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SurfTheChannel Owner Anton Vickerman Sentenced To Four Years In Jail For 'Conspiracy'

from the nods-and-winks dept

In June, we underlined the disturbing UK ruling that found Anton Vickerman guilty of "conspiracy to defraud" for operating SurfTheChannel, a TV link indexing website that hosted no infringing content whatsoever. The case raised huge concerns from the very start, when police invited FACT (a private anti-piracy group) to join the raid on the STC offices—and it culminated in a man facing up to 10 years in jail for building a popular website, despite not actually facing charges of copyright infringement since he did no such thing. The "conspiracy" charge allowed a conviction on the basis of Vickerman maybe-kinda-sorta being adjacent or somehow connected to infringement even though no specific copyright laws were broken.

Now, the sentencing has come down, and Vickerman will be spending four years in prison. Four years of his life... for operating a non-infringing website. All on the basis of a charge that failed against two extremely similar sites. Not only does this seem like an insane punishment, it is going to create a massive chilling effect on innovative online services. Of course, FACT is extremely proud of both these things:

"This case conclusively shows that running a website that deliberately sets out to direct users to illegal copies of films and TV shows will result in a criminal conviction and a long jail sentence," FACT Director General Kieron Sharp says.

"The sentencing indicates the severity of the offenses committed and the sophistication of [Vickerman's] criminal enterprise and should send a very strong message to those running similar sites that they can be found, arrested and end up in prison."

That's quite the picture to paint of STC. In reality, the site did not aim to direct users to illegal copies—merely to help users find film and TV content online. There happens to be a lot of it—including lots of legitimate content from a variety of sources like Hulu and the networks own websites. STC, with its community-driven model where users submit and vote on the quality of links, indexed all those legitimate sources—as well as many infringing links that were also submitted. STC even had commercial partnerships with networks like A&E and the Discovery Channel—and there were suggestions that the MPAA pressured those networks into ending the relationships before the trial, in order to better paint STC as a dedicated piracy service. And there was little or no evidence that Vickerman was involved in uploading or even sourcing the community content, infringing or otherwise, which is why a direct charge of copyright infringement didn't happen. Meanwhile, merely linking is not a crime. So what's left? Just the vague charge of "conspiracy to defraud", which sounds a lot like "felony interference with a business model", or basically "doing something we just don't particularly like." This isn't the first time UK conspiracy laws have been used in highly questionable ways—in fact, it's been a subject of controversy there since the 70s, when a judge infamously stated that a conspiracy charge could be based on as little as "a nod and a wink."

Anton Vickerman is paying the price for doing nothing more than making it easy to find content online. It's not unlike Google being browbeat into filtering results from supposed pirate sites—the entertainment industry doesn't want to compete by offering more legitimate options, and it doesn't want to go after the actual people doing the infringing, so it tries to find ways to put all the pressure on intermediate third parties who aren't directly guilty of anything, just because it's easier and faster. Innovation gets blocked, innovators get put in jail, and the industry doesn't have to lift a single competitive finger. This is an unfortunate outcome that, once again, does absolutely nothing to stop piracy, since eliminating one ultra-popular site like STC only clears the top spot for the hundreds of similar sites that are jockeying for the position. Even if it was effective at scaring all such sites out of the UK, they would only pop up in other countries, or people would just move on to the next easy method of finding what they want. Vickerman's questionable conviction and ridiculous sentence send only one message that has any impact: don't operate user-driven websites in the UK.


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    Duke (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 9:39am

    4 years for facilitating

    Interestingly, if they had managed to convict him for online copyright infringement (under s107(2A) CDPA), the most he could have got would have been 2 years in prison. So 'facilitating' online copyright infringement = 4 years in prison, whereas online copyright infringement itself = < 2 years.

    Conspiracy to defraud is a ridiculous law. The Law Commission attempt to repeal it a few years ago, when English Fraud laws were updated for the 21st (or 20th) century. The Government accepted that the law was bad, but refused to repeal it just in case they wanted to use it later...

    And now it is being used by the Hollywood types to ruin people's lives through private prosecutions, where, I guess, they feel that locking someone away for 2 years just isn't enough.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:59am

      Re: 4 years for facilitating

      That's not the first time it's used that way and the conspiracy to defraud accusation has been tried quite a few times on multiple occasions.

