Who hasn’t encountered the “watch free movies online” Google search? Most millennials certainly have. But just because it’s possible to watch “Jurassic World” free online, doesn’t mean it’s right. The question remains, is watching pirated movies and sports wrong?

“It is clear that if you accept pirated material you are breaking the law,” said Mark Alfino, professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Watching pirated videos involves more personal judgement, said the professor.

To determine whether an act is moral, it must be broken down into its three parts — object, intention and circumstance, says Father Tim Furlow, administrator of St. Patrick Parish in Portland and a moral theologian. An act’s object is the thing being discussed. The intention is the intended result of carrying out the act. The circumstance is everything else surrounding the act. In order to have a good act, both the object and intention must be good, says Father Furlow.

For example, a man is taking a woman on a date and they pass a homeless man on the street. The man decides he wants to impress the woman, so he gives the homeless man $100. The act is evil because although the object is good, the intention — pride — is evil.

“Pirating is something that is basically stealing,” says Father Furlow. A person is taking intellectual property from a company that hired staff for and produced a product. Today, pirated videos usually are downloaded online from files saved on other people’s computers. So a person buys a copy of the video and saves it to their computer, using technology to allow others to download the video. The violation is in the act itself. Stealing intellectual property is against civil law.

“We are called to obey civil law in so far as civil law conforms to natural law and canon law,” says Father Furlow. In this case, it does.

“We as Christians say that’s not an unjustified law,” adds the priest. “You wouldn’t steal a DVD from someone’s house. You wouldn’t walk into their house, take a DVD, copy it and distribute it to others. ... At its core, it is wrong. It’s a justified civil law.”

This doesn’t mean, of course, that charity can’t lead us to let a friend borrow the DVD. But they don’t have the right to copy and distribute it.

The issue has changed in recent years, said Alfino. Many youths who pirated videos and music have signed up for inexpensive video and music services like Apple Music, Amazon Prime and Spotify, which provide legal access to a large library of copyrighted material for a small monthly fee. Alfino says that prosecutions of teenage pirates and pirating services worked to scare off a number of potential offenders.

What does classical philosophy teach on the topic? In doing wrong, damage is done to the soul, say the ancient Greek philosophers.

“In the ‘Apology,’ Socrates says that a man worth anything at all does not reckon whether his course of action endangers his life or threatens death. He looks only at one thing — whether what he does is just or not, the work of a good or of a bad man,” according to “Ancient Ethical Theory,” by Richard Parry.

“Virtue is the chief psychological good; wrong-doing destroys virtue. So Socrates’ strong commitment to virtue reflects his belief in its value for the soul, as well as the importance of the soul’s condition for the quality of our lives,” Parry writes.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org