What Happens When You Steal a Bible

There are some business advantages to serving pastors and Bible students. In conversation with other business people I have observed that we have less theft, piracy, fraud, and credit-card charge-backs than most businesses. Our customers pay their bills. Our product isn’t the theft target that music and sneakers are. Unfortunately, there are still people who, for reasons both selfish and self-righteous, don’t seem to mind stealing Bible software.

The anti-piracy features in Logos Bible Software aren’t super-secure. Serial numbers, registration, etc. are more for letting us restore lost licenses than for locking down users. We want enough security that stealing the software requires conscious, deliberate (and usually pretty technical) effort, while creating the minimal inconvenience for honest users. But for the determined thief, there’s no lock that can’t be picked and no software that can’t be copied.

In this week’s mail I received an envelope from a professor, obtained from one of his students. It contained a home-made DVD-ROM and instructions on installing a pirated version of our software. Step 2 in the detailed instructions installs the stolen licenses. Step 5 encourages the thief to “Study to shew thyself approved ;-) (2tim 3:15)”.

It is always disappointing to see such deliberate piracy. But years ago we decided that we weren’t going to get too upset about it.

Because if you want to steal the Bible, we want you to have it.

Because if you read it, and apply it, and let it change your life, you might write a letter like the one I found in the same stack of mail:

The writer confessed to having purchased and returned a copy of Logos Bible Software v1.6 in order to use the sales receipt for a discount on upgrading to Logos Bible Software v2.0. Back in 1995.

And now, 11 years later, he feels convicted about his dishonesty, confessing it as part of an old life style of stealing, shop-lifting, etc. He enclosed a check for the value of the returned software, plus interest, and asked for our forgiveness and blessing.

What a blessing it is to be building tools to help people study God’s Word. And to be in a position to see, side-by-side and on the same day, such evidences of our sinful tendencies and of the power of the Word to convict us of them.


  1. Questions of software piracy and Christian ethics are a relatively new question for most of us. The definition of “stealing” has always been a bit obscure when it comes to matters of faith. For example, the Bible says that not tithing is actually stealing. I am a pastor, but I have never accused anyone of breaking this sin of stealing by not tithing what they owe God. Perhaps part of the reason why it is easy to “steal” in our culture is that much stealing is against “companies” which are large and anonymous and everyone assumes have plenty of money (and maybe even insurance). But on the other hands, I know students at a nearby seminary who are struggling to get through on almost nothing, and if came down to paying their bills or “stealing” a Bible program, I think they would choose the latter as the lesser of two evils. I don’t know?

  2. Interesting thought…”if came down to paying their bills or “stealing” a Bible program, I think they would choose the latter as the lesser of two evils”. Those students are responsible to pay thier bills, but no one is forcing them to buy/steal a Bible program. (I made it through seminary without it.) I would assume that the right thing to do would be to just go without the Bible program until they could afford it. Or even better, put it on a Christmas wish list for mom and dad!

  3. Steve Wratt says:

    My observation is that (most) people will gladly pay the price when they perceive value for money in a product. The Logos Bible study software falls into that category for me. The ability to choose a base product and then add additional titles that suit my needs provides great flexibility. If there was only a top-of-line version with one high price tag, I suggest that many would either not purchase or, sadly, find ways to obtain the product without paying for it. I have purchased the Bible Study Library version which to me respresented the best choice in terms of content versus affordability at the time. This is the most expensive piece of software I have ever purchased to date. However, I must say that as I have come to find out the capabilities of it, I am more impressed each day. Because the basic elements are included in all versions people should know that they are not buying a “light” version and missing out on the great capabilities that Logos has to offer. Not all of us are, or even aspire to be, Greek or Hebrew scholars but this product enables us to search the Scriptures most throughly with even the basic Bibles and other texts provided. This alone makes the product worth its cost. Make sure you always tell customers this and may your sales increase accordingly.

  4. Gary Crossman says:

    I am so happy that the Kingdom of God has good men like you with Godly wisdom and insight. You’ve made more than a great product, you’ve produced a noble business. May Father continue to give you strength and endurance in His work.

  5. John Crupper says:

    A blog along this same line appeared some time back written by Craig Rairdin of Laridian. It regarded attempts to download unpaid-for copies of Pocket Bible software. The link is: http://blog.laridian.com/?p=27
    John Crupper

  6. This post was chosen for the inaugural (and experimental) “This Week in Early Writings.”

  7. Bruce you wrote,
    “I would assume that the right thing to do would be to just go without the Bible program until they could afford it.”
    The problem is that many students in a nearby seminary that I know of are required to purchase expensive bible software for their classes as well as expensive plug-ins (such as HALOT and BDAG). I hear the cries of their groaning and I feel compassion on them (as God says of Israel in Egypt). When a seminary student is in a class, he/she does not have time to put it on the Christmas list. I think perhaps seminaries and other schools that require the use of this software ought to rethink the student/school responsibility in purchasing this software to make it available to the students rather than just require them to go down to the bookstore and drop $600+ on a single item perhaps putting it on the credit card.
    Although, I will admit that when I was in college and seminary I somehow managed to purchase tons of Bible software and made it a big priority. In fact I have purchased almost every new version of Logos and BibleWorks since they have come out.
    BTW, Bob I am not trying to put a wrinkle in your post or the good product that Logos is. I love Logos and I love your company, but I am struggling with the ethical implications of software piracy just as I am with the ethical issues that my parishioners bring to me from their own lives.

