Posted by & filed under Book Club, Reading and Reviewing. 2 comments

I FINALLY have the chance to catch up on reading this weekend! Come hang out on Twitter & read with me (because who says reading has to be a lonely activity?!) or stick around here for the reviews afterward.  So what are you reading? What books are on your wish list?

Reading Now:
Post Human by David Simpson

Sorry, David Simpson….. I hate your cover. But I am loving* the book.

*Loving: tentatively and with reservations. I’m about halfway through the first Post Human book, and so far enjoying it. The writing is sometimes choppy with disorienting time/perspective jumps, I’m less-than-convinced by the romantic story arcs, and I’m rolling my eyes hard while reading this. BUT despite my efforts not to, I actually kind of like the book…

And, call me escapist if you want, but I really, really need a break from the real world to read some fiction.


Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman

Ok, so I’m not a total escapist. I do still read non-fiction.

I didn’t think I’d be reading this one, though. Barrett Brown critiqued it and Jeremy Hammond gave his (somewhat more positive) take on the book. Initially, I thought reading the “characters'” stories in their own words would be enough. Who needs an academic with a publishing contract, when the characters are real damn people who can speak for themselves?

But here’s something Jeremy said in his review that finally made me pick up the book:

“We are condemned as criminals without consciences, dismissed as anti-social teens without a cause, or hyped as cyber-terrorists to justify the expanding surveillance state. But hacktivism exists within the history of social justice movements. Hacktivism is still the future, and it’s good to see people still doing something about it.”

I can’t make personal judgements about the stories in this book, because I don’t actually know the people involved. But the stories of hacktivists are historic. Their ongoing battles are history in the making, their cases foundational to the social and judicial order of the digital age. Regardless of whether this book is the definitive corpus of anonthropology (probably not), the subject matter is significant. HHWS, like any book, may just be one flawed view, but it’s a view of an intriguing and notable time and therefore, I think, worth a look.

So I’m giving it a read and coming to my own conclusions.


On my wish list:

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

Here’s one that I really want to read, but haven’t been able to get my hands on yet. The last book I read by Cory Doctorow was Pirate Cinema, which has made it’s way onto my Favorites(EVER) book list, so I really, really, really want to see what he’s come up with since then.

Anyone read this one already?

Here’s the description from Amazon:

“Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer — a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.”


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CommunicationAgeReviewing: Keep Rootin’ for Putin, get a copy from the Free Barrett Brown people HERE.

Today, Barrett Brown is in court for – hopefully – the last time. As we wait for news from his sentencing, I urge everyone to spend some time reading this persecuted journalists’ work.

I picked up Keep Rootin’ for Putin in December (during his 1st sentencing hearing) as a sort of defiance against the attempts to silence it’s author. You can read more about Barrett Brown’s case here and in his own words to the court here. Brown is a great writer – even in jail – and I’ve enjoyed his literary eviscerations of the foolish before. But reading his latest book, published while he himself was locked away, was definitely, partly my quiet FUCK YOU to those who would have a journalist silenced.

Keep Rootin’ for Putin tears apart the so-called “experts” on everything from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the drug war to American evangelicalism to the racism of popular media moguls. It’s written in the clear, methodological style that Brown does best: juxtaposing the “experts” own words with their actions and fact-based analysis exposing their hypocrisy with incisive, irrefutable (and often hilarious) clarity. The title of this book, for instance, comes from the 2001 period in which Thomas Friedman was busy heaping high praise on Vladimir Putin and his vision for Russia (emphasis mine)…

“sushi bars are opening all over (yes, from borscht to Big Macs to California-Kremlin rolls in one decade!), and so many people have cars now that traffic is permanently snarled…. [Putin] is Russia’s first Deng Xiaoping—Mao’s pragmatic successor who first told the Chinese that ‘to get rich is glorious’ and put in place the modernizing reforms to do it…. So keep rootin’ for Putin—and hope that he makes it to the front of Russia’s last line.

…a period which Thomas Friedman himself forgot a few years later when he openly mocked those who “fueled” Putin’s rise to power, writing a column entitled What did we expect? “We” presumably meaning all those OTHER idiots who’d written about Moscow’s sushi bars and Putin’s pragmatic efforts to modernize the Russian economy, because Friedman for all appearances doesn’t include himself in their number.

Brown’s point in Keep Rootin’ for Putin is not that people’s views evolve. It is rather the lack of self-awareness with which they do it and the free pass the media – and in turn we, the public – give them in their selective memory. Friedman’s change of heart, for instance, is not a thoughtful reassessment of his views, but a cover-up of his past proclamations and an eschewal of any responsibility for his role in shaping such views.

Another pundit called out in the book, Richard Cohen, laments the very fact: that, in the modern age, columnists can actually be held accountable for their columns and are expected to take responsibility for the views they’ve espoused (even where those views are a matter of life and death in war):

“I yearn for the freedom to be what I want to be. I don’t want to lie, but I want to be comforted by my own version of the truth. I want to own my life, all of it, and not have it banked at Google or some such thing. The trove of letters that some biographer is always discovering, the one that unmasks our hero and all his pretensions, has been moved from the musty attic to sleek cyberspace. I am imprisoned by the truth, a record of what I wrote and the public’s silly insistence on consistency—a life sentence without hope of parole. For me, the future is the present. It’s not that I cannot die. It’s rather that I cannot lie.”

