rights to “copy” portions of a work and the claims of the publisher.

Obviously what the OP is implying is not fair use, but my point of this post is that license agreements don’t always take into account legal rights protected by law.

Good point, but in this case the EULA does specifically allow the user to copy material for his own use which was what he was doing, assuming he made a copy of what he bought to use on his work computer.

You have the right to listen to those songs all you want- however, for future reference, I believe you could simply slap those songs onto an external hard drive or a jump drive and put them on your other computer with ease.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t think this is correct. By this reasoning, it’s OK for me to download a pirated copy of a movie if I own the VHS, and therefore “own the right” to view the movie. No, I “own the right” to view my VHS copy- I didn’t pay a cent towards the “right” to view it on my computer, in a completely different (and quite probably superior) format. If you buy a CD, movie, or individual song file- whatever- you are buying that individual copy and the right to view/use that individual copy within the limits allowed by law and whatever terms of service you agreed to. This may mean you are allowed to make copies of your own legally purchased product for your own personal use, but it does not mean it’s OK to download other people’s illegal copies for your own personal use. Doing so is cooperating in someone else’s sin, which is sinful of itself.

I would not suggest downloading pirated songs. A large of computer malware, spyware, viruses, etc. come from illegitimate sites that peddle high demand electronic media (music, videos, pornogrpahy) illegally. On top of this, there are many alternatives for listening to music at work through streaming sites. Also, a newer music service, provides cheaper music ($0.89 per song) that you can access from anywhere you have an internet connection.

There are also services such as and pandora that are alternatives. Finally, you can burn your songs to cd from iTunes, or you could use an ipod at work.

There is just no connection between file sharing and sin

It is stealing. The fact that the thing being stolen is intangible, doesn’t make it ok.

When you download music illegally you are stealing access to the underlying intellectual property.

It’s exactly the same as if you snuck unto a concert without paying.

Yes it is. When you purchase a copy of the VHS you’re purchasing a license to view the material contained within it. That’s why VHS movies are more expensive than blank tapes. The price difference between the $14.99 movie and the $1.99 blank tape is the cost of the license.

Of course there is. If you share music with people who haven’t purchased it, you’re allowing people who aren’t entitled to it access to the underlying intellectual property.

If you were the ticket-taker at a concert or theater, would it be a sin if you let your friends in for free, without buying a ticket? Of course it would. It would be stealing (the amount of money your friends should have paid) from your employer.

If you don’t think that’s a sin, how about being a ticket taker, and letting people in without a ticket if they give you half of what a ticket costs? Surely you see that is a sin? In effect you’ve stolen the full price of a ticket from your employer and sold it for half-price.


This is exactly where we disagree. We believe that if someone buys something, then he has all the rights to do whatever he wants with the product (including sharing it with family members and friends).

Your analogy may be apt, but you are assuming that sneaking into a concert is also the sin of stealing. :wink:

You could very well be right. I’m simply wary of drawing my conclusions just yet. The entertainment industry has done such a superb job of indoctrinating us to see all copyright infringement as “stealing” (even coining the term “piracy” to describe the phenomenon was a victory for them). It makes me hesitant to decide. I want to avoid having a knee-jerk response based on the conditioning supplied by those who benefit most from the idea that file sharing is “stealing.” But then, I also want to avoid the rationalizations offered by those who benefit most from the idea that file sharing is no big deal. So I’m still on the fence for now. :o I welcome your input.

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