Christian music publishers hoped they were different. As song swapping grew exponentially in the late 1990s, the Christian labels stayed silent on the issue, thinking that Christian teens would behave differently from their non-Christian peers. Christian teens don't head home from youth groups and Campus Crusade meetings to burn copies of Third Day's newest album for each other, right? There's that whole "thou shalt not steal" commandment to think about. The labels continued to post growing sales figures even as secular labels complained loudly about the damage being done by online trading. Christian music racked up $920 million in sales and moved almost 50 million units in 2001, but by 2003, with sales down by almost 5 percent, the labels began to wonder if song swapping had to be addressed.
The Christian Music Trade Association commissioned a study from the Barna Group to get some hard numbers, and the results were shocking. In an April 25, 2004 press release headed, "CHRISTIAN TEENS TAKE THE MORAL HIGH GROUND ON MUSIC PIRACY … NOT!", the CMTA announced that being a born-again, actively church-attending Christian made absolutely no difference in one's behavior in this area. None. Neither did race, gender, or socioeconomic status. 80 percent of all teens, Christian and otherwise, had shared copyrighted music in the last six months, including almost half of those who believed that it was wrong to do so.
Lawrence Lessig's new book Free Culture takes the problems faced by the music industry as its starting point in talking about the battles over copyright that are raging across the country. Lessig, a Stanford law professor and one of the leading voices on digital technology issues, has no time for true pirates who deprive media ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Find hope and historical insight. For a limited time, explore 60+ years of CT archives for free!
- Daily devotions from Timothy Dalrymple during this pandemic.
- Hundreds of theology and spiritual formation classics from Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, John Stott, and more.
- Thought journalism that inspires you to think more deeply about your faith.
- Learn more