Raising the Bar of Ethics

A Christian bookshop was involved in the rocket of selling pirated CDs and DVDs at a lesser price to attract customers. This shop would price them at 30% of the cost of the genuine ones. In another instance, a Christian publisher breached the agreement and printed more than permitted quantity and there was no response to the query from the copyright owner. Obviously, the ease of doing things and getting bigger revenue had driven these two cases too far from ethics. Such an instance is the tip of the iceberg of a serious violation of ethical norms.

Visual ethics is an emerging interdisciplinary field of scholarship that brings together religious studies, philosophy, photo and video journalism, visual arts, and cognitive science in order to explore the ways human beings relate to others ethically through visual perception. (Wikipedia)
Communication keeps evolving together with the technology and provides new tools and channels for visual appeal. The visual expression gets quicker, stronger and goes viral. Social media has accelerated the dissemination of visual information to large extent globally. We are able to create images and videos with or without texts. Morphing images is not difficult and photos of celebrities are photoshopped to remove their blemishes. Since mobile apps have simplified the task of making videos, this art is no longer a rocket science.

Plenty of channels and tools are available to make our communication effective and impressive with images, video clips, text, effects, etc. Both print and electronic forms are important because of their distinct natures and scope. Depending on the audience’s need, we need to choose the medium and follow certain principles of integrity in the process. Our mandate is to reach others with the biblical message of transformation. Here are a few areas to stay ethically upright as in our mission of transmission.

Print Media

Circulation and reproduction of part(s) of any publication are bound by the copyright, which details are given on the impression page. For reproducing articles from a magazine, written permission from the editor needs to be obtained and the same has to be acknowledged at the end of the article when published. It is an intellectual property of author(s) and publisher. Failing to comply is like barging into another person’s property for robbery.

Usage of Images

For a publication, the images on the cover or inside have to be either the own photograph, artwork or downloaded from free websites. Images from sites like shutterstock.com can be used only after purchasing and not by downloading the preview images.

Using the Content

The content of any book from cover to cover belongs to the author or the publisher. Unless a written permission is obtained for storing in physical or electronic form for reuse, it is prohibited. One must not resort to plagiarism and similar illegal use of others’ intellectual properties, like ideas, and thoughts. Acknowledging the source or referred resource in bibliographical format is a basic etiquette in writing. This applies to online references/resources and full URL has to be mentioned in the acknowledgement.

The technology is so handy that any book can be photocopied or converted into PDFs as well. Floating PDFs among groups is evidence of this fact. Even costly books and Bibles are not spared from this sort of abuse. As responsible stewards, we should create awareness and curtail such habits in us and in others. There are some e-books meant for free circulation, which can be shared with as many as desired. ‘Freely received and freely given’ doesn’t apply sweepingly. Freely sharing the copyrighted materials is weaken the efforts of publishers and deter their endeavours. As Christian publishing has become expensive and less profitable now, such violations multiply the woes. For this very reason, in UESI Publication Trust, we introduced the policy by which no soft copy of IVP India publications is shared, though there were several requests.


Similarly, images are also the properties of artists/designers. The Images that get arrayed in a search are to be used as specified by the person who uploaded the image/art/photo. If this basic principle is ignored, we do steal someone’s handiwork of creativity. Images in the Google search are available under different criteria, such as labelled for reuse, labelled for reuse with modification, labelled for non-commercial use, etc. In the image search, under tools option all the above would appear. Taking images from others’ blogs/websites are bound by the rights usually found at the end of the page.


While creating the videos, dialogues, images, and music we need to abide by the mandated rights. Any CD and DVD on a professional topic need to be reproduced with proper permission, instead of copying and distributing.


Many templates are available for creating designs, PPTs, pamphlets, brochures, etc. As we enjoy the fruits of some volunteers’ labour, we too can upload our original creations for the benefit of many of us globally.

Logo Designs

The logo is a vital aspect of branding of an organization. Certainly, there must have been lots of brainstorming, the rationale behind a logo and tag line. These are to be respected and never altered in the pretext of customization. A Google search for “UESI logo” will load a flood of designs. This multiplicity of designs is a result of lack of awareness and adherence to the guidelines. UESI logo design has been circulated along with usage guidelines through Yahoo groups, and the same is available with UESI Communication Department for anyone who asks for.

Our Standard

The Decalogue in Exodus 20 clearly defines the ethical standard of God’s people, which can be classified into two – relationship with God and relationship with one another. It begins with worshipping and revering God, moves on to respecting and honouring people. It clearly lays out a set of prohibition on dishonouring, disturbing, and debilitating one another. In the New Testament, Jesus redefined offence but the very thought and attitude of harming others. The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of graphical description of the later part of the Decalogue which deals about our relationship with fellow human beings. Hence, misuse of others’ rights, ideas, and properties (including intellectual) is a violation according to God’s code of conduct.


Overall our communication has to stand-out as unique and totally free from plagiarism. There are some helpful online tools
(eg. www.paperrater.com) come to aid. Information and images come repeatedly through social media. So the videos/images/text/songs we share are going to reach many, beyond boundaries of religion, nationality, culture, and language. Keeping this in mind, we need to aim at a positive influence on the audience. All our attempts need to be ethically sound with a clear redemptive intent. We are called to bring healing to the hurt, hope to the hopeless, and shape to shambles. When our lives are truly built on the biblical principles, respecting and acknowledging others (their efforts) become spontaneous. We live in a time when exploitation of people and their rights are common; nevertheless, we must never succumb to any kind of unethical practice. May our saltiness infuse the biblical values and life of light guide others.

P. John Jebaraj James
The author is a staff with UESI serving as Zonal Sec’y for East Zone and in-charge of Missions. He lives in Chennai with his wife Joy Esther Jebaraj actively involved in and son Jadon Jebaraj.

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