Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Greek Hupogrammon and A Lesson in Integrity

If you've read my Rant blog for a while, you're probably already aware that the Kelley children are educated at home with a curriculum that is decidedly Christian and Reformed. Like children educated in government schools, the Kelley children generally have the Summer months off as well.

This year I decided to take on a Summer elective course with my 8 year old son. Just something to keep his mind stimulated during the off months and maybe help me learn something too. I gave him several options to choose from. He picked Greek as the subject he would like to learn about. I was pleased with this choice because some education in the Greek language couldn't hurt me either.

We decided to keep things very basic to start off with. I ordered a consumable workbook entitled A Greek Hupogrammon by Harvey Bluedorn. Because I wanted to do the workbook along with my son, I figured I could make copies of the consumable pages to save from having to purchase a second book.

This past Friday, we decided to do the first lesson and I ran off some copies of the pages. Right before I sat down with my son, I noticed something written inside the front cover that changed my plans.

Unlike some consumable workbooks we have used in the past, the author of this particular book included this notice with his copyright information:

"A Greek Hupogrammon is the private property of Harvey Bluedorn. The right to reproduce or publish any portion of this material, in any manner, by any means, or for any purpose, is reserved as the sole right of the author. This prohibits making duplicate copies of individual pages in any form -on paper, electronic, or otherwise- for home, classroom, e-mail, internet or any other use."

Right after that, the author then invoked these Scriptures:

"You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing grain"
"The worker deserves his just compensation."
"You shall not steal."
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

This stopped me dead in my tracks. I knew I had a choice to make. Either ignore it and proceed, or do the right thing...

I knew what I had to do: I gathered the photocopies and destroyed them.

My son was a bit confused at first. I knew this was a chance to give him a lesson on integrity and how copyrights work. I explained to my son that by printing off pages from this book without the author's permission, we would be stealing from him. I explained that this gentleman's income and standard of living probably depends upon the sale of this book; by not buying a second copy for myself, I would be cheating him out of his income. I further explained these principles by giving him a series of illustrations.

I've shared all that with you to say this:

I've met a few professing Christian's who see nothing wrong with illegally downloading music files or buying pirated movies and computer software. The fact is, if we do these things, we are stealing. Though this matter of copying pages from a workbook may seem like a non-issue to some people, to copy these pages without the permission of the author was stealing from him and cheating him out of income.

Even though I'm going to have to cough up about $20.00 for another workbook for myself, this gave me an great opportunity to set an ethical example for my son to follow. As Christian parents, we must be sure to teach our children integrity by our deeds and not by our words only!


Robert said...

I appluade you for your decision. I have also stopped this type of's hypocritical for a Christian to do this.

Might I add: going over the speed limit and "rolling stops" at stop signs? :)

Machine Gun Kelley said...

Might I add: going over the speed limit and "rolling stops" at stop signs? :)

"Now you're just meddling!" ;)

Gordan Runyan said...

I have to mildly disagree with the thrust of this post, and I say that as an author who makes some money (depressingly little) selling a novel. I agree that stealing is wrong.

What I have questions about is whether American copyright law is a legitimate extension of the eighth commandment. You realize of course that copyright is a brand new phenomenon in human history, though books have been around for a long time. Ditto music and other sorts of "intellectual property."

You can read some in-depth philosophizing on this very topic at Triablogue, try searching for "copyright" there. I think they raise some valid points, which I am too obtuse to raise myself here, and too lazy since I know they already did it...

Now, since you and I are subject to American government, then breaking American copyright law is another issue. I'm just not sure it's an eighth commandment issue.

As for traffic law, that opens a whole 'nother can of worms for me. I have a hard time equating speeding with sin, to be honest. Or minor failures to completely stop at the sign, for that matter.

And here is the problem: if we're going to postulate that every jot and tittle of secular law is something we must meticulously obey, or otherwise be found out as sinners, then we are all hopelessly sunk. The Talmud had/has nothing on American law and regulatory web-weaving. Obedience in that sort of detail is a pragmatic impossibility. I defy anyone to imagine it can be done. For instance, just on the tax code: do you realize how many dozens of pounds American tax law weighs? Are you going to raise your hand to God and swear you've met up with every little requirement in that pickup-bed-full of statutes, which no one has ever read? Or what about building codes? If you are sinning by not meeting every single requirement, that must surely mean that you've meticulously inspected every minute facet of your home in order to make sure you're "obeying God" on this one. Point being: the amount of minutia that is now regulated in our lives makes keeping every single requirement a hopeless impossibility: or at least, if you're going to be certain you're not sinning, then you'll use every waking moment of your life pouring through obscure rules that even the government doesn't really know exist.

