Church of Kopimism – founded by 20-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson -- was recognised as a religious community in Sweden late December. Gerson said in an interview to AP that some of the church's 3,000 members meet every week to share files, an act they consider holy. He said the church opposes copyrights and encourages piracy of all types of media, including music, movies, TV shows and software.
Sweden has a political party called the Pirate Party which has representation in European Parliament, and hopes to reform copyright laws.
Author Chetan Bhagat would relate to the proposed US laws. In Dec 2011, he had got into an online controversy with this tweet: “Almost anyone who is reading my pirated books can afford the original. It hurts me a lot personally… Piracy kills publishers, esp domestic literature. Don't do it if you care for Indian creativity.” Jojo Philip, a Twitter user, who crossed words with Bhagat had this counter: “Don't blame the consumer. If he/she gets the product at a fifth of its cost, they have every right to pick it up'.
Legalities and ethics aside, technology has unleashed data. It’s difficult for creators to tether products to themselves and exact costs from everyone who wants to use or share them. It is a loss in one sense, but in another sense, it can be seen as a price for letting information travel far and wide. Striking a balance between the two is the tough part.
Besides the loss of money, what hurts a creator most is the sense of being cheated. My photography-enthusiast friend, Nagesh, refuses to start an exclusive photo blog precisely for this reason. “But I do share some pics on Facebook, Flickr and my poetry blog. I don’t mind people copying my work, but please, for heaven sake, please give me credit. Don’t use it as your creation. That’s where it hurts.”
That says it all, due acknowledgement, something Pablo Picasso realised long back. In the initial days of his career, it’s said, he never asked for money, he merely insisted that his name be carried alongside the published painting.
(This article appeared in my Wireless World column in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)