Pirate Bay co-founder hopes it will die
BrokeP on neo-Nazi links, Hans Pandeya and the 'big, bad' record industry
Interview Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi is the most outspoken of the four men who founded BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay in Sweden in 2003. In April last year Sunde, AKA BrokeP, saw a verdict go against him, Carl Lundström, Frederik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg. They were all found guilty by a Swedish court of being accessories to breaching copyright laws. Immediately after that ruling, the men said they would appeal the judgment. Sunde has been in London this week in his self-appointed role as 'activist', and while here, he caught up with El Reg.
Sunde is hoping The Pirate Bay will sink. He claims to have very little involvement with the infamous website these days. Instead Sunde is residing in Berlin beavering away at a new project, while continuing to grumble about the "big, evil" record industry.
So is Hans Pandeya's latest bid to buy TPB doomed?
I think Hans is sick, actually. He doesn’t seem to be very happy and I’m a bit worried for him to be honest. I feel very sad for him. I’ve met him once or twice, he’s a nice guy.
The original idea [to buy the site] wasn’t that bad. He’s a bit like the Monty Python sketch, y’know, the knight who's lost his arms but keeps on going.
But what's his motive?
I think it might be vengeance to try and rebuild his name… He's been talking about arbitration courts and saying that the acquisition is now on hold. It's quite curious that it would be when no one else knew about it in the first place.
If he’s not the saviour of TPB, who is?
Does there have to be one? I don’t know.
I think it would be better if The Pirate Bay died. The thing is is that it has been so big for six or seven years now. It’s unique in the internet’s history when it comes to file sharing and peer-to-peer. So I think it’s time for something else.
You have repeatedly claimed not to have any involvement in the site, so how is it continuing to tick over?
Nothing has happened to the site in five years. Someone reboots a server when it crashes… The idea was for it to be a central hub and eventually letting it slowly die.
The problem is it’s still growing and at the same time everyone who was behind it has left it so it has its own life, it’s become this HAL entity that kinda runs itself. If it dies a bit more than perhaps people will go to the more decentralised systems.
Where are the servers located?
The servers were in Sweden but they aren’t now. I'm not aware of the location of any servers. In fact no one from what used to be TPB is aware of where they are.
After the raid [in 2006] servers were given to people and they were told to set up a VPN to them, and we said ‘don’t give us the real IP, just give us a tunnelled IP’. So someone knows where one of the web servers is, another person knows where one of the database servers are and they don’t know each other.
Sounds like tenuous connections, but who are these mysterious people?
It’s been friends and friends of friends and people who actually host it but don't know its Pirate Bay.
Meanwhile, the TPB four plan to appeal the 2009 verdict in the autumn, but the men are complaining with Swedish law officials about the date.
We’re arguing because we can only do this before the election in Sweden on 19 September. We said any time between 1-14 September is OK. But they’re saying it can’t happen until 20 September, which is obviously for political reasons.
There are still issues that need to be resolved before a court date can be set for the hearing. The EU has to say that the eCommerce Directive is not applicable on TPB's case, which is a long process and the court has to wait for it. We're also waiting for the bias of one of the judges in the case to be solved as well.
Despite all that we're confident we will win the appeal. If we don’t there’ll be another appeal. So it’s not really important, only from a political point of view.
As for the fines, the Swedish courts don’t have jurisdiction because the servers aren’t in that country now and nor are we [Sunde lives in Germany, while Neij and Svartholm Warg are somewhere in Asia currently. He didn't comment on the location of Lundström].
Anyway there’s no money, we have debts of 50 million Swedish kronor.
So where does Carl, who was linked to a gang of skinheads that attacked Latin American tourists in Stockholm in the mid-1980s, fit into the picture?
He doesn’t. The thing with him is that he has a bad political background so he’s on board, according to media, because he has lots of money and a bad reputation. It’s like a smear campaign.
I don’t like his background, I don’t like people who are very right-wing, but he is actually married to a Jewish woman. How neo-Nazi can he be? He used to be that when he was 18 or 19, but 25 years later he’s married a Jewish girl and has kids with her.
Lundström, who it's alleged owns 40 per cent of TPB after giving it servers and bandwidth via his ISP company to get the site up and running back in 2003, has switched his support from Keep Sweden Swedish to the far-right headbangers party New Democracy - but was thrown out for being too right wing. He has no plans to convert to Judaism anytime soon.
He is still very anti-religion. I don’t know him that well but it’s weird he’s involved this much with TPB in a way … There are multiple reasons he’s a bad guy according to the media: he is an ISP so he will scare other ISPs from hosting TPB and similar services, and he has money. So he’s a target and he was just unlucky.
How much did he invest in TPB operations?
He wanted to invest in it but there was never a company set up, never an organisation. He never paid anything in the set up of TPB. There was no need for him to pay.
So he’s not had any financial involvement whatsoever in TPB?
His company was a big donor by giving TPB an employee discount [to Neij, who has worked with Lundström] - that is the only connection and he gave that before he even knew of the site.
So what about the claims against the co-founders of TPB that alleged the men made money out of the operation?
I can’t prove that I don’t have a bank account somewhere with lots of money. And it’s kinda the same for Carl, he can’t prove he’s not part of this if the media says he’s part of this. We don't have proof for something we haven’t done.
So what's BrokeP's take on the dwindling membership over at the Swedish arm of the Pirate Party, which was formed following the Pirate Bay verdict last year?
They proved a point by joining, they don’t have to do it again. People will still want to vote for them and that's the most important thing.
You describe yourself as an activist, socialist and keen member of the Green Party, but how do those political beliefs sit right with the negative effect TPB has on fledgling artists?
It’s never been about the artist.
But it’s their work that we're talking about here, isn't it?
No it’s not.
The companies take everything. It's a screwed up movement, they suck them dry. You don’t need to get records pressed, or use distribution to shops anymore. The technology has been there for 10 years now, it’s made the old model redundant.
Why are people still buying CDs, then?
Because they want to support the artist.
What about vinyl?
It’s a different thing because that’s a collectors’ item. I’m a DJ and I have lots of vinyl … It’s a tool more than just something I consume. But so few artists make money from CD sales, especially in Sweden.
Who made the law? not the artists, that's for sure. There is philosophy behind all this and people are interested in their own distribution model.
Do you think TPB is stealing or reclaiming music?
Definitely reclaiming. The problem with music today is not how much is one song, we have so much we can’t choose from it. Maybe I should get paid to listen to one song, there are so many things that’s wrong with today’s model and needs to change.
Does TPB have any well-known artists who support the site?
The most famous person is probably Paulo Coelho - he puts up his own books on TPB. He actually wanted to be involved in the court case as a witness for us.
Did his publishers prevent him from doing that?
No, my lawyer did, because we had so many people who wanted to help.
So he obviously has no problem with the site's lack of legality, then?
TPB is legit. It was never on trial, we were.
I’ve spoke to record companies. I went to Sony BMG and proposed we work together on another site. The guy from Sony said: ‘I feel that you raped me and raped my kids and you raped everybody I know and you're speaking to my face like you enjoyed it.'
When we've reached out to the record industry they just didn’t want to help. ®