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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

"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 LundstrAPm 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, MalmAP 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.

Perhaps there are other explanations, too. The damages that Sunde owes the music and film industries make it difficult for him to settle down. He can't buy an apartment or a car, as they would immediately be seized by the authorities to pay off his debt. "Only in Sweden though," Sunde says, but doesn't elaborate.

With interest, Sunde and his co-defendants today owe more than 75 million Swedish kronor, roughly $11 million. The debt is shared "in solidarity" -- yes, that's the actual legal term -- between them. That means the authorities will take the money wherever they can, even if all of it is from one person.

Sunde shrugs when our conversation moves to his debt. "I don't believe in the American dream anyway, becoming a billionaire and buying expensive cars. Most people in my world are still paying off their tuition fees. In a way, owing a hundred million is easier than a hundred thousand, because you stop imagining that you will ever be able to pay the money back," he says. "I actually feel kind of liberated. I can never become a wage slave."


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