On Wednesday it was revealed that after being founded in 2010, The Missionary Church of Kopimism is now formally recognized by the Swedish authorities as an official religion.
The Church’s creator, philosophy student Isak Gerson, told TorrentFreak that he hoped the development would encourage people to be more open about the fact they are practicing Kopimists.
“There’s still a legal stigma around copying for many,” he told us. “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.”
One group that will hope the opposite is true are the long-time Kopimism rivals at the MPAA. But according to The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, an employee of the movie industry group actually provided the inspiration for the original Kopimism movement to be transformed into a full-blown religion.
“In an interview in 2007 or 2008 (I believe, not sure about the date) the Swedish lawyer for the MPAA, Monique Wadsted, got a question about her views on the people advocating file sharing,” Sunde explains.
“It’s just a few people, very loud. They’re a cult. They call themselves Kopimists,” Wadsted responded.
Wadsted, who participated in the prosecution during The Pirate Bay trial, had previous experience with cults having represented the Church of Scientology in a copyright case. Little did she know that the seeds of inspiration had just been planted and were about to turn “a cult” into something more.
“It made me think that it might be of benefits to look at what we do as a religious movement,” says Sunde. “One of the fun things working with The Pirate Bay has always been that we’ve started lots of fun crazy projects. Some work, some (most) fail. I started researching what kind of angle it would give us if we registered a religion.”
Interestingly, Sunde says that in Sweden its possible for anyone to create a religion as long as they’re organized – the actual content of a religion is not examined. But it was the fact that religions enjoy more protection than political groups that piqued Sunde’s interest most.
Nevertheless, several years passed before the idea for a copying church were turned into reality by Isak Gerson, who at just 19-years-old has already gained more exposure for his new faith than many other religions achieve in a lifetime. Even the Catholic church have noticed but perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re not impressed.
“It’s crazy and seems like a send up of religion, a send up of copyright and a send up of the government to register such a body as religious,” says Bishop Peter Ingham, head of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong in Australia.
“There should be some measuring stick against what you call religion,” he said. “In my mind, if religion has nothing to do with God — or what people perceive to be God — then it’s a sham. It looks like it’s just a way of getting around the law of piracy and copyright. How could a religion promote illegal activity?”
The Missionary Church of Kopimism has no requirements for its congregation to break the law, but Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge does raise an interesting issue – that of religious confession.
“Conversations with preachers of official religions acting on official duty are privileged conversations, meaning they can’t be eavesdropped on or forced as evidence; a priest can even go to jail for inadvertently disclosing something that was said under the privileged conversation of confession,” he explains.
“In the case of this religion, the preachers are defined as the ones facilitating holy copying (and remixing). Translated to nerdspeak, that means the communications between operators of trackers/hubs and the people who partake in the sacrament of copying now carries confessional status, by and large making it illegal and impossible to collect as evidence in a trial,” Falkvinge continues.
“That brings a whole boatload of interesting legal ramifications with regards to evidence collection and trying to persecute the worshipers of holy copying and remixing, doesn’t it?”