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Four-year prison sentence for UK owner of one of largest pirate websites

A website owner who created and ran one of the world?s most popular pirate websites has been sentenced to four years imprisonment at Newcastle Crown Court, in the UK.

Anton Vickerman set up the website surfthechannel in 2007 with the aim of being a 'one stop' destination for illegal copies of films and television programmes. Within two years the site was attracting more than 400,000 visitors per day, ranking amongst the top 500 websites globally.

He designed the 'front end' of the website and recruited programmers who ran the ?back end? functions of the site. These programmers were tasked to break the security on the third party sites that hosted infringing copies of films. As a result surfthechannel developed a sophisticated and vast index of films and TV programmes with the majority obtained illegally by the third party sites. Vickerman did not have permission from the producers/distributors of those films or TV programmes to show or distribute their content.

Vickerman ran surfthechannel as a business through a limited company, Scopelight Ltd, and was generating income of over £300,000 per year. Profits from the company were funnelled to a bank account in Latvia operated by an offshore company based in Dominica.

Vickerman targeted pirated films including those not yet released at the cinema which he and his staff secretly and anonymously uploaded to third party sites before linking to them via STC. Members of the surfthechannel community were also encouraged to find, check and add links, ensuring that surfthechannel was always one of the most up to date databases of illegally copied material anywhere on the internet.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) started an investigation into the site in October 2007 and had gathered sufficient evidence for Northumbria Police to arrest Vickerman and his wife in August 2008. Despite the arrests, the site continued to operate and generate revenues for its owners, whilst still gathering more links and visitors from around the world.

On 27 June after an eight-week trial, Vickerman was found guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud by ?facilitating? the infringement of copyright.

Story filed 18.08.12

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