Peter Sunde, condemned to one year in prison in Sweden for sharing music and culture. Please sign this petition if you support sharing rights!
Below is his life’s story in his own words, and why he should be pardoned.
“I’d like to tell a story from my life, a story that has come to have great importance – not just to me, but to the global and emerging Internet. I happened to get a role in the eye of the storm. For your consideration of the submitted plea, I feel that this letter is needed: an insight into what has gone wrong, and why you need to fix this. You see, indirectly, I do not ask pardon for myself. I ask pardon for a judicial system that has been steamrolled over by lobbyism and ignorance. But ultimately, I ask pardon for our future culture and communications. My case has significant impact on these.
This is a long story, so let’s get started right away.
A little over six years ago, something odd happened in Swedish history. The Police conducted a raid at twelve locations in Sweden. 65 police stormed in at these locations and searched for something and anything that could be used as evidence against a search engine on the Internet.
Nothing like this had ever happened before in Sweden, and will quite likely never happen again. The days that followed produced tens of thousands of articles around the whole world. Thousands of people, mostly young adults, took to the streets all over the nation and protested. They protested that their cultural life had been violated.
I attended one of these protests, having a political interest and being the media spokesperson for the search engine in question. A search engine helping people all over the world to get in touch with each other to exchange information. A search engine so appreciated, that almost every day, a mail arrived from somebody telling the story of how it changed their life. Pictures of tattoos with its logo proudly inked onto someone’s body. Acclaims to the Swedish web service that changed people’s lives. The protests boiled down to just this: people felt steamrolled over, all across the world. I remember standing in the Mynttorget square on an early morning in the beginning of June, 2006, watching representatives from all parties in Parliament screaming out their fury over what had recently been uncovered: the United States had threatened little Sweden with trade sanctions if the web service wasn’t shut down.
The Swedish Public Television’s newscast Rapport had told the embarrassing story. Mighty Hollywood demanded that the White House would force Sweden to do something about the cultural exchange going on outside of Hollywood’s control. The Swedish Minister of Justice at the time, Thomas Bodström, was called into a meeting in the White House and was informed of the consequences of non-compliance: trade sanctions from the United States against Sweden within the context of the WTO. Sweden could become a second Cuba.
A few months prior, a Swedish prosecutor had arrived at the conclusion that this service could not be sentenced for any crime in Sweden. He sent a memo explaining this to his superiors. After a meeting between representatives from the Justice Department and Sven-Erik Alhem, the over-prosecutor at the time, the prosecutor in question reconsiders. A quick raid was required, with full force. So full a force, in fact, that when the raid is actually conducted, the police have no idea what to grab. They seize hundreds of computers, in several cities, but also loudspeakers, cables, and the like. They don’t know the size of the things they’re supposed to be looking for, and decide – during the raid in session – to rent trucks from local gas stations to ship off all the seized goods. In short, it is stressful, unplanned, and ill considered. So ill considered that the police even missed several locations where the target of the raid had ongoing activities.
Thomas Bodström promised to come clear with what had happened. And yet, over 700 mails between him and the United States regarding this matter were (and remain) classified as secrets of the State. We still haven’t seen them. In the aftermath of the political scandal that was uncovered, Swedish national records were set in charges filed with the Constitutional Committee (Konstitutionsutskottet), Parliamentary Ombudsman (JO) and Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern). The newly-founded Swedish Pirate Party became one of Sweden’s largest in a matter of days. A few weeks later, an election was held. None of the young wanted to vote for the ruling Social Democrats any longer, knowing that the Social Democrats had sold out their interests to rich lobby organizations in the United States. The Social Democrats lost power, partly because of this scandal.
Only two days after the raid, The Pirate Bay was back online. It’s an easy service to copy, and with no advanced functionality. That was one of the major features with the underlying technology, being smart and easily maintained to that level. It was so easy to maintain, nobody had practically touched it for a year at the time of the raid.
The attention around The Pirate Bay only grew after this. It might have been a large service before, but it was suddenly one of the world’s 100 largest services. Global media called non-stop.