To which Brown responds:

“Any individual who decries the arrival of the communications age on the grounds that the truth has become more accessible is an enemy of truth and of man’s ability to discover it.”

He rightly calls out the arrogance of these pundits, their lack of accountability, and the dangers inherent in empowering those who are so frequently, so obliviously wrong to shape public opinion. Keep Rootin for Putin is his attempt to bring this accountability to the sphere of so-called experts. This is does quite effectively.

And what a coincidence that today he is to be sentenced for harnessing that essential “bug” of the internet age: discovering and sharing truth.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. Brown’s style is entertaining, but his humor brings a particular poignancy and clarity to grave warnings: warnings about media idolatry, trust, and uncritical acceptance of those with just enough star power to have tenure on the talking-head circuit, warnings of abdicating our own reason and responsibility to the truth in the face of unquestioned “authority.” In his efforts to counter these dangers, Barrett Brown himself leads by exemplary example. We could all stand to take inspiration from him.

UPDATE: Barrett Brown has been sentenced to 63 months.

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B5bo-8CIMAALoLNGet the book HERE.

If you aren’t reading Barrett Brown’s work, you should be.

This week, I’m reading his latest book, Keep Rootin for Putin, after witnessing (from afar – thanks, Twitter) the depressing spectacle of his December 16th sentencing. LOL jk, I mean “sentencing.” More like a sorry excuse to drag the poor guy in front of an apathetic press, scare the crap out any journalists who WERE paying attention, and extend Barrett’s imprisonment through yet another Christmas. Sentencing’s now set for January 22. (Let’s hope that’s the real one.)


I’m a huge fan of his past work. I’m excited to finally get the chance to read his latest book, and you should join me. You can get a copy by donating (any amount!) to the Free Barrett Brown support network. Here, read a review first if you’d like. Or, if you’re not convinced, take a look at some of Barrett’s own writing on DMagazine.

But seriously. Get the book. Read the book. And tell everyone you know. Now more than ever, it is time to listen. Let’s show those in power, it is NOT so easy to silence a journalist!

Or……….. if you’re that lazy, you can listen in on Twitter, where I’ll be tweeting as I read ;)

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“If you want to make stuff and earn a living from it, rather than shaking your fist and telling the Internet to get off your lawn, then this book is for you.”

In short: read the book. THE WHOLE BOOK.

Secret confession: if a book starts with anything other than CHAPTER ONE, I don’t read it. I ignore forwards, introduction, little quotes in italics… I didn’t even read the Lord of the Rings prologue until the 4th time around (which was really a good thing because WHY DID THEY NOT HAVE SPOILER ALERTS IN 1954?!) Anyway…

Cory Doctorow got me to read a forward.

Two forwards, actually, and an introduction. I couldn’t help it. Written by Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer, they turned this book into possibly my favorite collection of people ever. If only they’d added one more defiant, geeky internet hero–OH WAIT, THE AUDIOBOOK IS READ BY WIL WHEATON.


Seriously though.

Information feels more like a collaboration, in part because Doctorow brought other titans of the internet in on it too. Part history primer, part manifesto, part how-to manual, this isn’t just one guy’s ramblings. It’s the voice of a growing culture – wait, no, a generation – of creators who are embracing and fighting to protect their new home: the evolving, digital landscape.

Echoing so many voices of the digital generation, Doctorow’s three Laws for the Internet Age will ring so, so true for many netizens:

1. “If someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, and doesn’t give you the key, that lock is NOT there for your benefit.”

Doctorow blasts apart the narrative of so-called “copy protection” (which is neither copy-proof nor protective,) aka DRM. With example after example, from jail broken iPhones to Sony rootkits, he argues something that many of us know intuitively from growing up online: that attempts to stop users from using their own devices have failed miserably at great cost, and without being even remotely beneficial to creators.

It is something that is glaringly obvious to many of us – not only through our own anecdotal experiences, but evidenced through a history of failure and harm. Doctorow First Law is a powerful reminder that trusting companies with the keys to our digital houses, puts us – and our creative work – at risk.


2. “Fame won’t make you rich, but you can’t get paid without it.”

This is his version of the ubiquitous Tim O’Reilly quote: Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy. Doctorow reminds us of the reality of making a living with creative work: it’s HARD. (True story.)

Copyright maximalists (read: the SOPA crowd, DRM proponents, industry lobbyists, MPAA lawyers…) love to reminisce about the Good Old Days before the internet when a copy was hard to make and people were paid living wages for their art. But they forget that people making living wages for their art have always constituted a minuscule, minuscule number. Most people who make things never even got in the door, let alone signed a contract that covered beer money, let alone made a living wage. 