      I do hope this case is yet one more shove off the grave they [the MAFIAA] are digging.

       

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        The eejit (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re: 4 years for facilitating

        It does, however, bring up an interesting legal question? Is it conspiracy to defraud if you acknowledge that you don't hold the copyrights? Because you're being honest about your intentions, no-one is being defrauded.

         

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          Duke (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: 4 years for facilitating

          Dishonesty isn't the same thing as not being honest (law is weird that way). Or rather, it is, but "honest" in the sense of honourable, rather than truthful.

          In the case of actual fraud, pretending to be a copyright owner (something that certain large companies who will remain nameless seem to do quite frequently) could amount to a fraud (by false representation) but in conspiracy to defraud (which wasn't created for, but was greatly expanded to cover copyright cases back in the 70s, before the 1988 law closed some holes) the dishonesty is more about conduct.

          Here, I imagine the argument was "this guy is making huge amounts of money doing something obviously illegal therefore must be dishonest" - even though what he was doing seems to only be illegal because he was dishonest in doing it...

           

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    Manok, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    Why are people running these sites under their own name? Use a VPN to access it. Don't give true data when applying for the .com . (Only the credit card payment for the .com and hosting might be a problem?)

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      Only the credit card payment for the .com and hosting might be a problem?


      With prepaid credit cards, this is no problem.

      But I think the answer to your question is that they don't cover their tracks because they aren't doing anything wrong and so they don't expect to be prosecuted for anything.

       

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    So... if they can lock people up for years for running a link site in the UK, why are they bothering to extradite O'Dwyer to the US?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      Because the US told them to.

       

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      Duke (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:50am

      Re:

      Because prosecuting people is expensive and it is far cheaper to get a government to do your dirty work for you. The SurfTheChannel case has been going on for 4 years now and is a private prosecution, meaning FACT and the MPAA are paying for it (the UK prosecution service quickly dropped the case). However, with O'Dwyer they were able to convince the US authorities to bring a case themselves, so the US government pays for everything.

      As usual, it's all about the money. Hollywood may claim that these sites are costing them tens of millions of dollars a year, but they don't want to spend a penny more than they have to to stop them.

       

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

      Re:

      They key difference is that O'Dwyer actually is charged with copyright infringement - and I suspect the MPAA is hoping to get him to the U.S. and nail him on that charge so there's a domestic ruling against such linking sites. I'm sure that if somehow that failed, the conspiracy to defraud would be a second choice...

       

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    Quinn Wilde, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:13am

    He wasn't charged with copyright infringement, because he didn't do it.

    He wasn't charged with contributory copyright infringement, because that's not a crime.

    Instead, he was charged with 'conspiracy to defraud', the passed sentence for which is double the the maximum sentence for the crime he didn't commit, and the thing he may have done which isn't a crime.

     

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    Tim K (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:19am

    So the lesson...

    ...is that if you're going to do something you shouldn't just conspire, you should actually just do it because you'll get in less trouble. Cause that makes sense

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 10:40am

    Hosting links!

    Go to Jail.

    This is clearly the message the government, and corporate rulers are sending to the 'citizens'.

     

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    Rapnel (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    "This case conclusively shows ..." That FACT Director General Kieron Sharp is a fucking cunt.

    The industry is grotesque and getting more so daily.

    The king must die.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Ahh yes, he is totally innocent. He had absolutely no knowledge of the content of his site, and certainly didn't intent to allow anything illegal on his site.

    What a crock of shit.

    Criminal got caught, criminal goes to jail. Work with it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      Whack those moles.

       

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      Please go arrest Google's executives, there are infringing links on their search engine and they know it.

      He did not commit any crime. The very accusation of conspiracy is problematic to prove (and repel). Please go back to your cave.

      God the trolls are on a streak today.

       

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        bob, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, I think arresting the execs at Big Search might be a bit much, but they've known for a long time that they've been facilitating infringement and they've avoided changing things very much. It was only lately that they actually started downgrading links.

        And your notion that he didn't commit a crime is pretty bogus. If you're riding around with some friends and they decide to rob a convenient store, you go to jail too. If you're just a bag man on a robbery and someone else pulls the trigger, you can still be tried for murder. It doesn't matter if you didn't commit the act with your own fingers. If you're part of the group, you can go to jail.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:51pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          One problem wih your brilliant real world analogy there bob, nothing done on the site was criminal and he wasn't tried for 'murder' because no 'murder' was committed. He was tried for conspiracy to defraud absent any other crime being committed by anyone on the site. There is no crime to abet here, which is the analogy you are so desperately trying to draw but utterly failing at.

