Do Vendor Politics Matter?


Do politics matter when you make a purchase decision? Or does the product speak for itself, with the actions and beliefs of the people behind it irrelevant?

The latest case to raise these questions involves file-sharing service The Pirate Bay, now on trial in Sweden for copyright violation claims. Wired delicately describes backer Carl Lundström as an "independently wealthy and slightly eccentric business man. His detractors point to a past in nationalist politics."

The Register describes him as "Pirate Bay's neo-Nazi sugar daddy" and "one of the most notorious fascists in Europe," citing alleged links to violence and extremist parties.

Adding to the fun: Wired's correspondent is a self-described "leading critic in Sweden of intellectual 'property' in the digital age," which makes his objectivity open to question.

Should the allegations matter to would-be consumers of Pirate Bay's services?

Boycotts and whisper campaigns based on the politics of owners are frequent enough. The anti-abortion activities of Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, for example, have attracted attention, as have the lefty politics of many Hollywood stars. People do base purchase decisions on these things.

Big name tech companies have been headed by various cranks and jerks, but real political controversy has been scarce. Still, the Pirate Bay story makes me wonder: what would it take for you to cross a company off your vendor list?