The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde: 'They can't take my soul'

Peter Sunde was the poster boy for the file sharing movement, then he was sentenced to eight months prison and fined millions of dollars

By Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson, IDG News Service |  IT Management, copyright, The Pirate Bay

Shortly thereafter, his mother fell ill. She was diagnosed with psychosis and began suffering from delusions. "We moved house all the time. It was her way of handling it. She thought that everything would get better if we just found a new place to live."

His mother's illness, and his dealings with the Swedish health care system, had a profound effect on him, he says. "She was given the wrong medication and treated with a lot of suspicion. People didn't seem to care that much about her. Maybe because she was a single woman with two kids to take care of."

Sunde is an outspoken socialist, perhaps a less controversial label in Sweden than in many other countries. He enjoys discussing climate change, vegetarianism and issues of equality. Can he trace his political views back to childhood? He says the frustration born from seeing his mother go without help led him to one fundamental conclusion: "If you're not the right kind of person, society won't give you the help you need."

Sunde dropped out of school in his teens and started working as an IT consultant. He spent his evenings online and soon became involved in piracy, swapping music and films with others on invitation-only servers. Eventually, he was offered a job with the German technology company Siemens which, among many other things, develops IT systems for use in hospitals. A friend had convinced him to say yes: "If you do a good job, that could mean one or two people live longer than they would have otherwise."

Reality proved less glamorous. In 2003, based in Norway, Sunde helped program a system used for registering patients at hospitals. Older systems used fingerprints, and the new one would be compatible with retinal scanners. That got Sunde thinking. He had heard rumors of illegal immigrants burning their fingerprints away on kitchen stoves before visiting a hospital, so they wouldn't be caught and deported. Whether or not this ever happened is up for debate -- none of the experts on Norwegian asylum law we spoke to knew of any such cases -- but the rumor stuck with Sunde. While toiling away on the retinal scanner, all he could think of was asylum seekers poking their eyes out with knives.

He protested to his manager. "There was a lot of complaining after that. I was labeled as negative and difficult to work with," he says.

That same year, Sunde got in touch with Fredrik Neij through mutual acquaintances online. Fredrik needed help with a new project he was working on, a bittorrent-tracker that would eventually grow into The Pirate Bay. Sunde offered to help, started reading up on the file sharing movement, and realized he'd found a new home.

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