           

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          silverscarcat (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          aaaaand bob fails again!

          is anyone surprised anymore?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So if I own an apartment on someone without my consent sells drugs out of it I am liable right?

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            A better question is... if you point out a criminal's house to someone, should that make you liable for the criminal's actions even if you have nothing to do with it?

             

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          jupiterkansas (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Mention Google, and suddenly Bob appears. Amazing.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:15am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:07am

      Knowledge of? So what? Its not his responsibility to know what is and isn't infringing of all the links in the world. That's the rightsholders job. Boohoo.

      Intent? Can you prove that?

      Criminal? If he is, so are you. I bet you do at least one thing illegal (in the criminal sense) every day.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:23am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:07am

        "That's the rightsholders job."

        Actually that's the job of the judge.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:18am

      Re:

      "Criminal got caught, criminal goes to jail."

      Caught for what? They couldn't pin anything on him and had to resort to an ambiguous piece of legislation to send him to jail.

      Care to explain (since apparently it is so obvious) what exactly did the guy do wrong, and how "conspiracy to defraud" applies to that?

       

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        Duke (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Caught for what? They couldn't pin anything on him and had to resort to an ambiguous piece of legislation to send him to jail.
        It's not even legislation but a common law offence that's been lying around for a few hundred years despite various attempts to repeal it.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The thing about "various attempts to repeal it" does not tell you anything?

          Obviously some people have problems with this piece of legislation (in this case a law, but ultimately an irrelevant fact in this case). Ambiguous seems like something every interessent agrees on...

          If he is caught in a "conspiracy" wouldn't it be appropriate to look at the consequences of what he is conspiring to do?

          "Conspiracy to defraud" seems so disconnected from the rest of the legislation that it has essencially become a rubber-stamp for "we don't like ya!"-cases.

           

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      Dave Reed (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:25am

      Re: Criminal got caught

      Interesting…

      Let's see - no copyright infringement, no theft. He has defrauded SOMEONE, or so they tell us. No.. that's not right he DIDN'T defraud anyone. He conspired (with whom?) to defraud someone.

      I may just be old-fashioned or simple-minded, but in my day when you practice fraud on someone you trick them out of their money. For example, if I came up to you and said "Hi, I'm priest and I'm collecting for the poor orphans" and you give me money, but I'm NOT a priest and I spend it on beer you've been defrauded!

      If I sit down with a friend and plan to get money from you that way, I have conspired to defraud you.

      Who, exactly got defrauded out of what? Where was the deception? What was the valuable thing he got?

      It seems to me that he's a criminal that's committed no crime.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:26am

      Re:

      Try Reading the article...he didn't host any content.

       

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      dennis deems, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:30am

      Criminal got caught, criminal goes to jail.

      I see. Similarly, map sites should be shut down and those who operate them sent to jail, because burglars could use the maps to locate houses to break into.

       

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      anon, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:46am

      Re:

      I suspect you are commiting a crime by repeating comments others have made , i take you to court and you get 4 years, same thing... and you are calling for this ? seriously?

       

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      Sonja (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:03pm

      Re:

      really... I think this is good time now to take gun manufacturers to court. They certainly know that some of their guns are used for illegal purposes. Lets face it, its all their fault people die due to gunshot wounds.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      "Criminal got caught, criminal goes to jail. Work with it."

      But that's what's so cool about the conspiracy charge, you don't have to commit any offense at all and you certainly don't have to commit a criminal offense to be found guilty of conspiracy.

       

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      RD, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      "Ahh yes, he is totally innocent. He had absolutely no knowledge of the content of his site, and certainly didn't intent to allow anything illegal on his site.

      What a crock of shit.

      Criminal got caught, criminal goes to jail. Work with it."

      So when can we expect Google to be shut down and its execs jailed? I mean, they only link to things too (and dont actually host any of the content that appears on their site) so they are guilty as well, right?

       

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        bob, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Why do you think Google is backpedaling so quickly and downgrading links. They can feel the posse tighten around them. They can feel the book settlement go south. They know the Viacom litigation won't end well.