The internet – a free internet – which opens up the channels to ALL creators, which powers the connection between people who create things and people who like things, and which multiplies the channels through which art can be spread, appreciated, and supported  is the biggest boon to creators since the printing press. Because if people don’t know who you are, they can’t pay you. 


3. “Information doesn’t want to be free. People do.”

This is the crux of this book and perhaps of the entire freedom-on-the-internet debate. This book, this fight, this generation’s zeitgeist, is NOT about information, it’s about the people who use it.

So much of our lives are conducted online that without a free digital life, we suffer: we are less free. Protecting the right to communicate freely online is imperative, not because of some lofty duty to the rights of data to flourish. It is imperative because of the need of people to communicate in order to live a full and free life. When we can point to a file, a site, a person and delete them from the internet or decide that their devices need monitoring and control, we impair their ability to live a full and participatory life in the twenty first century.

Living under surveillance and censorship, we are not free – a fact made chillingly clear when Doctorow points to hardline copyright proponents holding up countries like China and Russia as models for how the internet should be run. It is a stark warning that a restrictive internet policy is not actually about the latest Game of Thrones episode to be liberated by bittorrent. It’s about us as people, and how we are to live under such policy, and what we have to lose.

And do we creators really need an authoritarian model for the internet to practice our art?

No. No we don’t.


I love this book…

Information reminds me of the infamous Rats in the Slush Pile, an essay about just how much it sucks to be a creator trying to make in this (or any) world. But Information is hopeful where Rats is depressing. While reminding us that getting rich making art is like winning the lottery, Cory Doctorow also celebrates the many, many tools we have to fight the odds in the Internet Age.

We can protect these valuable assets, or we can shutter them out of fear.

Information asserts – truly, I think – that the interests of artists are neither separate nor above the interests of people. Making a living from art is hard, but only through protecting our right to communicate freely can we protect our art. Censorship and control won’t help us to be heard. Preserving a free and open internet for all will preserve a free and open world for artists too.

The message to the dinosaurs – the DRM proponents, the censors, and the authoritarians and the lobbyists – is clear: get out of our fucking way, and let us flourish on the internet!

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“Information… doesn’t want a damn thing.

This is a fight about people, and people want to be free .”

I’m reading: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Cory Doctorow’s latest non-fiction book on laws for the Internet Age (aka Doctorow’s Laws……. dude, love the humility :D ). Like all his books, it’ll probably wind up on his site for free before long, but until then all you cheapasses out there can listen to the amazing talk it’s based on. Or follow the livetweets, because who says reading has to be a solitary thing !

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Will the concept of a library die with the advancing digital age?

Listen, if you haven’t heard – although the gaping vacuum in the Internets is hard to miss. That’s the whisper, in ever corner of the digital ‘verse, of the Pirate Bay vanishing, taking with it massive swaths of culture-hungry, file-sharing traffic. It’d hardly be news, except that this time there are whispers that it may be the end. In fact, in the eyes of the very people who built our beloved haven, it should be.

Among pirates and freedom-minded tech people, the idea of decentralization is sacred. This deep-rooted belief is reflected in the opinions of those saying The Pirate Bay should die. It is too big, they say. Too commercial. We have come to idolize a king, instead of building new and better challenges to the powers that be. The Pirate Bay needs to die, so it can be replaced with more and better sites that do not sit in the hands of a few people, at a single point of failure.

I do not disagree with that.

But I think there is value in having a commons.

The Pirate Bay was a commons – a space everyone knew, where everyone was welcome, where participation was free, without barrier and without exception. It was indeed a single point of failure, a central place controlled by…. who knows who, a tiny invisible thinktank that bartered in porn ads and millions upon millions of hits. But it was also home to the decentralized masses – torrenting is, after all, a decentralized act by its nature. Ultimately, as a commons the Pirate Bay was a central space, but not a wholly centralized power structure. It was not a governor, but a facilitator. The Pirate Bay was an empty space that it’s users filled up. It’s power didn’t really come from the invisible thinktank, but from the millions of people who met within it to swap and spread culture.

I deeply respect the thoughts of the founders.

I do not disagree that there is a time for everything and maybe the Pirate Bay’s time is passed. I agree that good will come from new things growing where old things die out. (At 10+ years, TPB is indeed an old thing on the Internet.) The internet is a hydra, after all. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. One head falls, only to make room for two more. The Pirate Bay’s permanent death (whenever that is) will no more be the death of file-sharing than Napster’s death was.

But I’m sad, too, wondering if This is It. As Henrik Alexandersson muses on What will the world look like without the Pirate Bay, I too fear: “a world without TPB would be a poorer, duller and worse off place.”

I have written before about the importance of the library in digital space. Libraries are, inherently centralized in some way. They are gathering places, like the Pirate Bay. They are protected and public repository of information that may not be accessible to everyone otherwise. And ultimately, they facilitate the very decentralized act of culture- and knowledge-sharing. I believe, as other do, that the Pirate Bay did serve a library-like function. Yes, it was a central location that could be exploited or brought down. But it was was this very fact that made it most useful to the most people.

I am hopeful for what will come next, but I am shaken at the loss of such a massive library.

