Instant Guide

Is illegal file sharing a religion?

Yes... at least according to Sweden, which has officially recognized the piracy-focused Missionary Church of Kopimi

To many internet users, illegally downloading the latest Lady Gaga album or Showtime series is a legal indiscretion committed in haste and secrecy. To a select few, it's a holy act. In Sweden, a growing number of people have argued that file-sharing is sacred — and they've recently been granted official religious status. Here, a brief guide:

What exactly is this piracy religion?In 2010, a philosophy student and "religious file-sharer" named Isak Gerson founded the Missionary Church of Kopimism, a group that believes copying files is a sacred act. In the last six months, membership has grown from about 1,000 to 3,000. The church holds "CTRL + C" and "CTRL + V" — the keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste — as sacred symbols. A central document called "POwr, broccoli, and Kopimi" lists 100 tenets for being a Kopimi, including "Take a powerful stance for something positive and essential."

And Kopimi is an official religion?Yes. The Swedish government officially recognized the group over the holidays. The church had previously failed twice to win official religion status. Now that it's succeeded, Gerson hopes Kopimi will help believers find more acceptance. "I think that more people will have the courage to step out as Kopimists," he says. "Maybe not in the public, but at least to their close ones."

But isn't piracy illegal?Indeed it is. While Kopimism's new status won't change that, Gerson hopes it will give the group some clout with lawmakers in the future. "There's still a legal stigma around copying for many" he says. "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." Music analyst Mark Mulligan isn't sure the new religion will have much success changing the laws. "It is quite divorced from reality and is reflective of Swedish social norms rather than the Swedish legislative system," he says.

Sources: BBC, CNET, PC Mag, Torrent Freak

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