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Copying Digital Data is a Holy Act - so says the Swedish Government according to a press release issued by an organization calling itself "The Church of Kopimism." Though this organization has no current "chapters" in the United States, how long will it be before similar folks are putting our own copyright laws to the test (SOPA is looming, you know.)
The "church," whose website has been reduced to a single, static HTML page due to the exponential increase of in-bound traffic from the likes of Huffington Post, Mashable, Rolling Stone, and more, sees this as "one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution" according to one of the movement's leaders, Isak Gerson.
There was a day when fear of persecution because of faith meant something altogether different and more dire. Has the overall tone of our global society shifted so much? Does legal prosecution for copyright infringement constitute religious persecution these days?
The act of copying something is considered to be a sacrament by the newly recognized religious order, who has been vying for legitimacy since 2010. Response to the move has generated a fair volume of both confusion and support from the Swedish community online, but the religious community at large has yet to weigh in with much commentary about the "value" of such recognition and any impact it might have on an ecosystem of religious organizations that see more and more potential practitioners turning away.
Why is "Sweden Recognizes File-Sharing" WW trending topic? Im swedish and I dont even understand what it means? lol
— Emma ♥ JLo (@emma_ander_jlo) January 5, 2012
Granted, this is not the first test of the limits of the protections that might be offered religions globally, and certainly won't be the last abroad or here at home. And while the rumor buzz heightens about the positives and negatives of digital domain law in our own country, there are sure to be more than a few quick converts.
There is no doubt that information is valuable in our modern era. There are some who see the limitations imposed on distribution of information as a form of restriction of power, certainly. But what stance, if any, should religious organizations and/or people of faith take in this fast growing, polarizing issue?
"The community of kopimi requires no formal membership. You just have to feel a calling to worship what is the holiest of the holiest, information and copy. To do this, we organize kopyactings - religious services - where the kopimists share information with eachother through copying and remix." - The Church of Kopimism
Copyright questions have played out on the global stage for years with the major players in industry, politics, and even private citizens pulled into legal battles with literally billions of dollars assumed at stake, but the Church as a whole has not found itself extending the shelter of religious freedom to those who feel their rights are being denied by such laws and restrictions. Up to this point, the free flow of information and ideas was an economic issue, not a spiritual one. It has been difficult enough for proponents to argue against digital ownership restrictions from an ethical point of view, what might happen now that a precedent has been set for seeing such practice of the free flow of information as a religious act of worship, protected by many countries?
Stranger still, what might become of notions of faith and worship in general? With no sense of the a divine presence to feature, what is it exactly that this "religion" worships? What does it mean to worship at all? Is our modern understanding of the nature of a religious organization just an over-glorified tax shelter? Maybe so. Meanwhile, take a look at this bootlegged copy of the first 6 minutes of "The Dark Knight Rises" and see if you can decipher the secret holy sacrament the act of watching it allegedly creates for these Swedes - or just see if you can figure out what the heck Bane is saying underneath that mask.