Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Librarians Have a New Religion

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.



  1. LibraryGuy says:

    Hallelujah sister!
    Sign me up!
    And we’ve already got the Communion worked out. What librarian doesn’t like a little whine?

  2. noutopianlibrarian says:

    Great idea. Hope the warden allows you to continue posting to your blog from prison!

  3. Dave Wildermuth, MLIS says:

    Clever, but it’s not technically a religion, since it lacks belief in the supernatural. Pretty appealing as a worldview, though.

  4. A different opinion says:

    Religion must contain a belief of the supernatural? I thought it was “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”

  5. Cut Both Ways says:

    Does this religion posit SOPA as the devil?

    (To future generations who can view this site during their allotted computer time in jail: SOPA was the bill that went through Congress and made your filesharing an offense worth years of jailtime. Enjoy your second-class citizenship!)

  6. Dave Wildermuth, MLIS says:

    Defining religion as a system of religious beliefs is circular.

    All religions share two defining characteristics: belief in the supernatural and reliance on faith (that is, belief in something whether evidence supports it or not). The one necessarily follows the other, since there is no evidence for the existence of anything supernatural.

  7. Ok, I think that copyright laws are overly strict… but we must admit we need them, right? I mean, without these laws the originators of art and ideas don’t get paid. Their visions cost money to bring to the public- and no one would fund such projects without a return on their investment. In short, if the only money movies made was their theatrical release- which would be cut short because everyone would bring in video cameras and release multitudes of quality bootlegs- then movies wouldn’t get made- or at least not funded.

    Is there no one who will advocate for the devil and admit he does some good?

    This religion is short sighted. IF I made a movie, wrote a song, or a book, and I found that I wasn’t getting paid for it but people were making money off my back- or getting the fruits of my labor without it having been paid for at some point, I would be a little more than upset.

  8. Walt Lessun says:

    I create intellectual property for the joy of creating it rather than for the money.

    • Just because folks want their creative work to be more than a hobby, doesn’t mean they don’t find joy in it.

    • Yep, and that’s why you’re so famous for being so good at what you do.

      (sorry, a bit mean, but I felt the response required ;))

  9. Walt Lessun- Perhaps you do, but for others it is a job. They don’t expect money for their creations out of greed, but out of needing money to survive.

    If you can’t rely on copyright to keep people buying your things as opposed to stealing them, you have to rely on the good of a person to say “Hey, I could get this for free easily and legally, but instead I’ll pay the person who made it to support them.” The high majority of people aren’t like this.

  10. Not quite says:

    Dave Wildermuth, actually your definition of religion is not quite right.
    Jainism, for example, does not believe in a deity or the supernatural.
    Wikipedia nicely puts it that religion is: “a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.”

  11. Dave Wildermuth, MLIS says:

    @Not quite:

    This is from the Columbia Encyclopedia’s entry on Jainism:

    “[Vardhamana] preached a rigid asceticism and solicitude for all life as a means of escaping the cycle of rebirth, or the transmigration of souls. Thus released from the rule of karma, the total consequences of past acts, the soul attains nirvana, and hence salvation.”

    Sounds supernatural to me.

  12. The founder of the Missionary Church of Kopimism is also active in the Christian Student’s Union so I do not think there will be any problems combining religions.

  13. The way I read that, it sounds like they are denying such things. But I suppose the interpretation could definitely be up to debate. :-)

  14. Dave Wildermuth, MLIS says:

    They clearly believe in the transmigration of souls, or there would be no need to escape it. They also clearly believe in nirvana and salvation. Like all religions, this one has a supernatural element.

  15. I have been touched by his noodlely appendage.

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