While we've written plenty about Peter Sunde
, the former spokesperson for The Pirate Bay, we didn't cover his eventual jailing earlier this year. Given all the coverage of his trial and efforts post-trial to have the results revisited, the fact that he finally ended up going to jail didn't seem like much of a story. However, the way in which he's been treated in jail is simply inhumane. He's been put in the equivalent of a maximum security prison
and basic requests for more humane treatment have been rejected. The latest outrage was that Peter's father recently passed away, and while prison officials have said they'll make arrangements for him to attend the funeral, he'll have to wear handcuffs
. TorrentFreak says he'll have to wear handcuffs while carrying his father's coffin -- but from Peter's brother's quote, it seems clear that the prison officials were actually saying he can't even carry his father's coffin. The handcuff remark was just their way of saying "fuck you."
“But I will carry my father’s coffin,” Mats’ reports Peter as saying.
“You can not count on it,” the guards responded. “You will be wearing handcuffs.”
In response to this, a bunch of more open-minded Hollywood insiders, including actors, writers, directors, producers, camera people and others have quickly put together a video in support of Peter
, asking that he be freed or, at the very least, treated with some dignity.
The video was put together by Lexi Alexander, a Hollywood director who has gotten some attention in recent months for her outspoken criticism of the way traditional Hollywood has attacked the internet and file sharing in particular. Views like hers are not uncommon in Hollywood -- we frequently hear from insiders telling similar tales, including this one from an industry lawyer who talked about how those working in studios often encourage piracy
for their own benefit. But, it's still rare for those in Hollywood to speak out about it, because of the prevailing view among the old guard.
TorrentFreak has some details about who's in this particular video (some chose to remain anonymous, while others agreed to go public), and it's interesting to see that one of the participants was a writer on Sons of Anarchy
, since that show's creator has been one of the most outspoken
(if extraordinarily confused) of the old guard, attacking anything online he doesn't like and blaming piracy for everything bad that's ever happened in the world.
That said, what still amazes me is that Peter is in this position at all. It seems to come from a sort of "file sharing tunnel vision" that some copyright maximalists have at times, in which all perspective and nuance goes out the window. They know they hate The Pirate Bay. They know that Peter was associated with the Pirate Bay, and thus they automatically assume that horrible things should happen to him. What amazed me throughout the whole situation was that if you actually stopped and looked at reality
, Peter should never be in such a situation at all. To be honest, part of the problem may go back to Peter himself, as he never really seemed to take the trial against him that seriously -- and while the joking around and mocking of the trial while it was going on may have been fun at the time, it may have hurt the defense and actually further contributed to the tunnel vision against him. Those making the judgment could only see "these guys lack respect for authority" and thus they must
have done something criminal.
But it's still difficult to see how anything Peter did was actually criminal
in any way, shape, or form. He worked for a site that did not infringe on any copyrights directly, but acted as a conduit for people to share files, many of which were unauthorized, but plenty of which were also authorized. And he was the site's spokesperson. Yes, he mocked those who threatened and attacked the site, but that's just speaking freely. It's difficult to see how anything he did should be criminal at all, let alone deserving of many months in a maximum security prison reserved for violent offenders.
Anyone who's actually taken the time to get beyond the tunnel vision thinking of "Pirate Bay = Evil" kind of thinking, or looks past Peter's proclivity to mock authority (a useful trait), can clearly see that he's always been a very thoughtful, philosophical observer of humanity, technology and economics. For years, he's worked hard to help artists do more online, not to hurt them. Even at the Pirate Bay, he made efforts to help artists understand how to embrace it for their own benefit, and then later created and helped build Flattr as a tool to help creators make money. The idea that he's been treated as on par with a violent criminal is, frankly, disgusting.
Even if you absolutely hate The Pirate Bay and think it's the worst thing that's ever happened to the entertainment industry (a ridiculous view, but nonetheless...), the idea that the legal recourse against it should have been criminal, rather than civil charges, is mind-boggling. The idea that the site's spokesperson, who had little to do with the actual operations for the site should be criminally charged and convicted is equally ridiculous. And then the fact that he's treated at the same level as a violent criminal, and treated with such little respect and dignity concerning his own father's funeral is a travesty of justice. The lack of perspective from some who see piracy and think "lock him up and throw away the key" is immensely troubling.
Copyright should never be a criminal issue at all. The treatment of Peter Sunde just puts a massive, if terribly troubling, exclamation point on that statement.