Will the things that grows up in its place reach the same heights? The same level of accessibility? The sheer volume of culture and knowledge it held?

More importantly: will the Internet ever have a library that is not under constant threat? Will such a vast commons ever be safe online, or will there always be someone fighting to destroy it? I understand the fear of centralization in this context: one point of failure is catastrophic when very powerful people are dead-set on making you fail. But will that fear preclude us from ever having a truly free, truly accessible, truly comprehensive library in the digital space?

I don’t know, but I know we’ll find out.

I’ve used the past tense here, but honestly I don’t think the Pirate Bay is in the past. Maybe that’s Denial talking. But here’s the truth: the Pirate Bay is not just the handful of people in control, it’s also those millions upon millions of users that filled up the commons. That’s the difference between a truly centralized power and a commons: we’re all still here and we’re not lost without a “king.” The Pirate Bay is too many people to disappear without a trace, and I know that something will rise from its ashes. Maybe it will be the Pirate Bay. Maybe it will be something else.

I look forward to what comes next. For now, I’m just talking into the void…

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“Books were safer than other people anyway.” The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Currently reading (ok re-reading!):

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book is so good I want to cry.

(Will be back with a review! Just checking in :) )

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On October 17th, Gottfrid Svartholm – founder of the Pirate Bay and Scandinavia’s favorite hacking scapegoat  – will spend his birthday behind bars… for the third time. We already know why we should still care about Anakata’s post-Pirate Bay trials, and how tech-illiterate prosecutors are a chilling side effect of the digital age. But today, how about just dropping a card in the mail to wish this free internet pioneer a Happy 30th? (You know, while we’re all waiting for TUEBL to come back so we have something to read! ;) )

(Big thanks to Free Anakata Info for the pic and to Mama Svartholm for keeping us all updated! )



Anakata’s new address:

Gottfrid Svartholm Warg

Arresthuset i Koege

Kongsberg Allé 6

4600 Koege


Posted by & filed under Pirates and Politics, Writing and Writers. 4 comments

This post was inspired by a TorrentFreak comment thread earlier this week. But it could have been inspired by any number of interactions I’ve had over the years as an artist with a political opinion. It’s been said a hundred times, but I say it again because it keeps needing to be said:

Artists can make up their own minds on copyright.

This isn’t some new, untested theory. But you must not be an artist if you question copyright! remains an all-to-common retort in the intellectual property debates. A person who creates art can’t possibly be a pirate, so the saying goes. And a pirate (actually, forget pirate, in some circles it’s enough just to bring up copyright reform, let alone actual piracy), or a supporter of free culture can’t possibly be a creator.

Saying that artists can’t make up their own minds on the topic is dismissive in the extreme. Pretending that we are unable to hold opinions that may or may not agree with the industry perspective, or with each other, is also blatantly false. See the recent displays of opinion-having by Hollywood folks as well as the Pirates-with-a-capital-P or pirate-with-a-lowercase-p who make or made music or writing their business.

But I’m more worried about the dismissive attitude we aim at creators.

Artists have opinions. Sometimes, even their own.

Me having opinions.Hi I’m Aelius. 
I like writing, coffee, Finland, and the amazing peach-pink shade that’s 
in this season.
Oh, and pirates. I like pirates.


The first time I ever heard of copyright reform (and it was a very tame reference to curtailing the length of IP protections) I didn’t like it. I had the negative reaction that the entertainment industries tell me I”m supposed to have. Ok, maybe not the vitriolic knee-jerk they hoped for. But I gave the idea a solid Well-thats-a-bit-extreme brush off.

Over the years, I developed my opinions on the subject in the normal ways human beings develop opinions on things. I read up, followed the news, hunted down facts, listened to others’ experiences, and paid close attention to my own budding experiences in the creative world. I was lucky enough to be allowed to pursue information in relative peace and quiet – it was the quiet before the storm in the ebook world, and afterwards it wasn’t until I had opinions that I faced the vitriol of those who I disagreed with.

My opinions are not static. They may be wrong. They may change. They may disappear, expand, reverse, or veer off into some yet-undiscovered direction. But that’s the human capacity for making decisions at work. Denying artists’ ability to come to their own conclusions is of no benefit to anyone, least of all the artists themselves. Neither is pretending that any deviation from the default industry narratives is tantamount to treason or indictment of ones’ status as an creator in the first place.

People will always find a reason to tell you that your opinion doesn’t matter.

As a newbie writer, you’re told that you’re new and naive. You don’t know how things work around here. Never mind the ten years you spent writing stories, dreaming about going pro, and googling how to get published, you just can’t understand. You might be lucky enough to pass the first level, become successful, very successful, or even just happily midlist with a platform to speak from…… but you’re too comfortable! You’ve found your creative niche, your struggle is over. You just can’t understand. And god forbid you really succeed and get to superstar status. Then you just really can’t get it. You can’t have opinions while rolling around on your bed of money. You just don’t understand.

There will always be a reason.

