Owner of Surfthechannel.com jailed for hosting links to pirated films and TV shows
A 38-year-old British man who made over £35,000 a month from a website linking to pirated films and TV shows has been jailed for four years.
Anton Vickerman set up Surfthechannel.com in 2007; at the website's height it attracted 400,000 users a day, putting it in the top 500 websites in the world. He was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud following an eight-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
The case was brought to court by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), a group that acts in the interests of copyright holders. FACT said the sentence sent a strong message to anyone running similar websites.
"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 Kieron Sharp, director general of FACT.
In his closing remarks, Judge John Evans said that the pirating of films was having a huge impact on the film industry. He said Mr Vickerman had shown no remorse for his actions and still believed he had done nothing wrong.
"In reality it is somewhat speculative to calculate the loss to the industry. But pirating films in the way that you did does expose the industry to the likelihood of huge losses," he said.
In a statement posted on his website, Mr Vickerman said the sentence handed out by Judge John Evans was "loony".
"If my story does nothing else than raise public awareness about FACT Ltd. and their outrageous and continuing abuse of power then my time inside will be worth it"
It is unclear whether the case will have any impact on the fate of Richard O'Dwyer, a 24-year-old student from Sheffield who ran the website TVShack.net. O'Dwyer is currently appealing against extradition to the US for alleged copyright infringement.
While he hasn't been prosecuted in the UK, he could face up to 10 years in US jail if extradited and found guilty by a US court. A petition against his extradition set up by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales currently has almost 250,000 signatures.
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