Spokespersons for a facetious-sounding religion that advocates sharing files, even when doing so is in violation of copyright, maintain that they are quite serious about the group’s tenets. It’s not clear to what degree that apparent sincerity is part of the act, and to what degree they reflect deeply-held beliefs.
The Missionary Church of Kopimism (pronounced like “copy me”) was started by Swedish philosophy student Isak Gerson, and has begun to take root in the United States. The group’s tenets, which are outlined in a constitution, include encouraging adherents to “actively copy, remix and share information” and to “engage the public in the practice of Kopimistic values.”
Spokesperson Christopher Carmean says that while the group’s philosophy is sincere, the group does not take part in the American political process.
“As is required to maintain our status as a religion in the USA, we refrain from any political activities or candidate endorsements,” he told Tech.li in an email message. “We have prayers, ceremonies, and a spiritual order of life that we see as being greater than ourselves, all of which are an [integral] part of many formally-recognized religions.”
If the religion is seen as tongue-in-cheek by adherents — like other internet-era religions like Pastafarianism or the Church of the Subgenius — Carmean isn’t letting on. Still, some of the group’s professed practices, like differentiating analog and digital worship, seem steeped more in dry wit than evangelicalism.
“The key combination ‘ctrl C + ctrl V’ is a deeply sacred representation of the act of copying, and therefore should treated as such,” reads the group’s constitution.
Regardless of adherents’ sincerity, their professed beliefs seem likely to run afoul of copyright advocacy organizations like the RIAA or the MPAA. While they respect individuals’ rights of privacy, Carmean wrote, “Kopimists believe that the information no longer belongs to the seller/distributor. The originator of information has no property rights to the information after selling it or giving it away.”
The church “expresses the deeply held religious beliefs of its members that data is the metaphysica building block of our existence, having no owner or keeper. We are very serious about our foundational principles,” he wrote.
The group has even less patience for pesky notions like copyright law.
“Details like credit, plagiarism, law, politics, and personal ethical decisions in real-world, complex decisions are best left up to the individual,” Carmean wrote. “Kopimism promotes free thinking over submissive adherence to fascist dogma.”
The basic ideas behind the faith, he said, predated the world wide web.
“Kopimist principles existed long before the advent of the internet,” Carmean wrote. “Storytelling, one of the oldest and most prolific forms of information transfer, is a Kopimist act.”