FACT Investigation into Surfthechannel Owner was Hugely Invasive

FACT Investigation into Surfthechannel Owner was Hugely Invasive

In a 20,000 word document, recently convicted and sentenced owner of Surfthechannel.com, Anton Vickerman, has outlined the last five years of his life and the investigation conducted by British anti-piracy lobbyist group FACT and member company, the MPAA. Reading the lengthy report, not only does it seem borderline, if not entirely, criminal in some instances, but ridiculously invasive.

Despite being a limited company, with no real investigative rights beyond those of the average citizen, FACT was able to gather up very detailed information on not only Mr Vickerman, but his wife, children and parents, including their financial situation, loans, outstanding payments, payment history, as well as covert video and transcripts of private conversations. It reads like a government backed, police investigation, but FACT is simply a UK branch of the MPAA. That’s overseas interests invading the privacy of a British citizen.

At one point during the investigation, FACT contacted News Corp. owned BSKYB, with a request of customer information on Mr Vickerman. Of course with no police warrant behind it, there’s no reason why Sky should hand over any information on one of its customers. As it turns out there was no account held by Mr Vickerman, which BSKYB was more than happy to inform FACT of. In reality, the company wasn’t giving away any information on its customers, since Vickerman wasn’t a customer, but it’s still a worryingly accepting response to a limited company that has no legal powers, asking for information.

However, FACT took things a step further, by recording audio and video of Mr Vickerman  and his wife in person. First by spying on his house – then by meeting with him on two separate occasions, with the guise of an investor and as a potential house buyer. The first instance saw an employee of the MPAA – named in the document as Pascal Herzscholdt – meet in a public place to discuss potentially providing financial assitance to Surfthechannel. Vickerman claims that several other FACT members were there, covertly recording and observing the meeting.

Further down the line, FACT responded to an advert for the sale of Vickerman’s property. It then went as far as sending a private investigator to the house, covertly videoing its contents and Mr Vickerman while recording the conversations had with him.

Images taken from video inside Mr Vickerman’s house

Some of these claims are of course pretty extraordinary,but Mr Vickerman has backed it up by providing a RAR file containing PDFs of the original emails between organisations, official documents and communications between the MPAA and FACT. They seem to back up what he’s said pretty conclusively, making his four year prison sentence seem all the more unbelievable.

Still, the document ends on a note of hope. Anton says that he will make a triumphant return and that his appeal cites 24 faults with his trial, making it seem likedy that at the very least his sentence will eventually be reduced if not abolished altogether. However, he points out that unfortunately because of the length of his appeal, it could take up to a year before it goes to court.

The document also claims that FACT intends to recoup its legal costs from the UK government. Unfortunately it doesn’t elaborate on that point further. However, we’ve contacted FACT for comment, specifically regarding this claim and will update this article when we get a response.