After several refusals, the Swedish authorities have finally recognised file-sharing, or “The Church of Kopimism” as an official religion. The religion, founded by a 19 year old philosophy student, Isak Gerson, holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V as sacred symbols and views the sharing of information through copying files as a form of worship, as opposed to piracy.
Although many may welcome the Kopimists others are concerned about the effect the religion will have upon the current global crackdown upon piracy. The Church of Kopimism has received a lot of interest since becoming a recognised religion- so much so that the website was unavailable for a few days and would-be members were urged to return once “the storm had settled”. Since then, the Church’s membership has tripled to over 3000 members and more join everyday as its website is translated into more languages so that other file-sharers worldwide can join the religion.
Gerson and his fellow Kopimists view their new status as a small victory in itself, having had to apply for religious status on several occasions. According to Gerson, the approval of the authorities is “a large step” and he hopes that the Church’s recognised status will encourage others to “come out” as Kopimists. The group obviously still faces a long battle as to the legality of their actions; they are happy to work to remove the legal stigmas attached to file-copying and hope to be consulted during future law-making processes.
Whilst some view the religion’s approval as a threat to preventing online piracy, suggesting that it will encourage further copyright infringement and illegal downloading, experts have been quick to dismiss the religion. Some have likened the world taking Kopimism seriously to ’Jedi’ becoming a recognised religion, with everyone walking around with light sabres. Others argue that the religion is merely “reflective of Swedish social norms”, and unlikely to become a widespread legal issue.
Similarly, authorities have been keen to point out that although Kopimism may be a recognised religion, file-sharing and copyright infringement are still illegal. Kopimist or not, anyone caught committing online piracy will still be punished.