Sweden Grants Religious Recognition To File-Sharing Church

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Sweden has accepted that a “church” which believes in file-sharing as a religion: a move that will not please the Hollywood studios

The Swedish government has formally recognised a “church” whose main belief is the right to file-share, in a move that is unlikely to be well-received by the Hollywood studios.

The recognition of the Church of Kopimism as a religion by the state of Sweden was revealed in a statement on the Church’s Website, after more than a year of trying to gain formal recognition.

Religious recognition

“Just before Christmas, the Swedish government agency Kammarkollegiet registered the Church of Kopimism as a religious organisation. This means that Sweden is the first country to recognise Kopimism as a religion,” said the church’s statement.

It said that board chairman for the organisation Gustav Nipe had to apply three times.

“I think it might have something to do with the government organisations abiding by a very copyright-friendly attitude, with a twisted view on copying,” Nipe was quoted as saying.

According to the statement, the Church of Kopimism regards information as holy, and copying as a sacrament. It also holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V (the keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste) as sacred symbols.

While the church does not directly promote illegal file sharing, it does believe in the open distribution of knowledge and holds religious services that it calls ‘ kopyactings’.

“Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organisation and its members,” the church said.

The church also said the Swedish government recognition was a large step. It hoped that it was one step “towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution, said Isak Gerson, the 19-year philosophy student and self-confessed spiritual leader of the Church of Kopimism.

No formal memberhip

The Church of Kopimism is a religious organisation that began life in 2010. According to the church’s statement, it is made of a community that “requires no formal membership.”

“You just have to feel a calling to worship what is the holiest of the holiest, information and copy,” the statement said. “To do this, we organise kopyactings – religious services – where the kopimists share information with each other through copying and remix,” it added.

However the move has predictably drawn a less-than-enthusiastic response from campaigners seeking to uphold copyright protection.

“It is quite divorced from reality and is reflective of Swedish social norms rather than the Swedish legislative system,” music analyst Mark Mulligan was quoted as saying on the BBC.

“It doesn’t mean that illegal file-sharing will become legal, any more than if ‘Jedi’ was recognised as a religion everyone would be walking around with light sabres,” he reportedly said. “In some ways these guys are looking outdated. File-sharing as a means to pirate content is becoming yesterday’s technology.”

Political Moves

Sweden is well known for its file-sharing activists. During the European parliament elections in June, 2009, the Swedish Pirate Party (PiratPartiet) gained two Euro MP seats. But In September, 2010, the party was unsuccessful in its attempts to become a political force within Sweden after it failed to secure a parliamentary seat in the country’s general election.

PiratPartiet also said it planned to launch the world’s first Pirate ISP – a broadband service that would allow users to share BitTorrent files anonymously online.

Besides these Scandinavian developments, there seems to be a zero-tolerance towards piracy in many countries. In the United States for example the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is proving to be controversial, with a number of big name firms refusing to support the legislation in its current form.

In the UK, there is the Digital Ecomomy Act, which has also proved to be hugely controversial.

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