        Google as we know it is already changing before your eyes.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So you agree that Google is being manipulated via an extra legal process as a result of a vendetta. Glad we're on the same page then, bob.

           

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          silverscarcat (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 2:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Shouldn't the MPAA and RIAA execs be sent to prison for conspiracy to defraud?

          After all, they're trying to defraud people with their lies.

          Except, in the MPAA and RIAA's case, their conspiracies end up getting stuff taken down that people found useful and offer no alternatives.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            After all, they're trying to defraud people with their lies.


            Or even more directly, the evidence is overwhelming that they defraud the artists themselves as matter of standard business practice.

             

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          Ninja (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 4:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Except that Viacom is getting pwned in that lawsuit. You do know they presented videos they uploaded themselves as infringing, do you?

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:11am

    Another message

    > Vickerman's questionable conviction and ridiculous sentence send only one message that has any impact: don't operate user-driven websites in the UK.

    It also sends another message: even if your website is completely legal, create and operate it anonymously.

    Those who think they are safe because what they are doing is legal, are the ones who are the most at risk.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:18am

    this is so very scary! i hope there is going to be an appeal and the corruption involved is exposed, along with what the judge received to make up this bullshit verdict. when will courts realise that Google does the same thing and the only reason it isn't prosecuted is because it has much more money and clout on it's side than the entertainment industries. what has happened to this guy is pure victimization brought about by a failing to adapt industry that only manages to survive due to the bribes it puts out.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      Oh, the old delusion of "every man being equal to the law".

      Reality is that the golden rule applies more: "Those who have the gold, makes the rules."

      They are more or less logical and somewhat true. However, the last one can make it impossible to apply the first one...

       

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      Me, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 6:26am

      Re:

      He is appealing, I just hope it makes a difference, because I know him, and he is no criminal. Disgusting state of affairs.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Drowning man syndrome...Some day they will go under.

     

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    Anonymous, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:48am

    The alleged victim, the media and broadcast industries, were in this case the victim, the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge if you believe the account here

    http://www.filedropper.com/antonvickerman-averybritishmiscarriageofjustice
    http://www.filed ropper.com/misc762

    WTF kind of world are we creating

     

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    daviedavedave (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Weird one...

    This is a weird one, because he wasn't actually hosting illegal content (charges were dropped), so wasn't technically infringing copyright... but it's unarguable fact that his site was being used by hundreds of thousands of people to access illegal material, and he knew it. Not only that but he made a lot of cash for himself on the side (hence the "fraud" part of the charge). I studied law at university and annoyingly never came across anything about Conspiracy to Defraud, but it seems as flimsy as the Scottish "Breach of the Peace" charge, which kind of covers "doing something indeterminate, but bad, in a public setting".

    I feel sorry for him in a legal sense, but not really in a moral sense because he must have known what he was getting himself into. Anybody claiming that innovation will be stifled by this ruling is, frankly, desperate for arguments against the conviction & sentence (the simple legal technicality side of things should suffice IMO). If nothing else innovation will just accelerate to the point where it's beyond the reach of the authorites, as it always does, before they actually twig what's going on.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

      Re: Weird one...

      The simple legal technicality involved here is that you can be guilty of a crime without committing a crime, you might not even have committed any offense at all.

      When they start convicting city planners of conspiracy to commit bank robberies because the road system allows access to banks for robbers or ditto for map makers or tour leaders then you might have a point his site provided links to things that were available on the internet. If some of those things were infringing copyright then the people who put them there should be taken to court not people who have no way of knowing whether something is infringing or not.
      Given that the publishers themselves have trouble with that why on earth is any 3rd party expected to know.

       

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

      Re: Weird one...

      Ultimately, the role of the site was neutral. Yes, he was aware that he was helping people find infringing content -- he was also actively pursuing ways to get as much legitimate content onto the site, while the users were the ones providing links to questionable sources.

      It most definitely is an important form of innovation. The hope of someone who runs a site like this is that it will spur the growth of legitimate, professional content by letting users demonstrate what it is they really want. Look at YouTube: much of the past and ongoing action against them revolves around their knowledge, in the early days, of the general presence of infringing material on the site. At the time, it would have been really easy to frame that as them "knowing what they're getting into" and profiting by turning a blind eye to infringement. But in reality what they did was create a neutral platform - and only a few years later, that platform is jam-packed with legitimate content, because providers responded to the clear demands of consumers.

