Website owner guilty of conspiracy to defraud

Anton Vickerman, who set up and ran one of the world’s most visited pirate websites, surfthechannel, attracting more than 400,000 visitors per day and generating advertising revenues of at least $50,000 per month, has been found guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud by “facilitating” the infringement of copyright at Newcastle Crown Court today.

His wife, Kelly Vickerman, age 39, was found not guilty on the same charges.

At its peak surfthechannel was the 500th most visited website globally and provided access to more than 5,000 pirated films and TV programmes.

Members of the surfthechannel community were encouraged to find, check and add links, ensuring that surfthechannel was always one of the most up to date databases of pirated material anywhere on the internet.

Anton Vickerman, age 38, created the surfthechannel. The website was controlled by Vickerman and run through a limited company, Scopelight Ltd, which funnelled profits to a bank account in Latvia.

Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said,

“These are landmark criminal convictions proving that those operating pirate websites are not outside the law but can be tracked down and brought to justice. Mr Vickerman set up surfthechannel with the aim of it being one of the world’s top destinations for pirated films and TV programmes and was making at least £35,000 a month from the site alone.

“This was a criminal conspiracy for criminal profit to fund a criminal lifestyle and Vickerman is now paying the price.”

Anton Vickerman designed the ‘front end’ of the website and via the internet 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.

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association, said,

“Increasing numbers of British consumers are moving to legitimate online services that offer films and TV programmes in high quality for rental or sale. These businesses are relatively new and should not have to compete against pirate websites that do nothing to reinvest in the production of new films and programmes. The verdict in this trial makes it evident to all that copyright theft will not be tolerated and that such sites are criminal operations.”

Categories

Latest News

News Partnerships Prosecutions

£13,000 recovered from convicted trader after re-offending

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) has secured the repayment of more than £13,000 from William Marston, a convicted trader, after he had evaded payment for over two years.

News Prosecutions

Licensee ordered to pay £6,000 for illegal Sky Sports

On Wednesday 19th September, Mark Clennell, the Designated Premises Supervisor of The Wheatsheaf in Houghton le Spring, Tyne and Wear, [1], was convicted in his absence of two offences of dishonest reception of a television transmission, in this case, Sky televised football matches, with the intent to avoid payment of the applicable charge. Sky Sports … Continued

News Prosecutions

Licensees ordered to pay over £10,000 in fines & costs for Sky Sports infringements

Two licensees have been found guilty of ten offices of dishonest reception of a television transmission by showing Sky Sports to customers without a commercial agreement from Sky. FACT brought the criminal prosecution on 29 August at Preston Magistrates Court against the licensees for showing Sky Sports to customers without having a valid commercial viewing agreement in place.

News Partnerships Prosecutions

Pub Directors & Licensees Ordered to Pay a Record £327,405 for Illegal Sky Use

Following a successful prosecution by FACT, the licensees and company directors responsible for the running of the Prince of Wales in Stafford, the Beaufort Arms in Birmingham and the Pheasant Inn in Wolverhampton have been convicted of 64 offences and ordered to pay a combined total of £327,405 in fines and costs for showing Sky Sports illegally in their premises.