There will always be a reason that, no matter your level or position within the creative community, you don’t get to have an opinion – that is, if it’s not approved by your industry. There will always be a reason that – forget the facts – you just don’t get it. If you did get it, you wouldn’t dare to differ on this topic that affects you.

But artists do have opinions.

You do.

I do.

Do you think we need more ways to support musicians, writers, filmmakers, and other artists? Great! Me too, let’s talk about that. Do you think fair use, parody protections, and safe harbor policy is working? Let’s talk about that, too. How about term limits, format-shifting, paywalled torrents, and…

There’s a lot to talk about. There are even more opinions to be formed.

So let’s talk.

Because if we don’t, the lawmakers and lobbyist will do it for us. And leaving our creative work in the hands of a bunch of stuffy old rich white dudes behind closed doors is a really scary thought.

It’ll take some work.

I know – I’m not that good at it. Talking. I can be obnoxious. Confrontational. Prone to passionately unedited wall-o-text rants. My high school English teacher even put it in my college “recommendation” letters. (Not the wall of text thing. The thing about being confrontational, or something like that.) And that sucks. It’s something I need to work on. I don’t think aggression is useful unless you’re squashing spiders. Instead, I want to emulate those who argue with grace, empathy, and creativity.

So I’m extending an olive branch.

This olive branch goes out to all others creators just as capable of making their own opinions.

Please accept my Creative-Commons licensed olive branch. CC-BY-SA from WP user SchnobbyPlease accept my Creative-Commons licensed olive branch
CC-BY-SA from WP user Schnobby


Just talk.

And know that the people you’re talking to, creators or not, are human beings with the capacity to hear you and make up their own mind. And we can both keep saying – a thousand times over, if need be, because it is worth it – that creators can have opinions – opinions, plural – on copyright and the issues that affect us. And we do.

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Please sign the petition to help Peter!

This is an English version of the latest interview with Peter Sunde where journalist Hanna Fahl talked with the Pirate Bay founder about being wanted by Interpol, standing in the European Elections, debt, and goldfish. The original is in Swedish, I just tried to smooth out the translation. Please let me know of any mistakes : ) . Thanks, Google (and Tobias Andersson.)


By Hanna Fahl

Peter Sunde owes Swedish and American film and record companies 83 million dollars, and now sits imprisoned. DN’s Hanna Fahl met Pirate Bay founder in prison.

[Peter:]There’s a cocaine smuggler here, he’s probably my best friend in here. In my department, there’s one guy who killed someone with 64 knife wounds to the stomach, he has a life sentence. He is may get home leave, but I may not.

We sit in a beige prison visiting room at Västervik North. Opposite a vinyl upholstered seat, a table, instant coffee. Peter Sunde has gray tracksuit and flip flops and does not want to be photographed.

I don’t really know how I look.

I say he looks a bit skinny. He nods.

- Everyone in here thinks it’s weird that I’m here. I have the shortest sentence. I’m an odd bird. It’s odd, I’ve probably got a bit of a new view on people, the good and the evil. Everyone has a good dose of both.

Peter Sunde has been in prison for four months. Five days ago, he buried his father. Peter had to fight to get to meet him at the hospital and to get to go to the funeral. Västervik North is a two-class institution, and most people here have committed serious crimes: violence, drugs. Peter is convicted of complicity in file sharing.

I ask him how it felt when he was arrested in May. It has been four years since the Court of Appeal’s judgment fell in the Pirate Bay trial – he never showed up at prison.

- I wanted to meet my father, it was serious with my dad. It was the only thing I was thinking then. It’s hard to explain how it felt. A little unfair. But also good to be finished with it, it might get a little easier afterwards. How would you have felt if it was you?

I could not manage waiting. I’d probably just serve the sentence immediately.

- I do not think it’s my job to help take a penalty that is not fair. Had I known that my father would pass away, it would have been different, but on the other hand, I had time to hang out a lot with my dad before. That was fucking shitty timing, but I probably would not have done things differently if I got back in time. I have retained my sense of self in this. It is also important.

The history of the Pirate Bay, the one that concludes in Peter Sunde now sitting in Västervik and moving listlessly a cup bleached coffee, began in 2003, when the file sharing service, that was to become the world’s largest and change millions of people’s attitude to music and movies online, was born.

Originally the Pirate Bay consisted of a few computers on a server at Godfrey Svartholm Warg’s job, but the service grew rapidly. Fredrik Neij got involved, and Peter Sunde began to help with the programming. Soon, he also became a spokesperson for The Pirate Bay. He was the most verbal of the three, the most politically interested.

The Pirate Bay was not the first file-sharing service, and not the first that ended up in legal disputes. A few years earlier, both Napster and Kazaa were sued by the American music industry and had to pay damages. But the Pirate Bay was different. From the outset, it’s teasing had both the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau and the American movie and music industry up in arms. When letters from Hollywood Lawyers came in, The Pirate Bay responded by posting them on the site, along with mocking response.

