Isak Gerson: "I'm not the Kopimist Jesus". Photo via
Just the other week in Sweden, file-sharing was officially recognised as a religion. For real. This line of faith is called Kopimism (which originates from the Swedish pirate term 'kopimi', a play on the words “copy me”) and worships the holy act of copying and spreading information. They do not only consider it to be the meaning of life – growing by copying and spreading knowledge and information – but also its origin, since life begun with the DNA molecule's ability to duplicate itself. I guess that kinda makes sense.
Kopimism’s religious symbols are CTRL+C and CTRL+V. Their gospel is spreading fast. Having been around for merely a year, the religion already counts 4,000 members and its Swedish mother site has already been copied everywhere from Russia and Canada, to France and Romania. The crusade has begun and it looks like Sweden can now enjoy the possibility of jumping from being one of the least, to being one of the most religious countries in the world.
Whatever your stand is on file-sharing, and regardless of whether you believe the Kopimists are devout zealots, or just a bunch of bored, wacky people, the battle for/ against making knowledge and information available to the masses is an increasingly important issue. The existence of the internet itself is currently under threat from the US’s http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/lamar-smith-sopa-copyright-whoops" target="_blank">aggressive Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) bill. Crippling education fees and increasing book/ DVD/ CD/ concert/ cinema ticket prices are making it harder and harder for people to educate and entertain themselves the “legit way”.
In these conditions, who knows? Maybe Kopimism will flourish. I called up the church's founder, Isak Gerson, for a quick chat.
VICE: Congratulations for getting Kopimism registered as an official religion in Sweden. What does this mean for file-sharers?
Isak Gerson: Getting accepted as a religion doesn’t really change anything for file-sharers in legal terms, as file-sharing is still illegal. To us, freedom to copy is not only political; it’s much deeper than that.
Are you for real?
Yes. Kopimists deserve the same recognition and respect as other faiths.
So why is file-sharing important enough to turn into a religion practice?
Because copying is the basis of the human thought process. All of our ideas and inspirations come from conversations we have with other people and other people's art and culture.
I read on your site that you are a Christian. In what way is file-sharing similar to more traditional forms of belief?
File-sharing in itself isn’t, but the belief in copying and spreading being a holy act is, and that’s what makes us similar to other religious folks.
Can you be both Christian and a Kopimist?
There is no contradiction in that. In fact, there are many signs of copying and spreading being a big part of Christianity.
How did you manage to convince the Swedish law system that file-sharing is a legit religious practice?
The third and last time we applied there were only formalities that stood in the way, which we managed to resolve after a dialogue with the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency.
So how do you guys pray? Do you have masses?
We don’t have a church as we meet on the internet. But I guess our version of a mass is when we all gather in a space or a server to copy and share things with each other, and then end the session with an appeal for everyone to copy and spread to others.
Who or what is your god?
We don’t have a god.
Are you the Kopimist Jesus?
No, I’m just a temporary leader.
What’s Kopimism’s version of “Amen”?
“Copy and spread”, that’s what we end our conversations with.
Is copyright the devil?
Copyright in itself isn’t, but the people who created it are. And those who are fighting to uphold it, of course.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope we will continue to see an increase in file-sharing and that more and more people will get access to the internet. As for Kopimism, I’m optimistic; we’ve grown to several thousand members in only a year and this is just the beginning.
Well, good luck with it.
Illustration by Jenny Hirons