File Sharing the Gospel


“Are you saved?”

This question might refer to your soul, if asked by a religious evangelist. But at a computer, the question is more likely to be about your files. Among the online file-sharing movement Kopimi (“copy me”), these two takes on saving are now formally linked: the group has been officially recognized as a religion in Sweden.

20-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson founded The Missionary Church of Kopimism two years ago, to advocate digital piracy and counter the legal stigma that surrounds it. After two failed attempts at official status, the organization recently won over the authorities by formalizing its rituals and beliefs. (Gatherings where members exchange data were dubbed "kopyacting" services, and the keyboard shortcuts CTRL+C and CTRL+V have been deemed sacred symbols.)

While Kopimism may now be recognized as a religion, its followers are far from being free of "religious persecution." File-sharers in Sweden are still being pursued for copyright infringement as in the rest of the world, though the Church’s founder is optimistic that their beliefs will be considered in future lawmaking.

"Information is holy and copying is a sacrament," the Church stated in a recent press release. "Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying." Given the internet’s weightlessness, it does seem somewhat god-like and omnipresent -- there is certainly an element of faith to copying elements of the physical world and saving them as digital records.

73-year-old Gordon Bell, a former computer scientist at Microsoft, takes such digital archiving to the extreme with his obsessive “lifelogging” project, described in his book Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change EverythingAs a way to remember everything, Bell records every image he sees with a digital camera dangling around his neck, captures every sound he hears with a digital recorder, scans every piece of paper immediately after reading it, etc.

But whether or not this kind of excessive copying creates value remains to be seen. Believing in free and unrestricted access to media, the Kopimists surely go beyond even Bell's copying  to download more music, movies, TV shows, and software than they can possibly consume. However, the Missionary Church of Kopimism continues to grow, especially with the recent news -- its membership has tripled from 1,000 to 3,000 over the past six months.

“We confessional Kopimists have not only depended on each other in this struggle, but on everyone who is copying information,” Gerson tells TorrentFreak. "To everyone with an internet connection: Keep copying. Maintain hardline Kopimi.”