Thou shalt copy, Thou shalt paste

By Gabrielle Rosas

In the post-digital age, information is shared instantly. Images, stories and music shoot through cyberspace at a rate that would baffle the forefathers of technology. In the last decade, information has become more accessible than decent health care. Most would say it has become a commodity. The Church of Kopimism believes it is holy.

Kopimism, a new religion based on the “holy sacrament” of file-sharing, or the sharing of information online, was recently recognized by the Swedish government as a legitimate religion. Lucky for Isak Gerson, the 20-year-old philosophy major who founded the church, the progressive Swedes are known for their open-mindedness. After 15 months of back-and-forth with the Swedish government and three application attempts, Kopimists shared a collective victory.

Members of the church share files in a holy act they termed “kopyacting.” The religion even worships a sacred symbol: “Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V,” the keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste.

For the record, Star Wars nerds have been trying to legitimize Jediism for years, so the novelty of Gerson’s tech-based faith isn’t original. The issue is not so much religion, though, as it is about copyright infringement. Because piracy is still illegal in Sweden, Gerson hopes the group’s newfound clout will help change the course of anti-piracy legislation; to him, copyright laws are “problematic.” I know, I’m a hip, 20-something college student who has enjoyed the fruits of Internet piracy from time to time. I’m supposed to joyously leap into the air and exclaim, “Dude, so-called religious expression used to fight copyright laws? Sweet!” But I’m not so optimistic.

The House of Representatives just introduced the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act last fall. If passed, the bill would grant the U.S. Department of Justice jurisdiction outside the country to serve court orders against foreign websites.

Already the bill has gained tremendous coverage and the ire of hackers everywhere, and for good reason. Search engines would be barred from linking to infringing sites. Ad companies would be barred from conducting business with them and Internet service providers would be required to block them. In a circuitous way, the bill is giving our government the power to erase certain websites from existence. The act threatens our First Amendment rights, as well as the right to free speech for those in heavily censored countries. Unconstitutional? I’m leaning toward “yes.”

Though it looks bleak for us here in the U.S., fellow downloaders in other parts of the world are already suffering a similar fate. On Jan. 7, a Dutch court ordered two cable companies to block access to Pirate Bay, a well-known file-sharing website that has drawn controversy in the past. The order outraged Internet activist group Anonymous into a computer hacking frenzy; they hacked into two anti-piracy organizations’ websites, proclaiming, “We’ll keep them down as long as

we want.”

Clearly, government officials are not going to ease copyright laws anytime soon. But Gerson and other Kopimists realize there is more than one way to skin the cat. Religion is already a taboo subject; nobody in today’s politically correct society would question someone’s right to worship. That is the assumption at least. But, though I hate to say it, Kopimism just isn’t convincing enough. With no deity, no recorded theology and the most basic of membership guidelines, Kopimists will need to pull out all the stops if they want their religion to be taken seriously. Recognition from one government was the first, albeit significant, step.

If it doesn’t want to die amongst the annals of failed religious movements and live to fight copyright laws, the Church of Kopimism needs to look toward its one naysayer in the world: the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Wollongong in Australia called the religion a “farce” because it had nothing to do with God.

If Kopimism claimed to have a deity, whether it be Steve Jobs or the flying spaghetti monster, it would be well on its way to looking less like a joke. How long it will take Gerson and his followers to figure this out is simply a waiting game.

I wish I could have a little bit more faith in Kopimism. After all, I don’t want to be forced to begin buying my guilty pleasures. Who in God’s name would pay $50 for the second season of “Project Runway”? Not a normal person, and especially not a Kopimist. Either way, I’m not converting anytime soon.