Peter Sunde: File Sharing is Politics, Propaganda and Control

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In the beginning of The Pirate Bay's history the site was in Swedish. It was made by Swedes for their community. Other countries had their own file sharing sites but they got shut down.

sharing-caringI remember when one of the biggest Spanish file-sharing sites was shut down. These file sharers had nowhere to go but The Pirate Bay (TPB). All of a sudden the top list of TPB was flooded with Spanish content except for one peculiar audiobook. It was a Swedish language course.

We decided to translate the site. Not just into English but into as many languages as possible. We found people from lots of countries to chime in and help. I remember the Portuguese translation especially interesting as it was carried out by a man from Brazil. We decided that we’d make two different buttons for the translation – one for Portuguese and one for Brazilian-Portuguese. These languages differ a little. The actual gettext translation file was the same though.

There were words that had never been translated to Portuguese before (like “seeder”, “leecher” and “torrent” as technical terms) and for us it was funny to see that Brazil, a former colony of Portugal, had a say in how their former mother state developed their native language.

The Swedish translation gave me a similar experience. A Finnish person did most of the translation. Finland, which was part of, and ruled by, Sweden for a very long time, still has Swedish as an official language. A few words in the Swedish translation of TPB were so new that they had to be invented. Some ended up in dictionaries.

And the same thing happened for the Norwegian translation. There are two of them, since Norway has two main languages. But the main Norwegian translation was done by a person who speaks the minority language (whom just happens to also be really good at the main language). It has an effect on how the language develops.

A few years later another thing made me think quite a lot. During the height of TPB’s struggles I noticed that for the first time ever, more than 50% of the top 100 listing were things from India. Previously when TPB was localized for Sweden it felt natural that it had mostly Scandinavian or English things. But when it had become an international success, and the things being shared were not from where one thought they might be, it said something about the way the world is moving.

I just watched the movie India’s Daughter. The movie is about a gang rape (and murder) in India in 2012. The first thing that struck me was that I wanted to put it up on The Pirate Bay’s frontpage to make sure that people all over the world could see it – especially in India. Why? It’s being censored there. It’s a film that everyone needs to see. But not only is there a copyright issue, but there’s also a country-wide ban on the movie. People have tried putting it up on YouTube multiple times, but YouTube always takes the movie down due to their need to follow court orders in India.

This all puts things into perspective for me. De-centralized file sharing by virtue of peer-to-peer technology is obviously a way to get important information in and out of countries in a time of need. It’s a way to make sure that global data is not being blocked due to local corruption. It transcends the ideas of national borders. And it is highly political.

It has multiple angles. I understand now that one of the key reasons for the US to fight file-sharing might be that they don’t want India to take over their place as the number one culture. If Bollywood passes Hollywood in interest, it will be a huge loss for the US.

I am also upset that no one in TPB is doing their part. No one cares about politics anymore. It’s a technical site that is not helping a movement. I’m not talking about the file-sharing movement. But for me it’s strange that TPB is not promoting India’s Daughter to everyone globally. Especially on the international women’s day.

Sharing is political. Words are political. Communication is political. And if we don’t use the powers and voices we have, we’re on the wrong side of the struggle.

About The Author

Peter Sunde is the former spokesperson of The Pirate Bay. He’s currently working for the micro-payment service Flattr, the encrypted chat client Heml.is and several other technology startups.

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