The Pirate Bay (TPB), one of the world's biggest torrent tracker sites, found itself embroiled in controversy last month, when a link to a torrent containing photographs of a grisly child murder in Sweden appeared on the site.
A torrent is a small file that contains information about another file, such as a movie, distributed using the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol. The torrent itself doesn't contain the movie, but acts as a marker of sorts, pointing computers to the actual file.
The torrent of the photographs, which were released by a Swedish court presiding over the case, was not posted online by TPB or its founders, but the site nevertheless found itself at the center of a discussion on the limits of free speech on the Internet, and to what extent Web sites should be held responsible for content posted by users.
The controversy was different from that normally faced by TPB, which has made enemies of the music and movie industries, as well as the US government, over allegations its activities violate copyright law -- charges the site denies, citing differences between US and Swedish law.
TPB's view on the pictures was that anger over their release should be directed towards the court that made them public, rather than TPB. The site refused calls to take down the torrent, citing its general commitment to not censor or remove any files posted to the site, regardless of the circumstances.
The controversy came to a head when Peter "brokep" Sunde, one of the founders of TPB, was invited to appear on a Swedish television show for an interview, under an agreement that the father of the murdered children would not be present. According to Sunde, the television station broke the agreement and surprised him by inviting the father to participate in the show with him.
That experience led TPB to declare an end to all contact with the press. "All future interviews are to be considered impossible. We have no longer any interest in participating in traditional media since it's apparent that they are not trustworthy," TPB announced on its blog on Sept. 12.
Sunde and Fredrik "TiAMO" Neij, another TPB founder, will speak at the upcoming Hack In The Box (HITB) security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, later this month. Their keynote presentation is called "How to dismantle a billion dollar industry -- as a hobby."
Despite the announced ban on press contact, Sunde agreed to an e-mail interview ahead of the presentation. What follows is an edited version of that exchange.
What can we expect to see in your presentation at HITB? Why did you decide to present at the conference this year? How did that happen?
Peter Sunde: The presentation will probably be a mixture of a tech presentation, some pirate humor and a story about the power of Internet. We usually hold seminars for politicians, so it's going to be very much more interesting doing it in front of people that understand the technology. We will talk about how and why we do what we do! We got in contact with some guys from Hack In The Box who are really good at what they do and they invited us to come over. Going to Asia is never a boring thing so we went for it!