Religion of File Sharing

Dune 2 was a computer game figuratively grabbed me by the shirt and slapped me in the face, forcing me to give it the attention it was due. To me, this game was the grand-daddy of real-time-strategy games. Without Dune 2, we may not have had classic games like Commander and Conquer or Starcraft. But the thing is, while I played Dune 2 obsessively, I never bought a copy of it. And while all my friends were also enjoying the game, I don’t think any of them had paid for it either. There was just a bundle of 3.25″ floppy disks, bound together with a rubber band, that was passed around. When it came to getting passed the copyright protection, you just had to keep restarting the game until you knew the answer to the question. It was the same with music – dubbed cassette tapes changing hands like it was no big deal. When I look back at it, we had no idea what we were doing was illegal. We had no idea we were pirates. It’s just what you did. But was it a religious experience?

Recently in Sweden, a new church has been given official status. The Church of Kopimism is based around the idea that information wants to be free and is in fact holy. That information becomes more valuable through the act of sharing. Therefore sharing information is of religious significance to members of the church. The perceive any attempts to stop them from sharing information as a form of persecution. Is this a legitimate faith system, or just an elaborate excuse for piracy?

Part of me believes that this is an enormous con. That the members have created this church, not to engage in the communion of file sharing but to provide a legitimization for what is essentially theft. I really doubt that the files they are keen to share are their own original works and ideas that they wish to distribute free of charge. It’s more likely we’re talking about the latest Lady Gaga MP3 or what ever Michael Bay film is currently playing in cinemas. It feels to me like they are hiding behind religious language, such as “persecution”, to avoid calling their file sharing what it really is – theft. They are taking the original works of creators, of which they have the right to expect financial compensation for, and taking it for free without permission. That’s what theft is. Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” If this church is just an excuse for illegal downloads, then it is merely a veneer for covering up sin. An attempt to take what they know is wrong and making it look above board. But if that’s the case, then they’re fooling no-one. Especially God.

On the other hand, if this is legit, then it is yet another example of worshiping the created rather than the creator. Information is revered as king. Self-worth is determined not by a relationship with the creator, but in one’s ability to possess and transmit information. Our creation and our continued existence is found in the informational transfers in our DNA. Not possessing information is the cause of problems in this world and therefore information is the key to salvation. The more you know, the better off you are. This is an insufficient way to understand the universe. If knowledge was the path of salvation, then our universities would be havens for satisfied people. Yet they are not. There is a constant need for more information – there’s no such thing as enough information. Salvation can therefore not be achieved. It’s a fools errand. Salvation does not come through a File Transfer Protocol, it comes through the creator of the universe dying on the cross. It comes from the son of God taking the punishment we deserve so that we can be in a right relationship. It comes from being welcomed into a kingdom that will never perish or fade.

The Church of Kopimism has nothing to offer you except for guilt-free pirated goods. Their promises are ultimately empty as they have nothing of eternal significance to offer you. Information will never be enough. Information will always be subject to obsolescence and inaccuracy. Information can not save you. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) File sharing will not make you right with God. It will not fix the broken relationship between you and the creator. Christ and Christ alone can save you.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

2 responses to “Religion of File Sharing”

  1. joshlama says :

    From what I can gather, not only from the article above, but some of the other commentary and their own work is that Kopimism is a ‘parody’ religion, similar to the parody religion of the flying spaghetti monster. It is light hearted, and maybe mildly thought provoking. Kopimism is really the offshoot of a larger movement; the free culture movement. Although this movement actually provides some thought provoking ideas, some of which Christians have taken on board (such as giving information freely, which some reformed Christians have done, such as John Piper releasing some of his books for free.)

    That being said, piracy and worshiping things God has made instead of God is sin, rejecting God’s way for our own way.

  2. Kaitlin Morrison says :

    I consider myself a Kopimist because I believe in creating information to share with others. The open source community is a good example of people who don’t steal but they share what they make. (I guess I’m also one of those “it’s a relationship, not a religion!” people. Most Christians are really just ‘practical atheists.’)

    And, for that matter, copying Christ WILL save you.

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