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Freedom of religion is not a new concept. However, in Sweden, the concept is being put to a very new test. The website for a new religion called kopimism, recently recognized by the Swedish government, references the Swedish Constitution in stating that “every citizen is against the government guaranteed freedom of religion: freedom, either alone or with others to practice their religion.”
This is all pretty typical, until you see that the dogma underlying this new religion is the following four tenets: (1) all knowledge to all, (2) the search for knowledge is sacred, (3) the circulation of knowledge is sacred; and (4) the act of copying is sacred. The website for this newly legitimized religion goes on to remind the public that freedom of religion is intended to provide refuge for those persecuted by oppressors and that “Copyright Religion” is in complete opposition to this religion’s beliefs. Concluding their introduction to kopimism, the name of this new religion, the founders issue a challenge to “all copyright believers” who seek to limit people’s freedom and knowledge.
Though freedom of religion has not successfully excused other illegal activities, such as polygamy, support for “kopimism,” Swiss for “copy me,” points to an important cultural rift that has been developing since I eagerly downloaded my first song off of Kazaa as a pre-teen, the rift between those who want greater access to copyrightable material and those who want greater protections. This rift is further defined by the aggressive and well organized resistance to SOPA, where internet media giants such as Wikipedia, Reddit, and Google rallied opposition to the bill in early 2012, and the existence of such political parties as Pirate Parties International, which supports file sharing, much like kopimism, and won 7.1% of the vote in Sweden’s European Parliament 2009 elections and 8.9% of the vote in Berlin’s 2011 state elections.
These religious groups, political parties, and mass protests demonstrate that we are a long way from reaching consensus about whether and how to protect certain intellectual property in the digital age. Whether we adopt legislation akin to SOPA, or OPEN, or none at all, the emergence of religious groups such as kopimism and political parties such as the pirate party indicate that neither side is backing down anytime soon.
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