Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kopimism Church Recognized in Sweden

Is file-sharing a religious act? According to the Church of Kopimism, a new religion recently recognized in Sweden, the answer to that question can be yes. Kopimism considers file-sharing to be central to its beliefs and practices, which raises some interesting questions from the standpoint of international copyright law.

Kopimism gained recognition as a religion just before Christmas after applying three times to the Swedish government agency Kammarkollegiet. Not only is file-sharing considered its central sacrament, the CTRL+C and CTRL+V shortcuts for copying and pasting are viewed as sacred symbols.

The group is run by Isak Gerson, a 19-year-old student of philosophy, who is now the spiritual leader of Kopimi, the people who follow the tenets of this new religion, which does not explicitly support illegal file-sharing, but the general free exchange of information. There are likely millions of unknowing adherents of Kopimism throughout the world.

While this might sound like something akin to the idea of the Jedi religion, it could have a monumental effect on the legality of various laws against illegal file-sharing, as internet cuts and website blocks could be seen as religious persecution, a violation of a fundamental human right.

I think most people recognize that the founding of Kopimism is analogous to what L. Ron Hubbard did with the Church of Scientology when he founded a religion in order to keep the Food and Drug Administration from going after dianetics - a clever hack to the system rather than an expression of spiritual belief. Still, it is true that the tenets of Kopimism sound a lot like the old "hacker ethic" which has been around since the beginning of the computer age and is essentially a coherent philosophy in its own right.

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