Have you ever thought of file sharing as a sacred act? If you have, then you might be interested in the Church of Kopimism. Members believe that remixing is a holy act and they view “CTRL+C” and “CTRL+V” as sacred symbols.
When I first read about Kopimism, I was instantly intrigued. I wanted to learn about their history, their beliefs, and their struggles. I read articles about this religion and visited numerous websites run by the members of the Church.
Kopimism was founded in Sweden, and was first recognized as a religion organization in January 2012. BBC reported that, “it was founded by 19-year-old philosophy student and leader Isak Gerson. He hopes that file-sharing will now be given religious protection.”
Kopimism has spread rapidly — eighteen countries are now home to Kopimism churches.
However, people who belong to the church of Kopimism face criticism about their beliefs. One criticism comes from their belief that file sharing is a sacred act; some argue that it is just a way for them to avoid prosecution from piracy. The BBC said, “The established church comes amid a backdrop of governmental zero-tolerance towards piracy.”
I wanted to talk to someone that was highly involved with Kopimism about their beliefs and how they handle criticism. So, I was thrilled when Christopher Carmean, who founded the First United Church of Kopimism in the United States, was wiling to answer my questions. Read on for our interview.
FtM: When did you first hear about Kopimism, and what was it about the Church that first drew you in?
Carmean: I first heard about Kopimism around February in a news article about the Swedish church gaining official recognition. It drew me in because it resonated deeply with my own philosophical beliefs about the basic goodness of sharing.
FtM: When did you start running the First United Church of Kopimism, and how did that come about?
Carmean: I started running the First United Church of Kopimism in the US a few months after launching the website. The church, as recognized by the state of Illinois, came about because I knew that the first step to forming a legitimate community would be to generate an identify separate from myself. Now even if I choose to step away from the church, someone else can take the helm and continue serving the community.
FtM: What are your duties at the church?
Carmean: So far running the church has not been terribly time consuming. I offer advice to people on how best to share their data, and if requested, ways to protect their identities in the process. I facilitate cultural exchange.
FtM: Being a religious organization, are there core documents, or commandments, which your church lives by.
Carmean: Currently our church is using a translated version of the Swedish Church of Kopimism’s constitution, but we are in the process of developing our own. The bible wasn’t written in a day, after all. The core beliefs that we hold are: Copying information is ethically right. Sharing information is ethically right. Remixing is the holiest act a person can undertake with data, as it validates the worth of the data as a foundation for new forms of data. The Internet is holy. Code is law.
FtM: Do people outside your community see your organization as valid, and how do you deal with the criticism?
Christopher: Some see it as valid, and others do not. Those who do not rarely take the time to try to understand it. I deal with the criticism by explaining in simple terms exactly what we believe in. People usually understand after a brief conversation.
FtM: The church is growing globally, so what changes in society led to Kopimism? Are those changes the reason for the church’s growth?
Carmean: I can’t point to specific societal changes that have come about as a direct result of Kopimism, but I like to think that the church has brought a philosophical dialogue to issues of copyright and data sharing that people generally take for granted. I think that there is an expanding number of people holding the beliefs of Kopimism without even calling themselves Kopimists, and that’s why the church began in the first place. As more and more people become Kopimists by their own devices, more and more people will identify with the church as a latent function thereof.
FtM: What challenges do you and the church face?
Carmean: The church faces intense criticism from those who believe that a person who creates something may place limitless bounds on the item that they create, including how it is used after it is given or sold or displayed, including but not limited to infinite licensing and rental charges. These are people who believe that there is no morality but that which people will tolerate and ‘agree to’ as long as it is not ‘coerced’. They pose a great challenge to Kopimism. Personally, I face the challenge of balancing a graduate career in the biomedical sciences with attempting to foster a nascent religion in the USA.