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The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde: 'They can't take my soul'

Peter Sunde was the poster boy for the file sharing movemen, then he was sentenced to eight months prison and fined millions of dollars

By Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson, IDG News Service
February 19, 2013 12:21 AM ET

IDG News Service - We are standing in a parking lot in the city of MalmAP, southern Sweden, one ofA the many places Peter Sunde now calls home. The sky above us is grey, as usual at this time of year. Just as the parking meter spits out our ticket, a young man driving much too fast on a motorcycle roars up behind us. He is followed by a police car, sirens blaring and blue lights flashing.

The motorcycle driver brakes to a stop next to our car, a silver-colored BMW. The policeman steps out with a grim look on his face. A speeding ticket is issued.

We start walking back toward our car. Sunde hesitates. "I'll just stay here," he says. "I'm not sure, but I think there may be a warrant for my arrest."

The BMW belongs to his mother. Sunde, who once ran the world's largest bittorrent site, doesn't own a car, or a house for that matter. Anything of value that he owns can be seized by the Swedish government, to pay off the damages that a court ruled he owed to the music and film industries. He's spent the past few years getting used to a life without belongings.

Sunde doesn't actually know if he is wanted by the police. A room at the VA$?stervik prison awaits his arrival, but he hasn't bothered to show up. In fact, he is trying his best not to make himself available to the authorities. It's not that he stays in hiding, but he doesn't make himself easy to get in touch with either. He doesn't check his mail, and he doesn't call the police asking for instructions. If they want him, he says, then they know where to find him. "They haven't exactly been fair to me this far. If it happens, it happens, but I won't make things worse for myself," Sunde says.

We walk the other way, away from the police car.

This year, The Pirate Bay celebrates its 10th anniversary. Many of us have used the site at one time or other. Sunde has spent nearly a third of his life keeping it alive. He's developed the reputation of a provocateur. For nearly a decade he's been arguing against what he perceives as Hollywood's unjust monopoly on entertainment distribution, and for freeing the Internet from the shackles of the copyright industry. Two years ago, he lost. The Swedish royal court sentenced him and his three accomplices to jail and fined them 46 million Swedish kronor, roughly $7 million, in damages.

We are in MalmAP to ask Sunde a very simple question: how does that make him feel? He has promised to give us an answer.

But first: Lunch. Our next stop is the all-vegan Chinese restaurant around the corner. "The owner runs a religious cult. They're insane, but the food is really good," Sunde tells us. A few minutes later he's tucking into a plate of Sichuan tofu and vegetable spring rolls. Between mouthfuls, we talk about Gottfrid "Anakata" Svartholm Warg and Fredrik "Tiamo" Neij, two of his co-defendants in the case.

The verdict handed down in November 2010 marked the end of one of the most talked-about court cases in the history of the Internet. The story of the Swedish pirates who gave Hollywood the finger transformed Sunde, Svartholm Warg and Neij into superstars. They travelled the world, and were photographed for glossy magazines. ("Pirates of the Multiplex" was the headline on a 2007 feature in Vanity Fair, that included pictures of Gottfrid and Fredrik, posing like rock stars next to the Pirate Bay servers.) The group enraged the film industry with cocky and profane retorts to a constant barrage of cease-and-desist-letters.

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