Sweden's Missionary Church of Kopimism, which was founded in the fall of 2010 and granted official recognition by the Swedish government this past January, has already established branches in eighteen countries, including the United States. Now the upstart religion is beginning to attract mainstream attention.

Kopimism is currently featured in a story in US News and World Report, somewhat misleadingly titled "Kopimism, Sweden's Pirate Religion, Begins to Plunder America." Christopher Carmean, the founder of the U.S. branch, told US News, "Data is what we are made of, data is what defines our life, and data is how we express ourselves. ... Attempts to hinder sharing are antithetical to our data-driven existence."

The Church of Kopimism comes across partly as a spoof of organized religion similar to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, partly as an attempt to gain support for its desire to do away with most copyright laws, and in part completely in earnest.

As one Kopimist recently put it, "Not to belittle mainstream religion, but why is it okay to worship some bearded guy on a throne in the sky, but not this?"

According to its Swedish founder, 20-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson, adherents of Komimism "believe that information is holy and that the act of copying is holy.

Gerson told New Scientist that because the Swedish "authorities were quite dogmatic with their formalities," it took three tries for his group to be recognized as a church. They finally had to convince the government that they regard the copying of information as an act of worship and "CTRL+V" and "CTRL+C" as sacred symbols.

The American branch, which calls itself the First United Church of Kopimism, US, has registered with the state of Illinois as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization but has not yet sought federal recognition as a religion. Its activities chiefly center around a website that began operation last January 9, a few days after the Church of Komipism was recognized in Sweden.

The site offers a statement of values which explains, "The Church of Kopimism does not make claims regarding gods or supernatural forces. Life as we know it originated with the DNA molecule’s ability to duplicate itself, irrespective of the original creation of the Universe. ... Copying is fundamental to life and runs constantly all around us. Shared information provides new perspectives and generate new life. We feel a spiritual connection to the created file."

"From all at one and from one to all – and then back – exchange without beginning and without end," it adds.

Photo of Isak Gerson by SHARE conference via Flickr

(h/t @Timcast)