My involvement in The Pirate Bay had been one, and one only: media spokesperson. Suddenly, images of my face were being printed onto front pages of all the world’s newspapers. I was invited daily to television and radio to discuss the political issues surrounding file sharing. Debates raged for days on end, and I hardly found any time to do my day job, thinking this was such an important issue. I grew more and more active in the political aspect of the topic after the raid, and indirectly, I became a representative of those who say that file sharing is something positive for society as a whole.
The raid was harsh and forceful. As mentioned earlier, it took place at twelve locations in Sweden. Myself, I lived in Oslo, Norway during this time, seeing myself as very peripheral in this context. My acquaintances from The Pirate Bay had been informed of charges pressed against them, but nothing more happened for a very long time. After about two and a half years, I got a letter. At this time, I had moved to Sweden, and I was being called as a witness, being called to give my deposition to the Police in a few weeks’ time.
About 30 people were called as witnesses. Some were known to me, some I’d never heard of. Time passed and I was supposed to go to the police station to give a deposition. Just the day before, the lead interrogator Jim Keyzer (who was also responsible for the entire investigation) calls me and tells me I’ll be charged with a crime on arrival. He tells me that this being the case, I have the right to have an attorney present. He doesn’t stop there, but also gives me the tip of picking “just about the first lawyer you can find, as we’re in a hurry to get this over with”. He adds that I should “skip picking a hotshot lawyer from Stockholm” so his work wouldn’t be further delayed. All of a sudden, the investigation is in a world of rush to get concluded.
Now, I’m a reasonably intelligent person. Obviously, I see that something is odd when a policeman asks me to pick a bad lawyer. Therefore, I immediately called the first good lawyer I knew, Peter Althin. Althin took the case immediately, and called the policeman in question. The policeman got upset and enraged as he had already planned his trip to the city of Malmö, where I would be heard, and found it enraging that he had to schedule a second trip to the city.
A few weeks later, Jim Keyzer came to Malmö to question me. My lawyer was with me, and both he and I felt that something was very odd. My lawyer told me that in his long career with many high-profile cases, he had never seen such a rude and stressed-out interrogator. He found it very odd indeed. Myself, I thought it felt like a scene from a bad movie, when Keyzer screamed at me that I was being childish in responding “no comment” (as I didn’t want to say anything that might affect my friends). In a few locations in the transcription of the recorded hearing, the transcription just reads “unhearable”. That’s when Keyzer is outraged and yelling so loudly that the microphone is unable to record the sound.
It may appear odd that I’m placing such emphasis on Keyzer here, but there’s a point to it. It’s the handling of this case. Sweden has a reputation of being a country with high morals, sans corruption and with common sense guiding its justice. In my case, this has been shoved aside. Jim Keyzer is one of many examples of this.
One week after the filing of the concluded investigation, one of my acquaintances noticed that Jim Keyzer had changed his “network” on Facebook. He was no longer part of “Police Authority in Stockholm”, but was now part of the “Warner Brothers” network. Warner Brothers is one of the corporations behind the charges against The Pirate Bay. I got very upset and called Jim Keyzer to ask him what was going on, and was informed that he had changed jobs and was working for Warner now; Warner and NBC Universal, another corporation behind the charges (not to mention the political pressure). Warner and Universal are also part in the Anti-Pirate Bureau (Antipiratbyrån), an organization which was one of the formal plaintiffs during the trial. Keyzer’s new role was anti-pirate manager for these organizations. He had started his new job the day before the investigation was formally concluded.
Jim Keyzer’s first assignment for his new employer was to locate a co-defendant, Gottfrid Svartholm. Gottfrid is a nomadic young man who frequently lives with friends. Since Keyzer had been able to use police resources to get information on Gottfrid’s whereabouts, he went to that location to serve the civil lawsuit part of the criminal case that he, himself, had investigated for upwards of three years. Keyzer did run into Gottfrid by chance, and did not disclose his change of employers.
