Latest news: them Swedes really love copying stuff, don’t they?

They’ve got lots of weird and wonderful legislations and stuff. They’ve got The Pirate Bay. They’ve got a Pirate Party, which is turning into a global movement - and, as a side note, it was kind of weird to see the local Pirate Party folks get listed in the Finnish parliamentary elections yesterday. (Didn’t get in the Parliament, though. I didn’t vote for them. Actually, the candidate I did vote for didn’t get elected either. We’re absolutely screwed.)

And now, Sweden tries their luck with a pirate religion - the Missionary Church of Kopimism.

Apologies in advance, this can get a bit rambling.

Now, let me make this perfectly clear: I’m all in for sane copyright laws. I’m all for the idea of copyright, as long as the copyright holders also trust the people who will eventually enjoy the works in question. I oppose people who seem to think that copyright is only a tool to keep the perfect, beautiful works of theirs from the eyes of the public. As an artist and a writer, I feel happier when I know there’s at least a chance for people to see my works out there - I just want to create stuff. If people want to do the right thing and pay for my stuff, so much the better. (…which reminds me, there’s actually currently no way for anyone to actually pay for my stuff. I’ll be putting the flattr thingy on my web page when the bank allows it. Flattr has revolutionarised banking, but I hope they’ll eventually revolutionarise banking… if you know what I mean.)

Also, I’m obviously not very much opposed to viewing the right to share and enjoy our culture as a moral right. That is what the cultures are supposed to be doing. Our culture is based on taking the ideas and refining them in new and interesting ways. The best way to preserve a cultural work is to let the people enjoy it; a book cannot be entirely destroyed if it’s in every bookshelf of the country. A vacuum where the public and the artists are kept separate means death for a culture; once the artists are gone, so are the works, and the public is left wondering “hey, we had a culture yesterday, and today we don’t - how did this happen?”

But I don’t think this is something you can build a church on. Or, rather, you can’t build a comprehensive church on it.

Beware, though: this is not a bad thing, and it’s weird to even think of it as a bad thing.

Maybe it’s just that people have been conditioned to think that religion supposed to be “comprehensive”. There’s supposed to be One Religion that satisfies all of your needs. …and then you run into a religion that doesn’t have a position on sharing of cultural works. Or, alternatively, I can imagine what the mainstream churches would say: “our members have very diverse views on this subject, so we refuse to give an official position on it.” It’s kind of like the gay marriage issue in Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church: Sure, most of sane people within the church have no objection to gay marriage, but there are some who do… so to hell with that idea.

It’s weird. Even the Ten Commandments say “do not have any other gods before me”; they certainly don’t say “do not have any other ideas before ours”, which is how this is often interpreted. People have the strangest, stupidest Not Invented Here moments when religion comes into play. If a rival group of artists gets a good idea, it’s obviously a nice enough idea to imitate and to improve upon. If a rival religious group gets a good idea, it’s branded heresy that cannot be imitated at any cost.

And that’s a real concern that people have to deal with when starting new religions.

Perhaps it’d be better if people didn’t start religions. They should offer insight on ethics and morality. Movements have better chance of success than religions.

I’m not a religious person per se. I’m solitary Wiccan, in case it wasn’t obvious from the previous blog posts. You would assume that any religion would have some sort of complex rules that people should follow, but Wiccans apparently saw right through the usual rubbish. Morality isn’t complex. People know what’s right and wrong. They don’t need anyone to stop them from doing what’s right, and have nothing but themselves to blame if they do something that’s wrong. People need to think of the consequences of their actions themselves.

But if I say I’m Wiccan, people probably assume I do magic. Eh - while I don’t say magic doesn’t exist, I have a view that “magic” is, above all, a good metaphor for human influence in all of its forms - direct or indirect. (As I said before, people need to think of the consequences; people need to be concerned of real-world effects of their influence!) I have a very powerful subjective feeling that there’s very definitely possibly some supernaturalness in the world. I believe a single omnipotent deity is a logical impossibility, but not-so-omnipotent ones can do the job much better, come to think of it. So, um, what does that mean, really? I’m a Wiccan Agnostic? Am I really so weird for deliberately putting “wishful” in “wishful thinking”? I have no idea. =)

This is all very relevant to the idea that religions aren’t necessarily something that need to be started. Religion is something people have in themselves. We shouldn’t, and can’t, make assumptions of what moral values people have based on some sort of a religious label people choose for themselves - though such labels are not always entirely misleading. People need movements; things have to be done to correct bad things, and good ideas have to be shared, whether they get accepted or not.

People need awareness of things. Look, I don’t want to convert you to any religion, but have you ever really paused to think that you could do awesome things? And have you ever really paused to think that your actions could cause bad things to happen?

Maybe we’ve gone past the age when religions were something you joined in and they offered all of the answers. Nowadays, we’re starting to realise that religions as institutions don’t necessarily have all of the answers, but we can ultimately figure things out; personal belief isn’t dead. I believe in ability to do good things - you cannot build great things without a conviction of some kind.

And hence, it’s probably easier for everyone if I don’t preach here about this strange belief system of mine. I’m offering my insights. You can take them or leave them. I do this because I have this weird compulsion to get a blog post out; I’m not out to convert anybody. I don’t know what the earlier idea of human influence sounds like to other people, for example. I do hope that people realise that my idea about copyrights might be a good one, because the alternatives are obviously not very good; I’m going to keep the thought in my life, and you might not do the same.

One of the reasons why registration of Wiccans as a religion failed in Finland; the registration was about religious communities, not “religions” per se. It’s surprisingly difficult when everyone just vehemently commits to uphold common-sense morality. And, as the old proverbs usually say, people who commit to using common sense don’t get involved in politics.

(*gets hit by tranq darts from the digression police*)

And what does this all have to do with the Kopists? Uh, they’re a trying to be a religious group, I can see that. They seem to have a few ideas that might be definitely worth considering. Their stated dogma is not entirely well defined, though; anyone who has watched the Wikileaks drama can see that it’s very hard to mate the concepts of privacy and free sharing of information, and perhaps they should devote time to find truly insightful answers to such questions. In my mind, finding answers - or foundations for answers - for such questions is very important, and should precede all logistics of getting official recognitions of any kind. Movements exist to get people do something; in my opinion, it’s best done by having a honest, well-argued philosophy at hand, rather than just getting the legal paperwork done.

So I’m not joining up. But they may have a few thoughts that people probably should think a lot in this weird and wonderful information age of ours. People need to think of how to preserve our culture. People need to think of the rights and responsibilities of artists and their rights and responsibilities as consumers of information; they need to think what it means that they can still become artists. They should give some serious thoughts on questions like “why should I share this bit of information?” and “why am I sharing this?”… these all seem simple questions, but they’re rapidly becoming key questions of our age.

(A small nitpick on the chuch, though: Some folks pointed out that having Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V as holy symbols is rather OS-centric. But, egh, the group is in Sweden and didn’t think of ⌘C and ⌘V? *facepalm* Please increase your OS support! And the Church of Emacs, whose fine text editor I typed this screed with, will thank you if you also include M-w and C-y.)