Media

SurfTheChannel creator gets four years in jail for linking to pirated content

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What’s the price of piracy? For convicted British fraudster Anton Vickerman, it’s four years of his life.

That’s the sentence Vickerman got at the Newcastle crown court today for creating SurfTheChannel, a website that linked to both legal and illegal video content. Vickerman received the sentence on two counts of conspiracy to defraud by facilitating copyright infringement.

If the “conspiracy to defraud” charge sounds vague to you, then join the club. The charge refers to two or more parties (in this case, Vickerman and his wife) working together to defraud a victim.

Above: SurfTheChannel creator Anton Vickerman

Similar conspiracy charges were used to unsuccessfully convict Alan Ellis, the founder of music sharing site OiNK. This, some suspected, would make it difficult to convict Vickerman as well.

That’s because, like OiNK, SurfTheChannel didn’t actually host the video content it featured, instead linking to other sites that did. (One of these sites was MegaVideo, whose founder Kim Dotcom is also in hot water over piracy concerns.)

Not that Vickerman wasn’t making a mint off his efforts: According to some estimates, the site was generating over $50,000 (£35,000) in advertising revenue a month. That’s no small change for a site that just linked to content.

With the conviction, groups like the the U.K.’s Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) aim to send a clear message that the “we don’t host the content” defense isn’t much of a defense at all.

“This case conclusively shows that running a website that deliberately sets out to direct users to illegal copies of films and TV shows will result in a criminal conviction and a long jail sentence,” said FACT director Kieron Sharp.

And Vickerman — well, he’ll be surfing the channel from prison. 

Pirate image: Vectorportal

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