The man behind Surfthechannel.com, a site that offered links to websites streaming copyright protected content has been sentenced to four years in jail.
Found guilty for fraud and facilitating copyright infringement, 38 year old Anton Vickerman, designed the site and took others onboard to help source movies and TV shows that were available for online streaming. Surfthechannel hosted links to the media, working as a sort of database for movies and TV shows, in a similar fashion to the TV-Links website, whose owner David Rock, is still legally embattled.
Arrested in 2008, Mr Vickerman was said to have generated over £35,000 a month in advertising revenue while running the site (according to the BBC), which only ceased operation at the commence of the trial earlier this year.
The indictment was spearheaded by both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Federation against Copyright Theft (FACT). The latter of those organisations was very pleased with the outcome of the trial, with its director general, Kieron Sharp, more than happy to comment: “Mr Vickerman knew what he was doing from the outset, having been involved in the pirate community for some time.”
“This was not a passive search engine. Surfthechannel was created specifically to make money from criminal activity and it became the biggest site of its kind on the internet within two years,” he continued.
Sharp followed this up by saying that he felt the sentence was just. Not everyone agrees. Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye, felt that four years was an extreme sentence for someone that was just ” running a website.”
Describing the outcome of the case as “extremely disturbing,” Mr Kaye’s public statement said that: “A four year prison sentence is twice the maximum that could have been handed down if Vickers [sic] had been charged with online copyright infringement.”
“As we have said before, this was not a case brought using copyright law. The interest groups involved couldn’t present a case of copyright infringement and decided to press for the use of the common law offence of “conspiracy to defraud”. This offence is incredibly controversial in English law as it criminalises conduct by two or more parties that would not be criminal when performed by an individual.”
“In addition to coming to a conclusion that is out of line with findings in similar cases, this prosecution appears to have been driven by private interests. It has been reported that the very groups representing the victim helped with the investigation, were present at the arrest, present at police interviews and given access to the evidence. It has also been reported that unorthodox and intrusive measures were used during the investigation and a worrying amount of pressure was reportedly put on overseas witnesses.”
KitGuru Says: Quite a controversial issue as always. What do you guys think? Was Mr Vickerman profiting from illegal activities, or was he providing a service that’s comparable to Google? And in any case, should he have received four years in jail?