Monday, October 24, 2011

Piracy in the name of the Lord?

Last week I mused about the problem of finding eBooks for exegetical research. It may have been obvious that I was not very happy with the policies of Logos Bible Software as they recently rescinded permission for libraries to use their products at all. Nevertheless, we must respect the company's right to govern the use of their product in any way they see fit.

But I didn't just uninstall our licenses without question. When asked, the reason they gave for tightening their terms of agreement was pirating. They believed that when given access, people made illegal copies of their software.

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I was incensed at such a ridiculous claim. After all, this is a Christian university. Who else would be using their Bible software in the Darling Library but adherents of the Bible? Although there is much debate over many of its teachings, the Bible is pretty clear on the point that stealing is wrong. Even nonbelievers agree with that. Therefore, pirating is not a problem on Christian college campuses. Right?

Unfortunately, I could not defend my brothers and sisters with integrity. I have seen with my own eyes a student looking over their shoulder as they "anonymously" returned a stack of Reference books (which cannot be checked out) to the outside book drop when they didn't realize that our tinted windows are like one-way mirrors--they can't see inside, but we can see out. We have found pages skillfully cut from biblical commentaries and have uncovered missing copies of Theological Dictionaries in the dorms after everyone has moved out for the summer. Books are "improperly borrowed" from our library on a regular basis. Knowing this, how could I say that their fear of piracy is unfounded?

People ask me how any Christian students could think that this is okay. Do they not understand the concept of stewardship and the library's role in caring for the resources entrusted to us? Do they not "get" that these resources belong to the HIU community, not the library or to one individual? Is it a simple disrespect for the needs of their brothers and sisters who also rely on these shared resources? I suspect that some think that because they are "about the Lord's work" they are above short-sighted library circulation rules. And they do not know that the library would be happy to hear compelling reasons why a policy should be changed or an exception should be made.

According to the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education put forth by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), one of the characteristics of an information literate person is that they "understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally."  We want our students to be information literate.

But a Christian university holds a higher standard for its students. At Hope we not only seek to produce alumni who are information literate but who hold a Christian worldview.

I believe that by-and-large our students do hold themselves to a higher standard. But we need more than a feeling to convince publishers and distributors that their property is safe with us. We need evidence that our students understand the issues and that they do what is right when they think no one is looking.

Perhaps an exegetical study of Romans 13 is in order.

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