One reason that Sunde and the other ignored the lawsuit threat was that they actually had pretty good reason to believe that what they did was legal. Pirate Bay never had any copyrighted material on its servers. Some felt that the site was rather to be compared with a search engine like Google. In 2005, the public prosecutor examined if he could prosecute the Pirate Bay, and in November of that year he came to the conclusion that they are not guilty of crimes themselves and that it would also be difficult to hold them accountable for complicity in crime.

But that changed quickly. On 31 May 2006 the police executed a search warrant and seized the Pirate Bay’s servers. Sunde, Svartholm Warg and Neij were indicted along with Carl Lundström. Shortly after the raid a Report went out with information that the Swedish judicial system itself had not taken the initiative in the raid, but that the Justice Department was pushed to strike for the American government and film industry organizations.

It was a controversial and acclaimed trial. The District Court sentenced the four defendants to one year in prison each and damages of 30 million kronor. In the Court of Appeal, they were given shortened prison sentences, Peter got eight months. But the damages were increased to 46 million.

After the verdict, Peter Sunde sought appeal in the Supreme Court but was refused. In 2012, he applied for pardon with the government but was denied. Eventually, he was wanted by Interpol. The past four years he has not had a permanent home, but moved around: the Nordic countries, Germany, Poland.

But he has not been idle. He has launched new projects Flattr, a service for micro-donations to creators and other projects online. Hemlis is another, an encrypted app to send direct messages that no one can eavesdrop on. He has lectured and given interviews. He gives a confident, bordering on flippant, impression. He has been described as strong and unshakable, never sad.

Now, Peter Sunde is sad.. Or, not quite in a great mood at the moment, as he puts it in a letter in August. I have written to him in Västervik Northern and asked for an interview, and the answer that comes a week later is far. It was a little too frank, [the] letter here, I see! Though that’s the way I am.

He writes that his father is in the hospital in Skövde. The father is very ill, he has been diagnosed with lung cancer in his one remaining lung, and just been forced to amputate his leg after blood clot. Peter gets no parole, he has been told the first day at the prison. You get no parole, nor may you change institutions or get the sentence commuted to tagging [monitoring by electronic ankle bracelet]. They want to appear tough on me – they themselves say explicitly that it is about their fear of being seen as not tough enough, writes Peter.

It is a slow communication. Letters come on paper in gray print that testify to an ink cartridge about to end. The visit take time to arrange, up to six weeks.

A few months earlier, Peter Sunde wrote an opinion piece in the Times about Swedish prisons, from inside the prison. There, he describes how the inmates must wait for emergency dental treatment, how they do not have jobs, how he lost weight drastically because he does not get enough vegan food. “In the evening you get to pee in a plastic bottle. If we need to do number two, we must call a guard who unlocks us as time permits. The advice they give is to take an extra bag to the trash. “

During his first four months in prison Peter Sunde made five JO[justitieombudsman, Parliamentary Ombudsman?] complaints against Northern Västervik. If the letters are examined but that he will be notified if their diet, if they frequent urine tests, if he has not got to call his lawyer and police.

The father becomes ill during the late summer. Eventually, Peter is granted special permission for two visits to the hospital in Skövde where he gets two and a half hours with his father. In late August, his father dies.

It has been hard and it’s even harder because you’re stuck inside, can not support (or be supported by) the family that is left behind, writes Peter in early September. He applies for special leave again, and learns that he must choose: either say goodbye to his father at the hospital where he died, or go to the funeral. He chooses the funeral, but learns that he must have handcuffs and a stomach chain and will not be able to be with or carry his father’s coffin. The anger I have right now is so much nicer to have than just grief.

On the outside is Peter Sunde big brother, author Mats Kolmisoppi. They talk on the phone every day. Peter has actively avoided using his second surname Kolmisoppi so his brother will not have to be associated with him.

A few days before his father’s funeral, Mats speaks out and write a long text about Peter’s situation that he put out on Facebook.The Prison may not issue further punishment than the one already imposed in the courtroom. But it is difficult to draw conclusions other than that Peter’s case involves pure punishment. Peter begins to cry when he gets the text read over the phone by Mats.

A week later, here we are, in the visiting room on vinyl chairs. The funeral went well in the end, says Peter. He did not have handcuffs. Perhaps partly because of the attention surrounding the situation; several newspapers have reported on Mats Facebook posts. The staff at the institution brings in lunch: spaghetti with peas.

- They suck up to you. Last time I had visits only three peas in spaghetti, said Peter, pointing to the plastic box.

It’s hard to understand why it took so long before he was arrested. In recent years, he has lectured, been on TV, riding through several police checkpoints.

- They probably have not made ​much of ​an effort. When I found out that I was wanted by Interpol, I was even a little sour. I do not think people who are criminals really should get away so easily, I was annoyed at how simple it was. It was a strange feeling.

Quite a few would say that you are a criminal for real.

- It’s probably not that many. Have you met many?

I’ll get e-mails from readers who are wondering why I am writing about a criminal. There is an Ubuntu thread about you and the prison, where it’s probably fifty-fifty.

- There it is just a bunch Sweden Democrats, who have liked what I have done, but then discovered that I am a socialist and hate me for it.

