Swedish authorities have officially recognized the Missionary Church of Kopimism, founded in 2010 on the belief that copying and sharing files over the Internet is a sacred act, as an official religion, TorrentFreak reports.
Chief Missionary Isak Gerson, who founded the Church of Kopimism last year as a 19-year-old philosophy student, lead the year-long effort to gain freedom of religion protection under the Swedish constitution.
With membership tripling from 1,000 to 3,000 in the last half of 2011, the church's followers -- known as "Kopimists"-- knew that the official recognition was essential if they wanted to continue practicing their religious system, which considers file-sharing to be a holy act akin to prayer or meditation.
A press release posted on the church's website explains their religious system:
For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament. 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.
Being recognized by the state of Sweden is a large step for all of kopimi. Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution, says Isak Gerson, spiritual leader of the Church of Kopimism.
TorrentFreak pointed out that the decision of Swedish authorities to officially recognize the Church of Kopimism does not mean that all forms of file sharing are now legal. File sharing that involves copyright infringement, for example, remains illegal, though Gerson hopes that can change in the future.
"There's still a legal stigma around copying for many. 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," Gerson told Torrentfreak.
Unfortunately for Gerson and other Kopimists, lawmakers around the world are pushing for anti-piracy legislation that would significantly limit Internet users' ability to download and share files.
A fierce debate over the constitutionality of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a U.S. bill introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith in late October which would give lawmakers the authority to shut down certain file sharing websites, has escalated over the past few months as the bill makes its way through Congress.
As such, Kopimists can probably expect to welcome many more followers in the coming year. Interested persons can learn more by signing up on the church's website.