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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

Perhaps the explanation is that he won't give his opponents -- which at this point would include the Swedish judicial system, the police and Hollywood as a whole -- the satisfaction. Feeling sad would mean admitting defeat.

"The thing is, they can't take my soul. Even if I get locked up somewhere, I know that I'm not the one who did wrong. I deserve no punishment, and that gives me the right to be angry. I'm not the one who should feel sorry," Sunde says.

In late 2008, things nearly boiled over. Sunde was on holiday in Iceland when a reporter from Swedish television called up and started asking questions about dead children. Somehow, details from a police investigation into two children who had been murdered in the Swedish town of Arboga had been leaked onto the Pirate Bay. Several photos of their corpses were now being shared among the site's users. The case, in all its gory details, had struck a chord with the public and was covered widely in the Swedish press that year.

The story that now followed accused The Pirate Bay founders of putting the photographs of the dead children online. In the outcry that followed, things began to change. The public perception of Sunde shifted: He was no longer portrayed as the hero, the underdog everyone rooted for. Instead, he became the villain, a cynical exploiter, profiteering from the death of two children.

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.


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