The trio behind the Pirate Bay was a sprawling gang. They had their private reasons for and objectives in the file-sharing service, which did not always overlapp. In 2007, the Pirate Bay gathered donations to buy micro nation, Sealand, and when the plan was thwarted, there was a split on what they would do with the money. Svartholm Warg wanted to buy equipment, Neij wanted them to take out of wages. Peter Sunde got tired of the quarrel, and one evening when he was drinking beer he bought rainforest on the computer for all the money.

In the documentary “TPB AFK”, recorded around the trials, two scenes are cross-cut: Fredrik Neij in a hangout, and Peter Sunde who is at an anti-racist demonstration in Sergel Square. Neij talking about Peter Sunde:

- Brokep is a fucking vegetarian left twisted bitch ass bastard. He does it because of some ideological pussy-inflicted instincts.

Peter Sunde counters:

- He is one alcoholic racist asshole.

Today Peter says to the other two have “vile opinions.” He has no contact with Fredrik Neij, but sometimes talks with Godfrey Svartholm Warg’s mother. Godfrey is currently detained in Denmark on suspicion of another crime.

- I want to support him even though I do not like what he stands for. He is also poorly treated. It’s like having a cousin you know you belong with but hate.

Did the internet make you into a socialist, or did you incorporate the internet in your politics?

- When I was little, I thought that all my brother did was boring: writing poetry, keeping up with politics … But the older I got, the more I began to see the patterns. Mom was a single parent with two children, many of the problems we had was that she was a woman and not visible in the community. She was treated unfairly. I saw the broken rules on social assistance. I saw many who suffered. In the end, I understood how it should be, and that there is a political vision. I did not put words to it until pretty late, at age 25.

This spring, Peter Sunde ran in European elections for the Finnish Pirate Party but was not elected.

- The file sharing issue got a lot of attention for its impact on people’s lives. But everyone who works with Internet freedom issues has understood the need for higher-up EU policy. And there, it is unfortunately really boring.

Was file sharing overshadowed by all other Internet policy issues?

- Attention was unnecessary, absolutely. But it still went over in FRA and ACTA debates. And the fundamental questions remain. We need a discussion about who should control the Internet. It should be obvious that it’s citizens, not companies.

But nobody cares after all. These questions were completely absent in the election campaign.

- I thought the Snowden revelations would get more attention, but everyone thinks “no, it does not affect me.” It’s too fuzzy, too far away. The Pirate Party goes over well in Germany because of their Stasi in recent memory, they know about surveillance. In other countries, it is difficult to get attention for the issue.

A week earlier, I called lawyer Peter Althin. He represented Peter Sunde during the Pirate Bay trial. Ideologically and privately, they are miles apart – Althin is over seventy years old, has been a Christian Democrat member of Parliament and has served on the party executive. Additionally, he has been a member of the Prison Service’s advisory council and staff welfare committee. When he undertook the mission to defend Peter, he had no knowledge of file sharing.

- But I learned quickly. He is a teacher, Peter, says Peter Althin.

Peter Althin and his legal counsel have been in close contact with Peter Sunde since he was arrested. Althin is audibly upset when he talks about Sunde’s time in Västervik Institution.

- He was treated in a manner that not even really proven thugs are treated in prison.


- Well, I have also thought about that. It may be that he is very persistent, demanding their rights and is perceived as bothersome, it can be they not with the institutions. It may also depend on the op-ed piece he wrote about the penitentiary in the spring, it may have angered them. A very good article, by the way, says Peter Althin.

Althin describes Peter Sunde as talented – perhaps too talented for his own good.

In the visiting room at Västervik North Peter Sunde points out through the barred window. A guard patrols along the fence. Out there, Peter and the other inmates have a one-hour outdoor stay per day, though in practice it is only fifty minutes, which violates the law. As a protest usually Peter stands and refuses to go in until the hour is over.

It is tempting to compare his situation with other file sharing pioneers. Swede Niklas Zennstrom, who founded Kazaa, went on to create Skype and then sell the company for 55 billion. He has been named one of the world’s most influential people by Time Magazine and received last year HM The King’s Medal. Sean Parker, who co-founded the file-sharing service Napster, became president of Facebook and is now a billionaire.

They were more strategically smart – or entrepreneurially presented, if you will – than the Pirate Bay crew. They left or sold their businesses in time, made up amicably when the music industry filed lawsuits, went further. The Pirate Bay refused to fold. And Peter Sunde is in prison instead of being rich.

- We had different purposes. Niklas Zennstrom founded Kazaa and Skype to make money. I wanted to achieve a political goal. Making money is a necessary evil for me. I would never pay a tension to the music industry. They do not deserve it. I had been feeling bad about it, says Peter Sunde.

- I get angry every time someone calls me an entrepreneur. I hate that word. Society is so focused on capital.

