On November 10 former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde was released from the high security prison where he’d been detained since his arrest last May.
After more than two weeks on the outside Peter is still struggling to put his thoughts into words and come to terms with what happened, a process that needs time.
Peter, who was Pirate Bay’s public face but never got involved in day-to-day operations, sees his incarceration as a kidnapping. He never committed a crime, but was jailed for a made-up offense due to pressure from the copyright lobby.
While in prison Peter lost his father. Not being able to stand beside his loved ones during this time made it all so much worse. Slowly, however, there’s a light glimmering at the end of the tunnel, a light that strengthens Peter’s inner-urge as an Internet activist.
Today, Peter is kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the past and future with TF and the many people who spoke out in his support during the past few months.
Looking back at the difficult months in prison, and ahead to his future as a free man, it’s clear that Peter hasn’t given up on his fight to preserve a free and open Internet. Quite the contrary.
“Data is the oil of our century and the fight against piracy is our version of the invasion of Kuwait. Put this into context and the fight for a free and open network becomes something else. It becomes the fight for a free humanity and open society,” he says.
TF: Looking back at your time in prison, what was the hardest part?
Peter: The hardest part was actually not being there, but the fact that I could not take care of things outside. The people who depend on me, especially my father, didn’t have me there when they needed me. People I work with had (and still have) to work much harder since I’m not around to take care of things.
The other things, the fact that the “food” was uneatable and unhealthy, the fact that there was nothing to put your mind into besides books and letters which essentially makes one lose one’s intellectual skills. The fact that you’re never really treated as a human being but rather a bastard that deserves shit, are all awful things but not comparable to the feeling of being un-free in a situation of crisis.
TF: Was there anything positive?
Peter: The positive things? I realize that criminals in general are not the people one should be afraid of. Criminals are mostly products of a state that didn’t care enough for its citizens. The people they commit crimes against are victims of victims. The most dangerous criminals I met inside were those who committed the crime of breaking human rights on a daily basis. They are the ones making sure that criminals keep being criminals. But positive? The most positive thing was leaving.
TF: You mention the term “kidnapping” in relation to the prison sentence. Can you elaborate on that?
Peter: Well yes. Kidnapping: “In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful taking away or transportation of a person against that person’s will, usually to hold the person unlawfully.” – there’s no legal merit in taking me, because I’ve never committed a crime. The state has abused their powers. The whole case is similar to me saying that someone owns me money, making a false receipt and then taking the money from that persons wallet. Noone would consider that right or legal. Hence, the state kidnapped me.
TF: Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you’re working on, or have planned for the future?
Peter: I’m working on lots of things, as usual. I’ve wasted a lot of time during my kidnapping, and I still need some time to catch up with myself. Not (only) because of the kidnapping, mostly for family reasons. There are big things coming, besides the public things such as heml.is (which btw, is awfully close to release and the team is awfully awesome) and a new version of Flattr which will turn a lot of heads. The bigger things are not announced nor public, and mostly still in the planning stages. But it will be bigger than the other projects.
TF: Have you come to any new insights over the past months, or new project ideas?
Peter: Lots of ideas! My issue has always been that I have a lot of ideas that I want done, but usually not the funds, time or team (because of the funds mostly) to make them happen. I’ve decided to work less hands-on with tech and rather focus on the idea development.
I’ve always tried to merge my views on politics with tech, but I also need to merge those things with reaching out to the mainstream public. That’s my next thing. Not going more mainstream, but reaching out to it more. Also, I’ve decided to spend more time on hobbies (such as my work in comedy and architectural design) since I think it’s better to get a break from doing the same thing 24 hours a day.
TF: What are the main threats the Internet faces today? How should these be addressed? Do you plan to get involved yourself?
Peter: I’ve been involved for as long as I can remember now, and I’m never stopping. The main threats are the same as always – the quest for control and power. Everyday more people connect to the network, and every day we move power away from users to big corporations that have lobbyists employed to make sure they’re allowed to centralize. All these corporations, that claim to love the free and open web, that say that the free market ensures it will be a-ok, really lock down the internet and buy their competitors so that they own the markets.
If we don’t stop it now it will end up in an armed revolution in a few years. The internet has gone from being a playground for new technology and entertainment to becoming the bearer of almost all communication, information and expressions; while still being treated as a playground in a sense. The market owners play with our personal information for a profit, states play around with our secrets and integrity (and for that matter, other states secrets and integrity).
All while we, the people, use the systems that enslave us to try to kill the beast. We click “like” on Facebook when we see a group trying to stop Facebook from violating our human rights. We need to wake up out of that stupidity and demand our rights back.
The past decades we all saw the internet being free. We can’t imagine a non-free network today. But it will become locked up, closed down, segregated, if we’re still this naive further down the line.
It’s never been about just the free downloads for me. They just happened to be the first step, the first fight. Data is the oil of our century and the fight against piracy is our version of the invasion of Kuwait. Put this into context and the fight for a free and open network becomes something else. It becomes the fight for a free humanity and open society.
Based on the above it’s clear that the Internet hasn’t heard the last of Peter just yet, whether it’s Heml.is, Flattr or any of the new projects. We wish Peter all the best in accomplishing his goals and want to thank him profoundly for sharing his thoughts with us, which wasn’t easy.
Finalizing our question round we asked Peter where he wants to be in 10 years.
“Still in love,” he replied.