And a legitimate question exists with the traffic laws: is it sinful to violate the letter of those laws, even though the letter is rarely enforced. I mean, we're not talking about laws of divine origin here: we're talking about arbitrary limits with no moral foundation, composed by lawyers and lobbyists who have no vested interest in honoring God--so then, if posted limit is 65 mph but every cop on the force is agreed that they don't even start warning people until about 67 or 68, then what actually is the limit?

If I sinned by going 67, then does that sin get erased when the limit is raised to 75 by the next administration? That's admittedly sarcastic, but the point is that government does not define sin; and even biblically, not all violations of civil government are sinful.

I think, rather, you know what the letter of the traffic law is, and you know that if you violate that letter, you might technically be given a ticket. If you're willing to put up with that kind of interaction with the government, and you see that as a trade-off you can live with, then go 70 in a 65. Be my guest.

Before you jump all over me, let me challenge you to ask how you imagine your colonial forefathers would've reacted to the sort of intrusive, over-reaching laws that govern our entire society. I suggest they'd have seen them as diabolically tyrannical, and they would seen resistance to such tyranny as obedience to God.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

What I have questions about is whether American copyright law is a legitimate extension of the eighth commandment.

Whether it is or not, I was smitten in my heart and could no longer proceed with my plans. If the gentleman who wrote the book wants to excerise his right to prevent me from making those copies, I'll respect that.

Another issue for me is that I have, just recently, invoked my copyrights over some articles that I had written for which I recieve no monetary compensation at all. It would have been the height of hypocrisy for me to have continued copying pages from the Greek Hupogrammon in light of that.

I'll tell you what, the next time I decide to give a friend a copy of Prowl, I'll just make a copy on my copier here at the house. I'd rather keep my money for gas! LOL! ;)

Robert said...

I'm not sure what you're getting at with the 8th commandment and the copyright law thing...

If you have a bit of intellectual property that you bought, and part of the restriction says that you may not copy it, and you is this not stealing?

In response to your second comment about the jot and tittle of secular law....


You can take this to the absurd degree as you have but you know as well as I do that speeding is breaking the law. If you get away with it frequently, that doesn't change the fact that it is or isn't lawful...does it?

Once we start down this road of choosing to obey one law over another because we do or don't see the logic in it...then we open the door to letting our fallen nature make the choice as to what law is important, and what isn't....

PS: When you see a state trooper while you're doing 85 mpg on the you react by slowing down or letting your foot off of the gas? :)

Gordan Runyan said...

Rhett, no doubt you did correctly by your own conscience. I don't see how you could've done differently given your situation there. (Without sinning, that is.)


Robert, Thanks for the interaction on this.

I would refer you again to Triablogue for the philosophical basis for questioning copyright law.

However, if we stick to the traffic rules bit:

Your "yes" is to which question, just to be clear: You're suggesting that every jot and tittle of governmental regulation in our lives now defines sin for us?

If the state trooper doesn't start even warning people until they're 3-4 miles over the posted limit, then what, actually, is the limit? The trooper is the "government" on the road, after all. You seem to be assuming that governmental statutes are to be treated analagously to Scripture, where previous, written revelation trumps whatever a later individual may say. But that is patently not how our government operates, especially in the judicial system. The written law is merely the starting point, upon which later case law then provides "authoritative" interpretation of that law. For instance, everyone raise your hand who still believes America operates primarily according to the US Constitution.

As for picking and choosing which regulations to follow: my point is that we have no choice. The sheer weight and volume of regulation that is written to cover every single aspect of our lives makes this a certainty, especially once we go to our places of employment.

You are already picking and choosing: with the traffic law, you're harping on the rule we all know about. Is that the standard for sin? That I know the law? So ignorance IS an excuse, then? If it's sinful for your home to have vent ducts less than 18" above the ceiling joices, I'm sure you've poured through your local codes to make certain you're meeting all of those sorts of things. To do otherwise would (apparently) be to offend a holy God.

