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

In the summer of 2012, Svartholm Warg was arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of hacking and fraud, presumably unrelated to the Pirate Bay case, and transported back to Sweden. He is currently awaiting trial. The amount of support from the public in his case has been overwhelming, Sunde says. "His mother has received thousands of letters. That makes me really happy. She is realizing how much of a positive impact his actions have had on people."

Looking back, it is clear that The Pirate Bay pushed forward the public debate on copyright and freedom of information. The file-sharing movement shook the entertainment industry to its core and, arguably, functioned as a catalyst for streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. In the European Parliament elections of summer 2009, a few months after The Pirate Bay founders were sentenced to jail, the Swedish Pirate Party secured 7.1% of the vote. Many people who then took an active part in the debate on software piracy, some of them close friends of Sunde from the Pirate Bureau days, are now renowned academics who have made names for themselves as proponents of copyright reform. But few have ever translated their words into code and action.

Sunde points to the left side of the table in front of him. "This is where they are," he says, referring to the film and music industry. He then moves his finger a few inches to the right. "And this is where the academics are, like Lawrence Lessig." He is referring to the Harvard professor famous for his critiques of copyright law and well-known among intellectually-minded software pirates. In his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig argues that the Internet has changed things to such an extent that many of the rules governing the offline world, notably copyright law, need to be rewritten. That is exactly what The Pirate Bay set out to prove in practice.

Sunde then points to the far right of the room. "I want to be over there, pulling everyone else in my direction," he says -- far off in the distance, in other words, away from the thinkers, pundits, speakers, journalists and authors who have taken an interest in Internet freedom and software piracy. Those are the people with a steady income through writing articles, selling books and profitable speaking engagements.

But Peter Sunde was sentenced to jail and fined millions of dollars.

How does that make him feel?

Sunde stays silent for a while before answering:

"I get love letters sent to my home. Do you?"

TIMELINE

2003

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