Using my rather far-reaching network, I looked closer into at what time, exactly, that Keyzer signed on with his new employer. It turned out that his new employer had posted the job opening publicly, and in a few meetings about the ongoing investigation, Keyzer had been informed that he may be a good fit for the new position. After some more digging, I located a person who had applied for the same job. He could tell me the exact date when he was informed that the position had been filled by another applicant: eight days before I was upgraded from “witness” to “defendant” in the case. And seven days before Keyzer started calling and telling me what a rush it was to hear all witnesses. Accordingly, the only time I met with a policeman during the entire time of the investigation was with the very policeman who had already got a well-paying job with my adversary in the case. A policeman going from almost no speed at all, to having to close the investigation in one day. In a hearing that my lawyer perceived as one of the oddest in his long career.
At the time of that hearing, I was also the most hated person in the power corridors of Hollywood. I was the one individual most important to silence, being the media spokesperson for their nemesis. Young people all over the world listened to me as I told them of the fantastic opportunity we have for a free and open, participatory culture, as long as we don’t have to be locked up by these corporations. I spoke with all kinds of people – from teachers and students, to presidents of some of the world’s largest countries – about the opportunities and the threats on the table. The threats were mostly the adversaries in my case.
As the case came up in a Swedish District Court, it was assigned to a normal department by random, as is proper. However, the manager of Department 5 (the department of IPR) didn’t think this was a criminal case, but an IPR case. Therefore, the case was moved to Department 5, at the request of the department who wanted the case. It would later turn out that, as lots were being drawn to allocate a judge to the case at random, there was only one to choose from: Tomas Norström, the head of Department 5, who had requested the case would go to his department. In short, a Swedish judge decided that he, himself, should be trying a specific case, by abusing the processes of the District Court.
Tomas Norström is very interested in copyright cases. So interested, in fact, that he also happened to be a member in the Swedish Association for Copyright, and was a board member of the Swedish Association For Industrial Legal Protection, SFIR. Two organizations that take a very clear stance on copyright issues. The associations are daughter associations of ALAI and AIPPI, two international organizations whose statutes state their goal to strengthen the interests of copyright holders. The chairpeople for these international organizations frequently make statements condemning all kinds of copyright violations, and work for harsher punishment for violations.
Tomas Norström didn’t consider himself to be biased. Besides, he neglected to disclose his engagements since he regarded them as without consequence to the case. There was plenty of opportunity for him to consider his bias before the trial, as I personally had checked the layman judges and found that two of them were biased. When my lawyer officially communicated this, Norström published a press release where he said he had found one biased layman judge (without mentioning the complaint from us). He had found a composer who had been active in the record labels that were suing us. There was another layman judge who got the paycheck from these industries, who Norström did not consider biased.
The proceedings in the District Court were very strange. There was commotion just everywhere: TV crews from BBC, al-Jazeera, Swedish Public TV, Norwegian Public TV, and more. For several days, it was like the whole world was watching when Sweden were prosecuting a few people for aiding and abetting a crime with no principal perpetrator. Everywhere, people shook their heads. In the large newspapers, there were polls whether people thought there should be a conviction – 99.8% out of over 50,000 said “no” (and there was a margin of error of 0.2%, according to the statisticians of the paper, so possibly 100%).
During the court proceedings, I noticed sleeping laymen judges. We were held to sit watching screen captures, screendumps that immediately showed to my technical mindset that files had not been downloaded via The Pirate Bay at all. As we pointed out that the screendumps used as evidence proved conclusively that The Pirate Bay had not been available when they tried to download something, the prosecutor changed the formal charge to another title, resembling “aiding and abetting an assist of a theoretically possible crime”. None of the thusly-guessed principal crimes could even be traced to being under Swedish jurisdiction – or Norwegian, for that matter, where I had been living during the events I was on trial for. Still, we were convicted.
We were convicted to a collective sentence. Everybody was sentenced to one year in prison and 30 million SEK in damages, record-setting damages in Sweden. It surfaced that the court had been biased, but despite that, it was declared that Norström had made no formal error of proceedings. Instead, we had to appeal to the Appeals Court.
