Yes, file sharing is now a religion in Sweden

Let us share: The Swedish government has officially recognized file sharing as a religion, by formally registering the Church of Kopimism as a religious organization.

The move came after a year of effort and three applications by the “church,” which formed in 2010 and professes that “information is holy and copying is a sacrament,” according to a release from the group. “Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organization and its members.”

The church’s members, or “Kopimi,” hold the keyboard commands for copy and paste (Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V) to be sacred symbols, and regularly hold “kopyactings,” religious services in which they share information with each other via copying.

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The recognition bestowed by Sweden’s Kammarkollegiet government agency has a certain appealing quirkiness to it, but it also is something of a small — and likely inconsequential — development in the global crackdown on online piracy.

Efforts to protect copyrighted material, such as the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, have met heated opposition from the Internet industry and users, who say it would stifle innovation and job creation, and suppress free speech.

SOPA targets rogue sites, particularly those outside the United States, that engage in copyright infringement and would try to prevent online advertisers and payment processors from doing business with them, bar search engines from linking to them and require online service providers to block suspected sites.

Opponents fear that the bill’s blacklisting provisions are so broad that they could effectively shut down some legitimate sites and affect individual users.

The Church of Kopimism’s “spiritual leader,” a 19-year-old philosophy student named Isak Gerson, said in the group’s release that he hopes the Swedish government’s recognition will provide a sort of religious protection. “Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution,” he said.

But several copyright experts said it was unlikely to have much effect on illegal file sharing — which apparently is a practice of the Church of Kopimism. Gerson and his several thousand followers are self-confessed pirates, according to a TorrentFreak report.

“It doesn't mean that illegal file sharing will become legal, any more than if 'Jedi' was recognized as a religion everyone would be walking around with light sabers,” music industry analyst Mark Mulligan told the BBC.

Mulligan also noted that the Kopimi could be a little behind the times. “In some ways these guys are looking outdated,” he said. “File sharing as a means to pirate content is becoming yesterday's technology."

No matter. Gerson intends to carry on, telling TorrentFreak: “We confessional Kopimists have not only depended on each other in this struggle, but on everyone who is copying information. To everyone with an Internet connection: Keep copying. Maintain hardline Kopimi.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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