Anton Vickerman, a 38-year-old Londoner who made money through a website that linked to pirated copies of films and TV shows, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
The surfthechannel.com website had around 400,000 users a day, and Vickerman was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud following an eight-week trial at Newcastle crown court. He is the first British man to be jailed in the UK for a website that linked to illegal copies of films and TV shows.
Vickerman set up the website in 2007 as an index of online videos – both legal and illegal – hosted elsewhere on the internet. Prosecutors said Vickerman made £250,000 (€318,000) in profit through adverts on the site in 2008, the year in which he tried to sell it for £400,000.
He was not charged on copyright offences, but was convicted on two counts of conspiracy to facilitate copyright infringement following a private prosecution pursued by the anti-piracy lobby group Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Entertainment groups immediately heralded the jail term as a warning to those behind websites that could direct people to illicit content online. “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.