Looking at the verdict from the District Court, I couldn’t really understand why I had been convicted. There were no specific charges against me. There were no periods of time where I had been involved. There was not even a crime proven to have been committed – and yet, I was convicted of aiding and abetting a crime that had not been proven to have taken place. Because of substandard evidence, the burden had been turned around – I knew things that could have been useful for The Pirate Bay, and therefore, the reasoning went, these things had happened and I had performed them. Despite the fact that all people who had been heard stated that everything programmed or developed on The Pirate Bay had happened before the events for which I were on trial, and that the skills I possessed that might had been useful, was still dwarfed by the two founders of The Pirate Bay. Skills that, in the end, weren’t even needed as everything had been untouched.
In the Appeals Court, the story was similar. It wasn’t one judge with a background in the Swedish Association for Copyright, but two. There were laymen judges that worked for Spotify – a competitor of The Pirate Bay – which was also owned in large part by the record labels which were our adversary. After a painfully long playback of the recorded testimonies from the District Court (where even the laymen judges in the Appeals Court fell asleep a couple of times), we were still convicted. I was personally convicted to eight months in prison and 46 million SEK in damages. This sum, having collected interest, is closer to 100 million SEK today (11 million euros).
As I read the Appeal Court’s verdict of why I should be personally responsible, I cannot feel anything but apathy and helplessness. According to the Appeals Court, I have done three things that give me criminal liablility. I’d like to go through these with you.
Among other things, I’m supposed to have installed a computer that operated as a so-called load balancer – a computer that makes it possible to distribute the workload of big web services among different computers. It reads clear as day in the Appeals Court verdict that I’m responsible for configuring this computer. Such a computer did indeed exist in one of the racks that The Pirate Bay was located in. On the other hand, it wasn’t connected with a single wire or cable in any way. Some computers have been investigated at the National Forensic Laboratory (Statens Kriminaltekniska Laboratorium). Some computers have been combed for details. In some cases, the prosecutor has called owners of computers to ask them if they want to press charges of electronic trespassing against Gottfrid Svartholm, as they found that he has had access to computers. Computers he has been maintaining for clients. The computer I’m supposed to have been responsible for isn’t mentioned with a single line of text, except in the seizing protocol from the raid. I cannot find the configuration I’ve been convicted of creating. The configuration I have created, beyond reasonable doubt, according to the Swedish Appeals Court. The configuration I can say with 100% certainty would have proven that this computer had never been used for The Pirate Bay. The owner had placed it in the rack by themselves just a few weeks prior to the raid.
During the Appeals Court proceedings, prosecutor Håkan Roswall confirmed my story of this, that this machine had never been used in the operations of The Pirate Bay. Therefore, my lawyer put no energy into bringing it up in his final statement. And yet, Roswall said after this, that I had been responsible for it. And in the end, I was convicted because of it. There is not a shred of evidence anywhere that this computer has been in use, not for anything at all. I usually say that I feel like a Finn convicted of a gun murder, because there was a knife nearby, and “us Finns are known for using knives”. Since I “confessed” to knowing what a load balancer is, I was convicted for such a computer having been at the site, despite not being operational. And despite my co-defendants are being among the foremost in the world of building such solutions, working with it daily. And despite the fact it would have been dead easy for Jim Keyzer to bring out the configuration, especially when I am about to be accused for it.
Point two I was convicted for is that I’m supposed to have built a system for genres on The Pirate Bay. I’m supposed to have been responsible for improving functionality of the service by somehow injecting genres. Whatever this would mean. In the verdict, it says I was responsible for “categorization”. When something is uploaded to The Pirate Bay, the uploader chooses themselves what category they want to put the material in. After that, it’s there. The category system has existed since before the events on trial – I’d even dare say it’s been the same system since The Pirate Bay started. Besides, genres is something completely different than categories, it’s sub-categories. One category might be Movies, Music, or Games. A genre might be Action, Sport, or Hiphop. There’s a significant difference in meaning. But in short, there hasn’t been a change of categories on The Pirate Bay since 2004. There hasn’t even been a change to the categories on The Pirate Bay today. And genres have never even existed, and yet, I have been convicted for creating them. The reason for my conviction that I mentioned “genres on the bay” in passing in a mail, a third person asked who’s responsible for search, and was replied “I think Peter”. At the same time, I was involved in building a new service, The Video Bay, a service for streaming video which would have gone online if it hadn’t been for the big raid. Despite this, the Swedish Court thinks that I’m guilty to categorization on The Pirate Bay, proven so beyond reasonable doubt. Technical evidence doesn’t exist here, either. This would have been dead easy to produce, too, and this was also a task in Jim Keyzer’s area of responsibility.
