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

Daniel Goldberg, Linus Larsson | Feb. 19, 2013
Peter Sunde was the poster boy for the file sharing movemen, then he was sentenced to eight months prison and fined millions of dollars

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.

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 percent 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.

 

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