      Except SurfTheChannel is even less "involved" with piracy than YouTube was or is -- lots of this content has been available online for a long time, and lots of people have tried to index it, starting with very rudimentary websites and growing into more professional platforms like STC. Ultimately, these websites just recognized a niche in the search/indexing market, and moved to fill it - and it's not a niche that exists because the content is pirated, but because the content is popular. As intermediaries, they know that content will always be available somehow, so they know there is a much-needed role in helping people find it -- and in fact in many ways it's in their best interest to encourage the growth of legitimate content, since they stand to build much more profitable businesses if they can develop strong commercial partnerships. They're innovators, responding to a demand.

       

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        bob, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re: Weird one...

        Ah, quit singing the song about innovators responding to demand. The guys who invent a new way to jimmie locks are innovators. The guys who figure out new ways to defraud people with 419 scams are innovators.

        As it was, I don't see much innovation here at all. FTP is 30+ years old. It was part of the original web browsers. He just put a prettier face upon it. BFD.

        This has nothing to do with innovation and everything to do with morals. Should someone have a right to profit off someone's hard work without their permission? Should a business be able to ignore rampant illegal behavior using its facilities? Should it be able to profit from this while winking its eye and claiming it knew nothing?

        To all of these I say, "No." So why don't you admit it. This has nothing to do with pure innovation and everything to do with sticking it to the content creators. It's all about astroturfing for Big Search.

         

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          Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 2:13pm

          Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

          Apparently bob understands FTP about as well as he understands paywalls.

           

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            Ninja (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 4:37am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

            We have to introduce him to this new, efficient method of sharing called bittorrent. I'm sure his mind would explode and scatter in 1000's of FTPaywall pieces.

             

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

          The guys who invent a new way to jimmie locks are innovators. The guys who figure out new ways to defraud people with 419 scams are innovators.


          Actually, they are. It is possible to be an innovative criminal, after all. (Although there are legitimate and legal reasons to jimmie locks, so that innovator may just be a locksmith, not a crook).

          However, this guy did nothing even remotely like that. He wasn't behaving in an unethical way (as far as I know), nor was he engaging in any lawbreaking. If he was, he would have been charged with it.

           

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            daviedavedave (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 12:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

            That's the only thing for me.. the charge itself is dodgy. I really don't feel sorry for the guy at all.

            People saying that gun makers should be charged with conspiracy to murder are missing the point... murder charges come with much higher legal 'tests' attached to them, and with good reason! Those saying map makers should be charged with conspiracy to rob are also missing the point... maps are overwhelmingly used for law-abiding purposes, and the same cannot have been said for STC (quite apart from the fact that nearly all burglaries are opportunistic, amd not pre-planned).

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

              Ah so laws should be based on how one believes people will use a neutral item.
              Maps are fine, because my belief is that more people use them for legal purposes, guns are fine because even if only really stupid people desire them; because when they do inevitably injure themselves and/or others there are high legal 'tests' around whether they meant to or not.
              But having a website which has user provided links to material that may or may not be copyright infringing is simply asking for trouble.

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 5:06pm

          Re: Re: Re: Weird one...

          WELL SAID Bob.......

           

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

        Re: Re: Weird one...

        clear that is not the case,, so why say it was neutral ???

        why are you lying ?? no one found it was neutral, the users, the court, the police or most of the commenters, not even the guy who ran it believes it was neutral...

        why do you lie,,, ??? is it to make a point ?? or are you required to lie to make a point ?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 11:55am

    Thankfully there are still dozens to hundreds of such sites available still, many within the EU even.

     

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    Vincent Giannell, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    Someone should tell the court to appeal the sentences because it is unfair, unlawful, and illegal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    The best Bribes Money Can Buy

    Clearly this guy screwed up.

    He thought that he could run an honest and legitimate website without paying off all the appropriate officials.
    If he had done so this would not have been an issue.

    I believe that this incident has created an opportunity for enthusiastic entrepreneurs to develop a new class of website that could be setup to facilitate bribery and payoffs
    It could list the who's who of Government and corporate people,in each country, and what their authority is and how much money they would need (or "other" considerations) to protect the new business venture.
    It would also list convenient contact info to streamline the process.