  8. Tom Rowley says:

    Theft has sort of lost its stigma these days. Digital theft is easy, no other human has to know, and it’s often perceived as an accepted practice. I have had some heated debates with folks and it there are 4 primary questions that come up in the discussion.
    1. “is stealing EVER justified?”
    2. “is it OK to steal from the rich?”
    3. “is it OK to exact your own vigilante form of retribution for a percieved injustice?”
    4. “everyone is doing it, why shouldn’t I?”.
    #4 is laughable, but it seems to be a factor in people’s decisions
    Most people I’ve talked to, when probed on the topic, don’t have a very good justification for why they are running a “borrowed” (euphomism) version of Windows or Office XP. I think it’s the simplicity of it and the perception that it’s widely done. Some persons who don’t have a strong sense of right and wrong (internally) guiding them will cave into tempatation. If a person relies soley on the civil laws (and enforcement of said laws) to deter their sinful impulses, then their path is guided by external, and ever-changing, forces. Contrast this to the person with convictions, and a strong sense of right and wrong. This person’s path is guided by internal forces that probably remain fairly constant.

  9. Gratia vobis, et pax
    Software piracy has been a problem since the first digital media was created. It was wrong then and is wrong now. My brother was a software engineer in the days when he wrote his own business software which he sold and installed (and that was 20 years ago). Even working on a Honeywell DPS-6, he was concerned that someone could, or would, steal his intellectual property and had to find ways to ensure that software pirates were unsuccessful.
    I, for one, really appreciate the fact that Logos allows us to fully install the program and resources on our hard drive – I cannot imagine the nightmare we would face if Logos attempted to implement the crippling technology of Abingdon’s use of Folio software where the program is installed on the hard drive but the CD must be in the drive to actually use the resources for that program. I am extremely frustrated with Abingdon, but there is no workaround and my productivity is extremely limited when using even the few products from their repertoire that I do own.
    I greatly appreciate the fact that I can have a single copy of my Libronix software on both my home and church office computers. That one fact certainly makes life much easier for me as I spend as much time in sermon preparation and Bible study at the house as I do at the office.
    A member of my congregation is in the business of building computers (he’s built a couple for me, and one for my daughter, and has upgraded and updated a couple of others for the family). I am proud of his ethics — he won’t install illegal software (period). And, he continually bemoans the fact that others in the industry (in his chosen profession) see nothing wrong with violating the software licenses of products they install. He’s told me some real horror stories.
    Just recently, another member of my congregation saw the box for one of my Libronix software collections setting on top of my computer. He asked if he could install it on his computer at the house. I said “sure but it won’t run, because it’s already installed and registered to my computer.” I’m sure he did not really think of this as stealing, and must have thought that it wouldn’t hurt if he just “borrowed” my software and installed it on his computer. Alas, he looked rather downhearted as he walked away without the software package even after I told him where he could buy a copy just like it.
    And then, there is my own license (and my own ethics). I have owned Logos software since I got the opportunity to give up my QuickVerse (I think it was QVWin ver 6) software and move to Logos with a “competitive upgrade” discount for making the switch (I found an ad in Christian Computing Magazine).
    Yes, I could have continued to use the old product *AND* the new, but I bought Logos as a competitive upgrade and while I struggled in the transition between platforms – the ethical (the moral, the right) thing to do was put away the other program and move on. And, you know what? I haven’t missed it either (oh, I thought I would, but I haven’t). Yes, I could given that software to anyone else, which would have allowed them to get discounted upgrade pricing through the years. But that wouldn’t have been right either.
    At the office, I wanted my secretary to have access to Bible software on her computer. Yes, I could have simply [circumvented copyright protection]; probably, no one would have known otherwise. But, I purchased a boxed set for her church office computer and have since added additional packages when they were on sale through Logos, Nelson, and RCS. No, I did not buy her a “Gold” edition as I’m running, and she doesn’t have all the commentaries I have, but that’s not what she needed for her computer use.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not generous to a fault – I did claim the lawful tax deduction for a contribution-in-kind to the church for the full purchase price (including shipping and handling). I’m certainly not independently wealthy, and while I insist on being ethical, I see nothing unethical about taking advantage of the tax laws in this country.
    Similarly, I wanted my daughter and granddaughter to expand their Bible knowledge and skills. Again, I could have simply loaded my software on their machine and no one would have been the wiser (except me and them). But, what kind of message would I (as a pastor, a father, and grandfather) have been sending to my family about studying the Bible if they got their start with purloined software?
    I don’t write this to toot my own horn, or to tout my own ethical superiority – suffice it to say that I am a sinner, saved by grace, and I have my weaknesses and short comings. But, I had a choice over the years and have made what I see as the only choice a Christian could make under these circumstances. Ultimately, it was simply the right thing to do.
    Thanks Bob, et al, for all the hard work at the Logos offices, thanks for the software, the resources, and for allowing us to be part of the process.
    Pax vobiscum

