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Jen wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What would be our obligation in responding to piracy?
  • I am aware that we should discourage injustice, but would this mean we need to report illegal activity of others to the authorities?


  { What is our obligation in responding to piracy; should we report illegal activity to the authorities? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Jen —

Thanks for the question.

We should report it to the proper authorities, if it truly falls into this category.

Here is what the Catechism tells us:

III. Offenses Against Truth.
2480 Every word or attitude is forbidden which by flattery, adulation, or complaisance encourages and confirms another in malicious acts and perverse conduct. Adulation is a grave fault if it makes one an accomplice in another's vices or grave sins. Neither the desire to be of service nor friendship justifies duplicitous speech. Adulation is a venial sin when it only seeks to be agreeable, to avoid evil, to meet a need, or to obtain legitimate advantages.

While not directly related to the questions you have asked, you may be interested in similar web postings which I have appended at the end of this web posting under Similar Issues . . .

I also found this portion of the Catechism interesting reading:

The Morality of Human Acts.

1749 Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil.

I. The Sources of Morality

1750 The morality of human acts depends on:

  1. the object chosen;
  2. the end in view or the intention;
  3. the circumstances of the action.

The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the sources, or constitutive elements, of the morality of human acts.

1751 The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.

1752 In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. Intention is not limited to directing individual actions, but can guide several actions toward one and the same purpose; it can orient one's whole life toward its ultimate end.

For example, a service done with the end of helping one's neighbor can at the same time be inspired by the love of God as the ultimate end of all our actions. One and the same action can also be inspired by several intentions, such as performing a service in order to obtain a favor or to boast about it.

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one's neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving). (cf Matthew 6:24)

1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent's responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.

Hope this helps,


Eric replied:


This is my personal opinion.

I'm assuming you're referring to intellectual property piracy. If not, see the maritime security hot line. I wouldn't bother reporting individuals making their own private copies to anyone, any more than I'd report an ordinary speeder to the police or someone making photocopies at work to a manager. The police wouldn't pay attention to such reports anyway; they have more important things to do.

If you have an individual who is selling pirated software, music, films, or making it available over the Internet to the public, that's a different question. If possible, you should try to alert the person to the fact, that what they are doing is wrong. If that doesn't work, you can report it to the publisher of the music in question.

Software piracy by businesses can be reported via No Piracy — Report Piracy Now! I still don't think the police will get involved unless a publisher presses them, and besides the person deserves a warning, especially if it's a teenager. If you make such reports, it's important to make them clear and concise. If you have any type of desire for revenge against the person, I wouldn't make a report. In any case, making a formal report should be your last step after exhausting all other possibilities.

As for whether you must make a report, I'd follow my conscience. I'm not sure we can lay down hard and fast rules. It depends on the situation. If not reporting it:

  • makes it hard to sleep at night, or
  • you have a nagging feeling it's just the right thing to do,

then perhaps you should. You must obey the certain judgment of your conscience, even if it may mean losing your job.


Similar issues . . .

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