Amid the global crackdown on illegal file- sharing, Kopimism has been officially recognised as a religion in Sweden.
Founded by 20-year-old philosophy student, Isak Gerson, the Church of Kopimism sees the copying, spreading and remixing of information as ethical rights. It holds Crtl-C and Ctrl-V as holy symbols, and has around 3,000 followers in 10 countries. And, as it’s a missionary movement, the numbers may well soar. In fact, in the middle of 2011 there were only about 1,000 “Kopimists”.
The Church of Kopmisim has some links to the piracy movement. The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reports that it shares a postal address with Ung Pirat, the Pirate Party’s youth wing, which advocates privacy protection, the abolition of patents and equal access to culture and knowledge.
Gerson has been trying to receive official recognition for his church since 2010. His third request was finally accepted before Christmas. The registration of faith communities in Sweden was introduced in conjunction with the separation of church and state in 2000. Any Swede who wants to register a faith community has to submit an application to the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency. The procedure is not much more complicated than registering a company. You need a set of statutes, a board, a unique and inoffensive name and some form of collective religious services, which could include prayer sessions or meditation meetings. You do not need a God.
Gerson told the website TorrentFreak: “I think that more people will have the courage to step out as Kopimists. Maybe not in the public, but at least to their close ones…There’s still a legal stigma around copying for many. A lot of people still worry about going to jail when copying and remixing. I hope in the name of Kopimi that this will change.”
Gerson may be the high priest of Kopimism – or the chief “Op”, as the Church calls its spiritual leaders – but that doesn’t mean he can circumvent Sweden’s tough laws on piracy. In Sweden it’s illegal to download or distribute copyrighted material on the internet – and that law applies to Kopimists, too.