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File-sharing recognized as a religion in Sweden

File-sharing over the Internet was recognized by the Swedish government as an official religion on Thursday, even while the act of file-sharing remains illegal in the country.

The Missionary Church of Kopimism, founded by 19-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson, takes its name from the Internet file-sharing movement Kopimi (pronounced copy-me).

“The organisation formalizes a community that’s been well spread for a long time already,” said the church in a statement regarding its new status.

“It’s a huge relief,” Gerson told Sweden’s English-language news site The Local.

No formal membership is required, just the acknowledgement that the act of file-sharing is a holy sacrament.

“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 each other through copying and remix,” explained the new church.

The church hopes that its official status will help break down what it considers a social stigma against Internet file-sharing.

“Although the formal status of the Church doesn’t mean that copyright infringement is now permitted, the Church’s founder hopes that their beliefs will be considered in future lawmaking,” reported TorrentFreak, a file-sharing news blog.

“During the last half year the Missionary Church of Kopimism tripled its members from 1,000 to 3,000 and it’s expected that the recent news will cause another surge in followers,” said TorrentFreak.

At least one expert doubts that the new religion’s status will have any impact on the Swedish legal system.

“It is quite divorced from reality and is reflective of Swedish social norms rather than the Swedish legislative system,” Mark Mulligan, an independent British music industry analyst, told the BBC. Mulligan was formerly a vice president at industry analysis firm Forrester Research.

The Pirate Party — a Swedish political party founded in 2006, spawning a global political movement –failed to win enough votes in 2010 to gain seats in the Swedish parliament. The party had planned to host file-sharing sites The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks from within the Swedish government.  In 2009, the party won 7 percent of the vote and took two seats in the European Parliament.

Seven members of Sweden’s Moderate Party — a member of the country’s governing coalition — also called for the complete decriminalization of file-sharing in 2008.

According to a 2009 statement by the State Department on religious freedom in Sweden, the Swedish constitution “provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the free practice of religion.”

The Daily Caller reported in October 2011 that the Swedish government co-sponsored a series of U.N. fact-finding missions in 2010 with billionaire George Soros’ Open Society, the conclusion of which was U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Frank La Rue‘s announcement that Internet access should be a basic human right.

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