A prison visit with The Pirate Bay's Peter "brokep" Sunde

Julia Reda, a German Pirate Party MEP, was allowed to visit Sunde in a Swedish prison, and came away with a sad and important report on his tenure there, and his views on the future of the Internet and copyright.

I've just sent a box of books to Sunde; if you want to send him a care package (he specifically wants books, letters and vegan candy), send it to: Peter Sunde, Box 248, 59323 Västervik, Sweden

In Peter’s eyes, the Pirate Bay has run its course and turned into a commercial enterprise that has little to do with the values it was founded on. Nowadays, the most important battles for an open Internet take place elsewhere, he says, noting that the trend towards centralisation is not limited to file sharing. Facebook alone has turned into its own little walled-garden version of the Internet that a lot of users would be content using without access to the wider Net. At the same time, services from Google to Wikipedia are working on distribution deals that make their sites available to people without real Internet access.

One step to counter this trend towards centralisation could be data portability, the right to take all one’s personal data from a service such as Facebook and bring it along to a competitor. The right to data portability is part of the proposed European data protection regulation that is currently stuck in negotiations amongst the EU member states. “Having data portability would be a great step forward”, Peter says, “but it’s not enough. Portability is meaningless without competition. As activists and entrepreneurs, we need to challenge monopolies. We need to build a Pirate social network that is interoperable with Facebook. Or build competition to small monopolies before they get bought up by the big players in the field. Political activism in parliaments, as the Pirate Party pursues it, is important, but needs to be combined with economic disruptions”.

“The Internet won’t change fundamentally in the next two years, but in the long term, the effects of the decisions we take today can be dramatic”, Peter sums up. According to him, establishing net neutrality, especially on mobile networks, will be one of the crucial fights. The Internet may have started out as a non-commercial space, but is entirely ruled by business arguments nowadays, and without net neutrality, large corporations will be able to strengthen their monopolies and stifle innovation. A pushback will be needed from small enterprises as well as civil society – but those groups struggle to be heard in political debates as they often lack the financial resources for large-scale lobbying efforts.

“Prison is a bit like copyright”, says jailed Pirate Bay founder [Julia Reda]

(Thanks, Clay!)