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 story wasn't entirely true. The pictures hadn't been uploaded by the site administrators but by another user. It wasn't a leak: All police investigations are made public by default under Swedish law, so finding them had been a simple matter of calling the court and providing a delivery address. What Sunde, Svartholm Warg and Neij had done, however, was refuse to remove the torrent from The Pirate Bay once it had been posted.

Sunde patiently answered questions from the journalists who kept calling. He explained how the site administrators never judged what users chose to upload, and how plenty of offensive stuff could be found using search engines like Google. The Pirate Bay was no different, he argued. It simply indexed stuff that users wanted to share.

His strategy didn't work very well. The debate took a turn for the worse when some began using the case to argue for reform of the principles of transparency that govern the Swedish judicial system. Even the Swedish minister for justice herself chimed in, arguing for the courts to abide by tougher secrecy regulations. The Pirate Bay was suddenly being painted as a threat against everything Sunde held dear: openness, transparency and freedom of information.

The final straw came when he was invited onto Debatt, a popular talk show on Swedish television, to discuss The Pirate Bay in front of a live studio audience. Sunde accepted on one condition: he would not discuss the photographs from the Arboga case. The producer who invited him agreed to those terms, but that was a lie. When Sunde arrived at the studio, one of the other guests was the father of the two murdered children. Shortly thereafter, Sunde stepped back from The Pirate Bay. In a blog post that has since been deleted, he announced that he would no longer speak to journalists. "I've got no respect left for the media," he wrote. In a sense, he was proven right. Debatt posted a public apology. One year later, a government committee concluded that the photos posted onto The Pirate Bay should never have been made public in the first place. No changes in law were needed.

More important to Sunde was the support he kept getting from fans. "We get letters sent every day. People seem really grateful, and that gives a lot of energy. Keep in mind that we're not Britney Spears, we haven't got a publicity department. We're not selling posters," he says.

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