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.”

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