The word ‘kopimism’ is an extension of ‘kopimi’ or ‘copy me’ in English. In Swedish ‘pirate’ circles the somewhat unusual words have been in semi-regular use for at least seven years but didn’t gain widespread international attention until early 2012.
The breakthrough came after a group of self-confessed pirates went on a two-year mission to have their beliefs recognized as a formal religion in Sweden. Despite being rejected several times, the Church of Kopimism – which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V as sacred symbols – refused to give up and in January 2012 was eventually recognized as an official religion.
Now, just a year later, the Kopimism movement – which is diverse, has no leaders and doesn’t start or end with the church – has received yet another boost.
The Swedish Language Council (Språkrådet), the body responsible for the advancement and cultivation of the Swedish language, publishes an annual list where it recognizes new words that have established themselves during the previous year.
And there, pride of place in the shortlist, is the word “kopimism”, described by the Language Council as a “political and religious ideology centered around freedom of information.”
But while that might sound like a decent description, not everyone agrees.
Rasmus Fleischer is one of the founders of Piratbyrån, the group that founded The Pirate Bay and created the term kopimism. He suggests that given the chance he might have chosen another definition.
“To me, kopimi is not about information, neither about freedom. It is about copying!” he told TorrentFreak.
“It is simply an imperative: ‘copy me’. It is also a symbol: a pyramid with a K. If you say ‘kopimi’ or show off the kopimi pyramid, you are stating that you want to be copied. That’s something completely different from a license. You are not saying that you are allowing others to do this or that – you urge them to copy,” Fleischer explains.
“As an attitude or even philosophy, kopimi became pivotal for the work of Piratbyrån.
Kopimi was never restricted to information. Actually, the origin of the word comes from a two-year old kid who was dancing and wanted his parent to copy the dance. I think that it may be more enlightening to understand kopimi through dance than through file-sharing.”
The Council says that the words on the list all say something about the present and linguistic trends and includes words that show linguistic creativity and innovation.
“Anyone using the Swedish language is creating and bringing new words to the language. And we’re all deciding which words are established in the language by choosing the words we use,” says Per-Anders Jande, a manager at the Language Council.
Gustav Nipe, chairman of the Missionary Church of Kopimism, says that the church are thrilled by the placement of kopimism on the list and believe that the recognition of the religion had an effect on the Language Council’s decision.
“We are very happy about it,” Nipe told TorrentFreak. “Kopimism as a belief is getting stronger and stronger respect here in Sweden.”
Interestingly, particularly for a word like Kopimism that was created offline but now has most of its following in the digital domain, the Swedish Language Council says that these days we often have to differentiate which world we are speaking about in conversation.
“We must now often specifically highlight that we’re talking about non-digital consumption – say a physical store, a physical journey, a physical disk and so on,” they explain.
And in another sign that the boundaries of these physical and digital domains can be crossed and interconnected, Gustav Nipe leaves us with this teaser.
“We are right in the middle of expanding the Missionary Church of Kopimism into the physical world. But more than that will I not say right now,” Nipe explains.
After speaking with Rasmus Fleischer it becomes clear that kopimi is an unusual concept. It has no-one leading the way and its development is in the hands of the next person who choses to copy it. According to Fleischer the description given by the Language Council is already unsatisfactory given the roots of the word, so it will presumably become even more outdated as new ideas and future copying acts further change the direction of kopimism.
“Every copy is a transformation, which also means that every use of kopimi is transforming the concept – not always for the better,” Fleischer explains.
“But kopimi has always been a quite discordian concept. I totally affirm the existence of complementary and even rivaling variants of kopimi.”