Peter Sunde: The Smartest Motherfucker on the Planet
 

Peter Sunde: The Smartest Motherfucker on the Planet

If anyone hasn't read Peter Sunde's appeal for clemency[a] and the crazy followup[b], let me summarize it: Peter Sunde, one of the four charged in the Pirate Bay-trial, has been treated unfairly in every way except one - he doesn't protest against the actual findings of the court that resulted in his sentence.

It is a bit bizarre to read someone who complains about corrupt politicians, corrupt judges, corrupt members of the police force; yet by his silence on the points of the actual verdict[1] delivers an admission that all those supposedly corrupt people did in fact manage to correctly convict a guilty person. If you're going to overturn a verdict, you should attack it, with proper legal reasoning. Not by quoting website reader surveys showing support for your point of view. Otherwise, a reasonable observer will conclude that the sentence is both correct and ironclad.

The case has all the signs of the Smartest Motherfucker on the Planet-syndrome. That is, the belief that "I'm so smart, they can never catch me, I can get away with anything because I'm so smart and can talk my way out of anything, and they're so dumb; and if I do get caught, then it can't be my fault, it must be a conspiracy". The primary symptom of this is thinking that you are going to win based on some small detail or technicality that may not even exist, all the while ignoring fundamental flaws in your position[2].

  1. Let's start with the whole premise of The Pirate Bay: The belief that you can sit in the center of a network where a lot of copyright infringement happens, and not need to take precautions in order to not be considered an accessory to those crimes. So far the only defense I've heard is "Google is doing it" - but whose who say that never follows up with what exactly it is that keeps Google in the clear. If you are going to claim that your service is legal because "Google is doing it and they are legal", you have to understand exactly what it is that makes Google legal.[3] You can't get into a business - any business, and especially one where you will be acting in a legal gray or very dark gray area[4] - without a very good understanding of the legal framework you'll be operating in.

  2. Let's follow up with all the technical talk - intricacies of the BitTorrent protocol and all - that polluted the trial. The relevant quesion here is how all that protects you legally. The Pirate Bay sits in the center of a whole lot of copyright infringement that is assisted by them. What is important is that illegal copies are being made, and that The Pirate Bay is somehow involved with this. The precise mechanism isn't that important unless the choice of mechanism has a solid connection to applicable law. This is a follow on to the first point: You must understand the legal framework you are operating in. The actions you take to remain in the clear must have a solid base in law, they can't just be based on your five-minute reading of the law.

  3. Third comes the reluctance to actually address the main points of the ruling. Peter is happy to talk about corrupt politicians, finer points of the ruling and in general what a hellhole Sweden is, but has not produced a convincing argument that a non-corrupt judge would come to a different conclusion, given the laws hat were in effect at the time. This, to me, is the only way to actually win. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. Maybe it'll make the loss a bit more palatable to himself and his supporters - but it is a loss, and a fair one at that, all the same. At the end of the day, you gotta win.

  4. Finally, the association of The Pirate Bay with Peter Sunde. This is a case of choosing your friends and not letting yourself be dragged down. If you associate with people on the outskirts of the law, if you do favors for them, if you in general assist them in their business: When they are found guilty of a crime, don't be surprised if someone decides that you, too, are a criminal.

As I see it, Peter Sunde has two options: One is to keep on not getting it and blaming everyone except himself. The other is to realize that he did made some seriously stupid choices, that his suffering is self inflicted, and then learn from it. As the friends he has chosen seem to encourage him to do the former, I have little hope. This is sad, because I think Sunde's Flattr[h] has a lot more potential to transform the world in a constructive and lasting way than The Pirate Bay ever will.

Footnotes

[1]

Stockholms tingsrätt, Dom 2009-04-17 i mål nr B 13301-06, s. 78[c]

[2]

See The Tax Protester FAQ[d] for textbook examples, in particular the sections on not seeing the forest for the trees[e] and believing in the "magic" of words[f].

[3]

It is actually spelled out, point by point in the law, what a service provider must do to avoid liability for infringement: Lag (2002:562) om elektronisk handel och andra informationssamhällets tjänster § 16 - 19[g].

[4]

The first rule is of course to avoid gray zones, because legal gray zones tend to be moral gray zones as well. But sometimes you can end up there for all the best reasons: Say you are shipping aid to starving people, and wonder if it is legal to pay off the local warlord so you can deliver your supplies, or if you are violating international law by aiding him financially.

[a]

http://blog.brokep.com/2012/07/04/nadeansokan/

[b]

http://blog.brokep.com/2012/07/13/sweden-is-a-small-pond-with-a-few-big-fish/

[c]

http://www.sr.se/Diverse/AppData/Isidor/files/83/6277.pdf

[d]

http://evans-legal.com/dan/tpfaq.html

[e]

http://evans-legal.com/dan/tpfaq.html#forest

[f]

http://evans-legal.com/dan/tpfaq.html#magicwords

[g]

http://www.notisum.se/rnp/sls/lag/20020562.htm#R7

[h]

http://flattr.com/