The owner of streaming link site Surfthechannel.com has been sentenced to four years in jail after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and for facilitating copyright infringement.
However, despite this seemingly heavy sentence, it isn’t the maximum that 38 year old Anton Vickerman could have received. According to the BBC, the maximum sentence he could have been dealt was as much as ten years behind bars.
Surfthechannel was a streaming link site that operated up until earlier this year, when Mr Vickerman’s trial began. The prosecution along with lobbyist organisations FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and the MPAA (Motion Picture of Association of America) alleged that the website brought in over 400,000 visitors a day at its peak, allowing Mr Vickerman to generate over £35,000 a month, which he funnelled into a Latvian bank account. However the claims of copyright infringement, Vickerman and Surfthechannel never hosted any files that broke copyright law; he and his staff simply linked to other sites that did.
This is where a lot of the controversy surrounding Surfthechannel and other websites like TVLinks comes from, since it’s very difficult to argue copyright infringement, when the site itself is not committing it. Many have drawn comparisons between these indexing sites and search engines like Google that do much the same if you put in the right search terms.
Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye was particularly vocal about this ruling, suggesting that the the reason Mr Vickerman was eventually convicted of conspiracy to defraud, was because there was no way that the prosecution could have made copyright infringement charges stick. “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,” he said in a statement on his party’s website.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this case however is how long it’s been ongoing. We even recommended Surfthechannel back in 2007 as a great alternative to the then recently shutdown TV links. Jared described it perfectly back then, when discussing the real effects of shutting down site’s like these: “will its demise really compel people to find content legally or to suddenly run down to their local cinema? I think not, and all it means, as is usually the case with piracy, is that people will just go elsewhere.”
Of course now Mr Vickerman isn’t going elsewhere, or anywhere for that matter, but during his expected appeal, many will be asking the question: is it fair? Is it fair for a man that was running a website that facilitated the circumvention of copyright law, to get more time in jail than some violent offenders? The MPAA and FACT would say yes.
What about you guys?