By Beckett Mufson, Columnist
Anybody who saw the 2011 cinematic reinterpretation of Thor knows that Northern Europe has a penchant for creating awesome religions. Recently, the Swedes have followed suit in the "awesome religion" department. Their relatively new faith is called Kopimism (Kopy + me + ism), and it focuses, not on power and the ability to smash in the face of other beliefs, but rather absolute freedom of information.
Kopimism originated in Sweden when Isak Gerson, then 19 years old, and some like-minded individuals drafted the Kopimist Constitution. Early in January 2012, Kopimism was recognized as an official religion by the Swedish government, and shortly thereafter branches began popping up all over the world, including The First Church of Kopimism for the USA. Main tenants of Kopimism include: "copying of information is ethically right," "dissemination of information is ethically right" and "the internet is holy."
Philosophically, the religion has a lot of interesting ideas about the purpose of life and human values. For example, they assert that "life as we know it originated with the DNA molecule's ability to duplicate itself... DNA is really just an information carrier, a result of molecular segments that determine who we become." It seems that Kopimists take scientific knowledge and give it the same respect and reverence that other religions give to their text-based dogma.
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a new bill entitled the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Many Internet-based companies have come out against the bill and several advocate groups are actively working to shut it down.
The Kopimist faith believes that "copying of information is ethically right" and that "the internet is holy." The new array of anti-file sharing legislation will bolster the government's ability to enforce current laws that directly contradict these ideas. The Church of Kopimism said that "Kopimism is a religion. We do not involve ourselves with politics" in a recent response to claims that the Church is merely an attempt to circumvent copyright laws. However, as membership expands (Kopimism had 1000 members before Sweden recognized it, and now it has over 3000 and counting), there is bound to be conflict with copyright infringement laws in various nations (but the biggest will probably be in the U.S.).
The nature of data, information, and "property" is changing. Kopimism offers a well-organized and unique interpretation of these ideas, and a beautiful perspective of the world that supports their opinions and beliefs well. Whether or not the official Church of Kopimism actively fights copyright laws, expect to see Isak Gerson and his disciples more and more with debates on the Internet heat up. Internet freedom is one of the most important issues of the modern day. What we see now, with SOPA/PIPA, ACTA and CISPA are just the first few skirmishes of what could erupt into an all out war between those who view information as a right and those who view it as a commodity.
The United Church of Kopimism offers one viewpoint on the issue, and whether you agree with them or not, their ideas are worth listening to, their words are worth reading and their files are worth downloading.