Argument by Theological Authority

Theft is forbidden by the seventh commandment in Catholicism, which states “You shall not steal” (“Life in Christ”). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “unjustly taking or keeping the goods” of another and “wronging him in any way with respect to his goods” is a sin. Copyright infringement constitutes the idea that the intellectual property of one person has been stolen by someone else. This, along with the confusion surrounding Fair Use in that it “provides no guidance for distinguishing between acceptable and excessive levels,” creates an environment in which a person cannot properly differentiate whether or not his or her actions are moral (Leval). Thus, since a person may not be able to properly differentiate what theft is in regards to the copyright law, he or she may inadvertently wrong another individual without knowledge to the wrongdoing.

Beyond the consequence of inadvertently stealing the work of another, there is also the dilemma of high court costs in intellectual property cases. The issue of fair use and copyright, when considering the purpose of the Copyright law, boils down to the financial gains or losses in the intellectual property market. The original copyright law, the Statute of Anne, was created in order to prevent the financial “ruin of” authors “and their families” by securing the rights to “copies of printed books in the authors or purchasers of such copies” (“The Statute of Anne”). The United States’ Copyright law is similar in its system, ensuring “Authors and Inventors” certain rights to their “Writings and Discoveries” (Pallante). Even the Fair Use Doctrine deals with money in its fourth factor, “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” (“Section 107”).

When allegations of copyright infringement are made and brought to court, these accusations can bring about massive court costs. These court costs are far too high for people to afford with average costs of intellectual property litigation between 1.2 and 12 million dollars (Graham and Zeebroeck). Such costs would cause extreme hardship for individuals and their families. Government institutions and the “economy exist for” the people, not the other way around. Such large costs would unfairly penalize the accused and their families, and would prevent these people from fulfilling the call to “provide the needs of their families.” In addition, these costs would discourage people from participating in intellectual creativity that would promote innovation through arts and sciences, and, as a result, hinder creative individuals from meeting their “obligation to contribute to the broader society” (“A Catholic Framework for Economic Life”). Thus, the Fair Use Doctrine should be amended to be clearer in its meaning of what constitutes as fair use through the addition of a definition of transformative use which would define a line between fair and unfair use of copyrighted material.

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