He puts his legs up on a chair in the visiting room, takes a bite of an apple and tells about how he once farted on a correctional employee during a particularly intimate and unnecessary search. He is difficult to grasp; half hyper intelligent idealist and half defiantly obstructionist. The JO notifications that Peter Sunde has made, point to real and serious problems within the prison, and the JO have gathered opinions from prison in at least one case. But he has also filed appeals for permission to exercise “Kopimism”, a satirical pirate religion whose dogma is copying and dissemination of information, and plans to ask people to send him money in the form of crown coins to create paperwork for office (“I call it an analog DDoS attack “).

- And then I run a process [request?] for a fellow prisoner that I usually play ping-pong with, that he will get to have a pet goldfish in the cell.

But you, now you’re just trolling the Prison.

- Haha, yes. But some intellectual stimulation I had to get.

There are so many times throughout this story which you [were better served?] not to be so tough. From the very beginning, with the Pirate Bay, until now.

- You know, the guy in the Monty Python film? They cut off the bone – he continues to be bothersome. They cut one arm, then the head, he just continues. I feel a bit like that. But there is a joy in being tough on people who deserve it. I do not care so much about what happens to me as long as I feel I have done right by myself and others.

There is a certain amount of rättshaverism [pejorative, obsession with rights] in what you do.

- I’d rather say arrogance. Idiocy, maybe. But you are not the first to use that word. And I do not always [think it’s] a problem, either. It’s what you learn: You meet people in the same situation as the man himself, who was previously perceived as rättshaverister, and you will realize that they are right.

You seem so obrydd [unconcerned, untroubled]…

- I’m right obrydd. I, like many others, has had a rough upbringing. Things have been much worse than they are now. I’m here … maybe there’s something positive in the end. I have given a Correctional boot, maybe I can talk in the media about it. Everything is not dark all the time.

At the same time… you sounded quite depressed in the letters you typed.

- Much of it is not because of how I feel, but how others feel on the outside. It was really hard when my dad got sick and my brother had to take care of everything, taking care of the whole funeral. It is the powerlessness. But I have moved more and more to being pissed. It is a more natural state for me, says Peter Sunde.

Just over a decade after sharing the explosion, it is still hard to say exactly how it affected the film and music industry financially. Studies contradict each other. Last year, one report stated that illegal downloading leads to increased legal sales – and one that the pirates are downloading to avoid paying. The major labels crisis is at least over; streaming services like Spotify have turned the curve. As far as the film industry, it is also difficult to measure the economic losses. A study last year found that Hollywood, despite complaints over file-sharing, set sales records in 2012. On the other hand, this summer has been the worst in eight years.

Peter Sunde will be released from prison in early November. But the damages remain. It is imposed jointly between the four offenders, which means that the bailiff takes the money where it is. The 46 million kronor has grown with interest and fees, and now runs at 83,541,547 crowns.

Peter Althin maintains that the judgment was erroneous.

- There is no doubt that Peter Sunde was favorable to file sharing, but he did not meet the criteria of the indictment. I thought it was crazy that he would be sentenced to a large compensation.

Peter Sunde still has plenty of fans. He gets hundreds of letters a week in prison. On twitter, daily tweets are posted under the hashtag #freebrokep. Interview requests and invitations to lecture at conferences around the world continue to come in. Flattr and Hemlis have received much media attention – certainly in part due to his status as the Internet and file sharing rebel movement’s martyr.

But in some sense, his life is ruined. Whether any of the four doomed earned money on Pirate Bay is hard to determine – they claim that they barely broke even, but the prosecutor said that they had a turnover of 19.5 million a year. True, at least the bailiff only managed to recover a fraction of tort liability. From Peter Sunde have been meted total 87,385 crowns. Some 83 million has yet to be located, and probably never will be. In practice, this means that he can not earn or own more than subsistence level in Sweden.

- The bailiff visited when I had been arrested and revealed liabilities. One was at 740 crowns to the Crime Victim Fund. When I get out of here I’ll ask my mom about some money to pay just that said Peter Sunde.

I know you say you do not care about money. But the debt is still a life sentence.

- Purely ethically, I’m very against the damages. It’s a lot worse judgment than the prison sentence, given how society looks. But it is also so toothless! None of us who were sentenced resides in Sweden. I have a regular bank account in Germany, the bailiff can not collect damage debts abroad. And in a way, it prevents me from being too interested in making money. It’s a relief.

Does the debt bind you to your ideals?

- In some ways, it does. But I had not so much money before either. The difference between having 80 000 and 80 million in debt is quite minimal in everyday life, except that in the one case, you have the hope of being able to rip up [lose? pay back?] the money. In the second case, you have not. You can enjoy life.

Enforcement has measured out 87 000 SEK from you, including from pension funds.

- Have they taken the retirement money? So I will not get a pension? Exciting. I hope they underestimated them.

A knock comes on the door. We have sat in the visiting room for seven hours. Peter has seven weeks left. He asks me to send a couple of copies of the newspaper when the interview is published; the other inmates want to read.

Will you keep in touch with any of them?

- A couple. Others, I would be terrified if I met them outside.

I ask him how he thinks it will go with fellow prisoner’s goldfish.

- We’ll see. I think we’re up for seventeen submissions now. We will try with a different species of fish as well, to see if the fish is racist.