Point three is an action I admitted to performing. But I don’t consider it being a crime. I’m convicted of having sent an invoice for advertising on The Pirate Bay once in April 2006 (almost a year after the events on trial started). The back story was as simple as a quarrel between those who paid for advertising and the company managing the advertising on The Pirate Bay, and therefore, the former demanded to be invoiced from a Swedish company. As I was well-liked by all parties, the CEO of this Swedish (publicly traded) company asked me to send the invoice from my Swedish company. I did, and then I paid an invoice from the company that they themselves refused to pay directly. There were personal quarrels behind it all, and it was a way to come to an end of this quarrel. I didn’t make a cent from it and the money wasn’t even in my account for a full day.
This is something that an ordinary collections agency could have done, without getting prosecuted or convicted for it. Jim Keyzer has heard the people selling the advertising, who collected half of the money made on The Pirate Bay, and didn’t once think of accusing them of making money off of financing this service. The prosecutor was of the exact same mindset. But push coming to shove, I am completely sure there is nothing illegal in what I did.
In the eagerness to make sure The Pirate Bay was convicted, I was pulled along, evidence or no evidence. Reading the verdict, it is obvious that the starting point has been that I must be convicted, and then trying to find something to convict me of. The fact that the policeman who worked for my adversary in my case (as well as my political adversary) has been able to investigate all computers in detail, and chosen to not investigate those concerning my conviction, leads me to the obvious viewpoint that I wasn’t given a fair chance. It’s a farce that there are biased judges able to pick and choose whom to convict. These people in the Swedish judicial system have been wielding the power that the public has entrusted in them, and them have done it in a manner that I hope they feel shame for the rest of their lives. They are textbook corrupt and criminal.
Instead, I would like to end my long letter with my reflections on it all. I know that I’m at a point where my chance of escaping punishment is less than one-tenth of one percent. Not having to go to jail for crimes I didn’t commit. Crimes that weren’t even committed in the first place. Crimes that surely aren’t even crimes to begin with, if they had been committed, and if they had been committed, hadn’t been so by me. It’s a bizarre situation with my distance to any real criminal liability. Still, I must spend a couple of months locked up in a Class 2 facility since there is said to be a risk that I would repeat these crimes, crimes that haven’t been committed, almost seven years ago. Crimes that, if they are to be committed, require access to high-speed net connectivity, physical machines, server halls and the like. Crimes that don’t need to be committed, since that kind of technology isn’t used any longer. And once I’m out of jail, where I’m certainly going to become increasingly bitter over the situation, I have a debt of 100 million SEK (11 million euros). Money in fantasy numbers, supposed to “compensate” for aiding and abetting the assistance of a theoretically possible crime I’m supposed to have done by doing things that didn’t happen. An economic debt to some of the world’s richest corporations. A debt that practically means I don’t have a future in Sweden as a country, if I want to live off of anything other than breadcrumbs or the goodwill of my friends. This debt is equivalent to exile, to deportation. I will need to become an economic refugee from Sweden.
This bizarre situation is one that authorities in Sweden close their eyes to. It is an insult to everything the judicial system is supposed to represent. It is a shame for the entire population. A population that doesn’t even share the opinions behind the laws I’m convicted of breaking. And it’s these things that I ask that all of us be pardoned from. The lost faith in the justice system with all the bias, all the obvious corruption, the unconstitutional orders across branches of government (ministerstyre) that were never investigated, all the ugly tactics that have been used to satisfy a trading partner high on its own power. Sweden’s judicial system has sold out individuals. That is not supposed to happen in a democracy.
Grant the people of Sweden pardon from this corruption.”