Librarians may have found their new religion, unless they’ve already found one of the myriad old religions, but the old religions didn’t have anything to say about file sharing and this one does.
By now, you probably know I’m talking about the Church of Kopimism, which the Swedish government has finally and formally recognized as a religion. It’s the best thing to come out of Sweden since Ikea and Stieg Larsson.
The Church of Kopimism believes in the following tenets:
- All knowledge to all
- The search for knowledge is sacred
- The circulation of knowledge is sacred
- The act of copying is sacred
- All people should have access to all information produced
For the most part, that sounds an awful lot like the tenets of librarianship, except for the sacred part. They believe that CTRL+C and CTRL+V are sacred symbols, and if you go to the Swedish language site you can see a short video showing you how to make the sacred signs. I expect to see librarians flashing these signs at each other at ALA Midwinter.
Since publishers are determined to either keep books and journals from libraries by shutting them out of the dissemination loop or by raising prices while thwarting open access movements, the best step for librarians might be to convert to Kopimism.
The problem with librarians is they abide by copyright laws that aren’t good for libraries or the general public. They’re good only for a handful of publishers.
The proper response to excessively restrictive copyright laws is some civil disobedience, and what could be more civil than filesharing. Nobody gets hurt, not even the publishers!
Instead of paying lip service to questionable laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, librarians should teach the public how to fight back.
So Disney wants to screw us all over so they can keep the copyright to that tedious mouse? Then make illegal copies of Disney movies and start distributing them. That’ll solve the problem of Disney limiting the releases of the DVDs as well. Not that Mickey Mouse has been in a Disney movie in living memory.
Or better yet, install DVD-ripping software on library computers and empower users to make their own copies. There can’t be anything illegal in teaching people how to use software, right? It’s not the librarian’s responsibility to police how people use software. If the software is legal to buy, it’s legal to teach. Put Bittorrent on there as well.
The same should go for ebooks. So publishers don’t want to sell ebooks to libraries? There are ways around that. It all might smack of black market and samizdat, but what else is there to do? Professors and unkempt teenage hackers do it all the time, and if it’s good enough for them it should be good enough for the rest of us.
All this could be done without the religion of Kopimism, but we all know how crazy Americans get about defending actions with their religious beliefs. The belief that all people should have access to all information produced is tame compared to some of the wackier beliefs found in all religions.
The freedom of religion excuses just about anything. If American Indians can smoke pot and crazy churches can avoid taxes, I don’t see why adherents of Kopimism can’t share files.
So, there could be just civil disobedience, but it would go a lot further if there were some religious justification for it. Then it would have First Amendment protection. The freedom of speech hasn’t gotten a lot of protection lately unless we’re talking about money as speech, but the freedom of religion is a favorite of everyone.
It seems to me that Kopimism could even be one of those religions one could practice alongside another religion. It would be easy to adopt and easy to practice. I’m excited about and am looking forward to the first services.