And again, with the speed limit, the practical fact is that the limit is flexible, based upon how the individual officer feels at the moment. If I go by the officer 3 mph over the limit and he simply waves at me, have I sinned, since the government has tacitly approved of my actions?

On a larger issue, your suggested mode for approaching obedience to the government would mean the elimination of all forms of civil disobedience, as in public demonstrations, etc. Maybe you intend this as well, but it seems to me that at some point, we are all forced to "pick and choose" which regulations to ignore and when. The only questions then surround the reasons and motivations for said choices.

I'll answer your hypothetical about me going 85 in a 65, if you'll answer my question about digging through the mountains of regulation to insure that you are not "sinning" in even the most nit-picky fashion.

Yes, I would slow down as I approached the officer if I was going 85 in a 65. That, however, would not be based on a conviction of sin in my heart. It would be based on my desire to avoid paying that sized of a fine. On the other hand, I have a particular 100 mile round trip to make every weekend, and I routinely set my cruise control for at least 10 mph above the posted speed. This particular road is not well-traveled, is practically unpopulated, and it is not routinely patrolled: I don't feel that I'm endangering anyone at all. As it stands, I am willing to make that trade-off, saving myself some time versus the off-hand chance that a police officer might actually be on that road. If he is, and he tickets me, fine, I'll pay that price and be back out the next day. And I won't feel at all like I need to repent of anything before God. I've played the government's little speed limit game by their rules and lost on this instance. I can live with that. How will the government feel about me? Will I be a nasty sinning rebel in their eyes? No, I'll be a contributor to the department's general fund, and that's all.

Robert said...

Points well taken...

Only one comment from me on your last speed roulette example:

I was a "minor traffic rule breaker"...just like you; when it seemed safe, when it seemed like traffic allowed...etc..

One morning at 5am going to work...I "slowly rolled" through a few stop signs. I live in a very small town, nobody out in cars at 5 place of work 5 minutes away...all ripe for this kind of decision to be made.

A city cop stopped me and asked me about what I did...I argued with him about it, it's severity etc.

After I had done that I realized something...I brought reproach on the name of Christ...I was the same as any unregenerate person trying to get out of a traffic ticket...even if I wasn't embarrassed over what I could I look this guy in the eye and hand him a tract or witness to him? I couldn't.

My friend, fronted me up...and asked what other laws of the land do I disobey? He suggested that I write the office a letter of apology and ask his forgivness for my attitude.

I did that and haven't rolled through a stop, or sped since, and I'm none worse for the wear..

And as I identify other areas of my life that hold sin...I remove them also as I am able...

I'm not up on building codes but when I find out that I knowingly have a sitable issue with my dwelling...I'll get it fixed...

God bless,

Gordan Runyan said...

Bob, I hear what you're saying, but let's agree that you're talking about speeding being potentially embarrassing to us when it comes time to pass out a tract or something. That sort of thing is going to have a lot to do with our personalities. Your own scruples may be more easily wounded than someone else's for instance.

However, I grew up in a "law enforcement community" home and let me try to assuage your conscience on this one: police officers hate doing traffic citations more than we hate getting them, generally speaking. And, honestly, they don't have a tarnished image of the otherwise-decent citizen that they just stopped to warn about rolling ever-so-slowly through a four-way stop. They commit the very same violations, unintentionally or not, and they know it. They see so much other, horrendous stuff out there, that you going a couple of mph too fast on a rural highway isn't going to suddenly tarnish their opinion of you. You don't become a criminal, scum-of-society for stuff like that.

You might actually get creative with your tract in that moment and say something like, "I really appreciate the warning, officer, and since we'd surely agree that the occasional warning is a good thing for all of us, let me give you this tract that will tell you all about your coming appointment with the ultimate Judge." (Said with an extremely polite tone and smile...)

Robert said...

We definitely don't agree on this one BUT...I'm going to steal your "give a tract during a ticket" line...well done on that...


Martha A. said...

I applaud you in your decision. It may seem like a small thing, but most of the homeschool materials we really like and use were written by people who worked hard to write it, publish it and are usually attempting to use that as a great part of their income and they are Christian people.
For the ones who think you are wrong, if you went through all the work to write a schoolbook, publish it and then sold it to someone, hoping they will enjoy it enough to want to use it for other children and yet they copy the same book over and over and therefore often go out of business because of it, causing the book to become rare and you are not able to repurchase it ever if need be.