WikiLeaks Hacker Shares Knowledge

Three days after Britain’s High Court set a date to hear WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, Jacob Appelbaum – the site’s hacker and security expert – was doing his bit to make Exit Festival’s new Internet-focused Share conference a sellout success.

His appearance at Belgrade, Serbia’s Dom Omladine April 9 was unannounced and therefore hardly the reason the daytime panels shifted 2,500 tickets. Share did advertise feature talks from Sam Graham Felsen, blog director of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde.

“We don’t talk about things we’re doing because we like our actions to speak for us,” said Exit director Ivan Milivojev, although there’s suspicions there may also have been other reasons for staying quiet about an appearance from the man Rolling Stone referred to as “the most dangerous man in cyberspace.”

Appelbaum has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. law enforcement agencies, which obtained a court order for his Twitter account data, detained him four times at the U.S. border after trips abroad, and seized his laptop and several mobile phones.

“It was through some friends,” was Vladan Joler’s coy response to questions on how he’d managed to book such a headline-maker, although not so much a headliner.

Joler is professor of creative digital art at the University Of Novi Sad, the city where Exit Festival’s held, and he played a large part in putting the Share programme together.

“Next question,” was Appelbaum’s response to anyone asking about the state of his relationship with his home country, although he did admit that his travel plans weren’t being made any easier.

Appelbaum is the only known American member of Wikileaks and the leading evangelist for the software program that helped make the leaks possible.

He made it clear he was at Share to talk about TOR, a peer-to-peer network that focuses on anonymity, privacy and security.

He had graphs that showed how TOR traffic spiked in countries suffering a political crisis, such as Libya, Qatar, Bahrain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

A day earlier, Felsen talked to delegates about “what makes a movement.” He used similar examples to illustrate the power and influence of the Internet.

Sunde has had his own legal problems and, along with three others from Pirate Bay, is currently appealing the one year prison sentence and $3.6 million damages Sweden’s Stockholm District Court ordered them to pay for “assisting in making copyright content available.”

Sunde says it’s a bit disingenuous for record companies to moan about the money they’re losing as a result of file-sharing when they never had it in the first place.

He dealt with record companies’ “cease and desist” letters by responding with a picture of a polar bear.

“We said the streets are full of such bears and we’d get back to them as soon as that problem had been sorted,” he explained.

A main feature of Share was that, however much they know about IT, the speakers tended to be more entertaining than nerdish. It was far more than a gathering for geeks.

Most of the meetings had standing room only, although there was barely that during Felsen’s session. Hundreds of people wanted to hear from the man who sold Obama to a virtual world.

There was plenty of talk about how the Internet has benefited the music industry and some about how it’s damaged it, but Share also has space for more music-related topics.

Stefan Lehmkuhl from Germany’s Melt Booking and Melt Festival gave an interesting insight into how the event staged on an open-cast coal mine in what was East Germany has developed.

Niels Boe Sørensen from entertainment marketing specialists Kuanhsi Consulting, which advises Danish brewing giant Tuborg on its global entertainment investments and also has Coca-Cola Nordic and The Danish Royal Theatre among its clients, explained what attracts brands to music and what they hope to get out of spending on it.

He gave examples of how some high-profile partnerships have worked, and also why some lower profile partnerships have not.

The only bug in the works was the non-appearance of Carl Craig, the Detroit-based producer of house music, who was filling one of the DJ slots lined up for several centrally located Belgrade clubs during the evening.

The other acts included Tricky, Jazzie B, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Josh Wink, Sub Focus, Isolee, and Metronomy.

Matters were apparently made worse by the fact that he reportedly didn’t say he wasn’t showing until after the plane he should have been traveling on landed in Belgrade.

Share sold a further 1,000 tickets per day for the club shows, which were available only during the course of each day.

The most remarkable thing about Share’s success was that it was arranged at such short notice that it seemed impulsive. It wasn’t made public until a month ago, around the time of ILMC.

Exit’s strategy was based on the premise that such events are rare in Belgrade and it was determined to do something about it.

Milivojev and Exit general manager Bojan Boskovic, who both seemed prepared for their organisation to take a financial loss to establish the event, were delighted by how Belgrade and most of the rest of Europe and the U.S. responded.