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

The Pirate Bay was born out of the Pirate Bureau, a loosely affiliated group of Scandinavian activists arguing for the free sharing of information and culture over the Internet. The ideas were far from new, but the group managed to orchestrate somewhat of a tectonic shift in Swedish public debate. Their rhetoric painted software piracy as a point of pride, rather than something shameful. Piracy, they argued, was an act of defiance, something to flaunt in the eyes of copyright holders, whose increasingly aggressive legal teams were putting basic Internet liberties at risk. The group regarded The Pirate Bay, their very own bittorrent tracker, as a physical manifestation of those ideas. The goals were lofty: The Pirate Bay was to become a limitless database of information, free from censorship and regulation, and an ever-present thorn in the side of the copyright industry. The rhetoric, always dressed in black-and-white pirate garb, struck a chord with many, not least with Sunde.

"It felt sort of like backpacking in Asia and then suddenly meeting a bunch of people from your home town. These were people who shared my views and were capable of debate," he says.

Sunde was soon the official spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, mostly because nobody else could be bothered. "Fredrik is a dyslectic and Gottfrid isn't really compatible with other people. So I started replying to e-mails and telling people what I thought," he says.

Three years later, on May 31, 2006, a group of police officers marched into the data center in southern Stockholm that housed the Pirate Bay servers and promptly pulled the plug. Svartholm Warg and Neij were both brought in for questioning. The raid marked the beginning of six years of legal wrangling. Sunde, Svartholm Warg, Neij and their one-time financier Carl Lundström were all charged with copyright crimes. In February 2012, six years later, the case came to an end as the Swedish High Court declined to hear an appeal.

In retrospect, is there anything Sunde regrets? Yes, he says, just one little thing. "I should have told Gottfrid to encrypt his hard drive. That's where the evidence came from. Even though he works professionally with security, I should have told him," he says.

Nowadays, Sunde spends a lot of time travelling. He's a popular speaker -- a few weeks before our interview he spoke at a conference in Beirut, before that in Malaysia. He regularly moves between Berlin, Malmö and Gdansk in Poland, where his girlfriend lives. Flattr, the startup he founded a few years ago but in which he now has no formal ownership, also takes up a lot of his time. He hasn't had anything to do with The Pirate Bay for years, he says. "Travelling has turned into a sort of lifestyle, I suppose. The world keeps getting smaller," he says.

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