Spiritual Property Theft

a graphic of a masked thief of intellectual or spiritual property evading a policeman

(Image credit: Montage by author, unmodified graphic by Mohamed Hasen/Pixabay)

Josef enjoyed his work as senior engineer at Applied Technological Counter-analysis Systems. He emigrated to the United States from Europe more than 35 years ago and became a U.S. citizen several years later. He had always considered the United States to be a place of innovation and promise. Numerous patents were in his portfolio, along with electronic part designs and technical drawings for potential government communication equipment.

His son Giorgio is a professional musician and filmmaker whose name can be found on more than 26 different albums on the market. Many of his films have successfully made their way through the global film market, including more than 10 documentaries which have been nominated for, or have won, top awards. Josef’s daughter, Maria, an artist, author, and website designer, has also won numerous accolades for her work. Many of her books have risen to the national bestseller lists.

But over the past several years, Josef has grown increasingly aware of unusual activity both at work and at home. His biggest suspicion arose after an unexpected visit by several old classmates from the college he attended in Europe. Their visit was congenial, and all were very eager to examine his design work and read many reports he had archived long ago. One claimed to be researching material for a documentary he was writing, but whenever Josef inquired about it, a vague answer was the only reply.

His son and daughter also discovered their work in parts of the world where they have no distribution network. Maria was visiting an Asian country recently where she discovered a painting of hers for sale. She was alarmed that the signature on it was not hers, and that there were ten more just like it! She had never painted more than one of any of her works at any point in her career. Another time, Giorgio heard a song that he wrote and performed being played on a child’s music player, with no credit being given to him. It was a low quality counterfeit of one from a major toy manufacturer. They have even found some of their movies, books and poetry redistributed under someone else’s name.

The final straw came when Josef’s employer recently approached him about a design he had drawn up for a government contract the company had secured. That design had taken him many weeks to put together. Now the company wanted to know why a foreign manufacturer had not only already put the design into actual production, but had also released it for sale to the wholesale industrial market. After much consultation and collaboration with the government and the company’s legal department, Josef found that he, his company, and his children had all been victims of intellectual property (IP) theft.

This story is fictitious, but the actual concept is all too real. IP theft is a serious and difficult crime to combat that has been increasing steadily for several decades. Intellectual property basically consists of ownership of an intellectual creation, i.e., something that a person comes up from his own mind. It can include, but is not limited to: formulas, logos, books, movies, software, works of art, inventions, copyrights, trademarks, patents, literature, trade secrets, and client lists.

Losses due to IP theft add up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. As nations are becoming more globally connected, IP theft will only continue to rise. While economic loss is a significant part of the problem, the negative impact on creators of intellectual property can be just as great also. The vast amount of creative labor now being exploited is already incalculable. As technology advances by leaps and bounds, it won’t be long before no amount of government intervention will be able to fully reign in all of the counterfeiting and piracy of goods and ideas.

Yet an even greater kind of thievery has already been active for many centuries, which could be called “spiritual property” theft.

This happens when the devil counterfeits what God has created or instituted. The devil, once known as Lucifer, was the greatest of the angels and the choirmaster of Heaven. He tried to capitalize on his superiority by attempting to commit mutiny against God Himself. This resulted in him being thrown out of Heaven, along with a third of the other angels he also managed to deceive. Ever since then, he has surreptitiously continued to try to thwart and overthrow God. As the great deceiver, he makes every effort to make a nearly identical replica of the works of God in order to deceive us. He knows that he cannot successfully attack God directly, but he can attack through us, who were created “in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1) and are the dearest to His heart.

The devil constantly tries to get us out of God’s hand. He wants us to give up, turn against God, and come back into his world. Then he can boast to God about how His plan doesn’t work. The world is really just a battleground between the devil and God, with us caught up in the middle! This is why “spiritual” property theft is a far greater offense than anything else in this world. The Bible says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).

The devil cannot create anything original; therefore he mimics, duplicates, or outright steals the works of God.

Thousands of years of experience observing the human race has made him extremely knowledgeable about man, to the point that he knows even more about us than we know about ourselves. He well knows how to deceive us to the point that we might even believe that he is Jesus Himself. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Therefore, as believers in Christ, it is imperative that we rightly establish ourselves in our relationship with Him. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We are to look solely to Him, not some cheap imitation who will only lead us astray. Jesus is true and genuine; all else is just a lousy counterfeit. When He sacrificed His life on the cross and then rose again, He took away the ground for the devil to stand on. Jesus warned us to “…take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8).

With intellectual property theft, the value of the created item or idea is reduced as more and more pirated items are acquired, up to the point that the original creation becomes worthless. When we fall for the fake material that the devil promotes as genuine, in place of the real work of God, we do the same thing spiritually. We ultimately make God and His Son of no worth and thereby nullify our relationship with Him. The answer to spiritual property theft is Jesus. Let’s draw near to God in prayer and really seek His face, desiring of Him only that which is true. The more time spent with our Creator and in His Word, the less likely we will be led astray by the imitations of the devil.