  10. I, sadly, have to weigh in on this topic.
    Up until recently, I called myself a Christian but yet had a computer full of “pirated” software, including bible software. I KNEW it was wrong but I did it anyway…why? It all boils down to one thing…either serving God by your obedience or rebelling against Him by your disobedience. Who will you serve today? Anyone who is a regular reader of the bible will instantly know that the idea of “your fruits” being evidence of what you are.
    I do a fair amount of evangelising, so I have the opportunity to talk to the unsaved and other Christians on a weekly basis about sin and judgment. Everyone reacts the same when confronted with their sins…they justify; saved and unsaved alike. We don’t want to submit to God.
    No amount of anti-pirating measures will keep you from pirating software. Only God’s law written in your heart, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will.
    One side-benefit is that when you’re obedient to Him out of devotion, giving up “free” software will make you jump for joy at knowing that you’re pleasing your Father by your actions; that will take away the sting of paying for what you have. And if you really want free bible software…its out there.
    Thanks for a great product.

  11. Jesus didnt sell the truth
    He did take offerings.

  12. t is not the people who are attaining the software by “illegal” means but rather the people who would charge and put a monetary value and seek to collect that value for a service to Gods people who are selfish and self righteous. How can you steal information??? Especially Gods Word. Can one raise there hand who really believes God intended us as Christians to sell, barter and profit from the study and enlightenment of his word!!!??? im tired of the greed!!!!!!!! And even worse the greed of men that claim to come in the name of God and his son Jesus Christ. The makers of this product truly and utterly loved God and followed the teachings Jesus the Christ it would be FREE!!!!! How many of Jesus sermons had a cover charge!!!!???? You find the scripture and let me know!!! But somewhere along the timeline of sin and greed engraining itself in us we as men thought that we should profit and seek to line our own pockets from Gods love and word!!! I challenge all who would turn away and stand between one of Gods children from bettering themselves and growing closer to him through his word for lack of “the all mighty dollar” to seek Gods face first and see what he has to say… then come back and tell me exactly why men shouldn’t be on your nearest street corner freely handing this product out with open hearts and wide smiles… oh I get it, Its too hard to follow the teachings and love of Jesus if it doesn’t add a couple zeros to ur bank account huh? it would be too much like right if these men and women who claimed to love Jesus and his people toiled and did all this work developing this product just to see humanity grow closer to God with no gain for themselves… I just want one good scripturally based reason that anyone should be charged hundreds of dollars to learn the Word of God which was given to every single Man woman and child that God spoke to in the Bible for ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!!!!! Think about it and get back to me. Can just one of you say that you would not feel convicted if someone asked to use your software and you said “sure just give me 400 dollars and its urs” and if you can, you are indeed not a True follower of Jesus Christ but of Satan. I REPEAT JESUS NEVER CHARGED A NICKEL FOR A SERMON YET WE THINK IT ACCEPTABLE TO ASK HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS TO “HELP” OUR FELLOW MAN GROW CLOSER IN HIS WORD. Id really love to know how exactly the Holy Spirit led men to charge such an enormous fee for Gods knowledge… or was it the hearts of greedy men?? so I think the question here should be rather “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SELL A BIBLE?”

  13. Seminaries do (or should) let prospective students know ahead of time what the extra costs will be for books and fees on top of tuition. So a person should weigh wisely whether they can afford the WHOLE THING before attending seminary. Getting there and then stealing books or software because you can’t afford it as a starving seminary student is no excuse.
    Unfortunately it happens all the time, though. The bookstore at the seminary I attended was a common victim. Some unethical students would buy the textbooks, read them (including sometimes folding, spindling and mutilating them), and then return them for their money back after a few weeks. I found a “new” book on the shelf once with someone else’s underlining in it. I also once saw someone sitting on the floor in the bookstore reading their class assignment in one of their textbooks “borrowed” off the shelf of the bookstore, as if it were a library. Hmm… (Well, I’ll admit to once running into the bookstore to look up a word in a dictionary to settle a spelling challenge in a Scrabble game in the atrium.)

  14. the only time that Jesus showed anger during his time on earth involved merchandise in the temple.
    perhaps some of the pirates want the software because they don’t have the money, not because they’re greedy about what money they have.
    perhaps those pirates will give money back to God once they have it.
    perhaps those same pirates think that intellectual property is a total sham. (especially when the intellectual truth contained in the software belongs to God)
    I am one of those pirates.
    The real question should be “What happens when you sell a Bible?”
    Jesus will righteously flip over your table and hit you with a whip.

  15. I use e-sword, and I was told that Logos is superior in many ways. I’d like to have a high end product, but I have no money (I’ll go back to school in the Fall for a graduate degree since nobody is hiring, maybe things will change in 2-3 years), would somebody donate me a Logos 4 high end?
    thanks in advance.
    I don’t want to steal it.
    “Ask and it will be given unto you.”

  16. and here is my email if anyone wants to get in touch with me.

  17. Such bad folk, exactly why do they really feel the need to do this?