    In my opinion it is time to get this practice out of the closet and into the mainstream of acceptable business and government practices.

    Identify it.
    Process it.
    Legalize it
    Tax it.

    No more need for stupid laws or expensive and time consuming court battles.
    Then business can get on with the business of business



    So if you're looking for a new web adventure this may be for you.

    PS
    Don't forget to pay off the right people first!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    This is disgusting. He got more years than murderers, rapists, bankers...

     

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      bob, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      Really? Come on. Most of the murderers and rapists around here get 20-40 years at least. Many get life.

      Bankers are another story.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    if he had stolen something and then sold it or copies of it when it was not his to begin with, i could understand the charge of 'fraud'. as he didn't do that but only supplied links to other places where various pieces of media could actually be found, how is that 'fraud'? making money through advertising is forward thinking but again, not 'fraud'. plus, he was supposedly uploading files anonymously. if that was the case, how did they manage to find out it was him? the person, whoever it was, was either anonymous or not. this has been a set up from the start, just like TPB and Mega. the sentence in the UK is less for violent crime, burglary and robbery. try to explain that. this guy is being used by the UK government (probably Vaizey as a favour to his buddies in the entertainment industries) as a scape goat and to try to set an example. all involved should be exposed for the corrupt arse holes they obviously are!

     

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    EF, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    Incredible! outrageous! The "industry" is utter scum and the legal system is packed full of useful idiots. feh!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    John Pilger's 1970's documentary about the "conspiracy" law and how it allows non crimes to become crimes and which you can be found guilty of for little more than a nod or a wink.

    http://escapeesblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/john-pilger-a-nod-and-a-wink-the-use-of-conspi racy-laws-in-british-justice/

     

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

      Re:

      'tis linked in the post :)

       

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        Duke (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 2:30pm

        Re: Re:

        Interesting; a couple of years after that video conspiracy was significantly diminished, and limited to either statutory conspiracy (an agreement to do another criminal offence) and conspiracy to defraud, conspiracy to "corrupt public morals" or "outrage decency" - I'm not sure how often the latter two get used.

        It seems that back then the problem was that the establishment (the courts and police) wanted a way to deal with people they didn't particularly like, and abused conspiracy laws, with Parliament unwilling to do anything about it. Now, of course, we have the establishment (in the form of the police, government and Parliament) doing the same, but much more effectively as they can pass legislation to create new offences as needed; whether public order offences, terrorism offences, 'cyber-bullying' or stuff about causing harassment, alarm or distress.

        Fortunately, these days we have the courts, armed with the Human Rights Act, able to stand up to the government in a few of these cases. Ah, how things change...

         

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:17am

        Re: Re:

        "'tis linked in the post :)"

        I knew I'd gotten that link from somewhere

         

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    wild_quinine (profile), Aug 14th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    The biggest issue with the law they used...

    By far the most significant problem with the law they used to get him on is that it is awful. It completely pre-supposes that he's the bad guy.

    Conspiracy to defraud in a nutshell:
    an agreement by two or more by dishonesty to deprive a person of something which is his or to which he is or would be entitled and an agreement by two or more by dishonesty to injure some proprietary right of his, suffices to constitute the offence of conspiracy to defraud


    Say for just one moment that we don't prejudiciously assume that SurfTheChannel is an illegitimate operation.

    Doesn't it sound like all these private interest firms working together in secret to destroy this guy's business and put him in jail fits the definition of 'conspiracy to defraud' a whole lot better than running a links site? Doesn't it?

    Don't you have to assume that there are good guys and bad guys to see it otherwise?

    Justice does not presume that there are good guys and bad guys. Ever.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 9:22am

      Re: The biggest issue with the law they used...

      Justice does not presume that there are good guys and bad guys. Ever.


      True. I wish that the justice system actually worried about justice.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    Takes two (at least)to conspire.

    So who is the other one?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2012 @ 5:01pm

    look at that, the law works !!!!..

    does masnick like it??????

    LOL WHO CARES !!!!!

    so masnick, how many people are going to jump in and take his place ?? are you ??.. oh thats right law enforcement is not having an effect on the freetards.... except in cases like this.. does it make you reconsider your stance ??? not a chance...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 1:22am

    I'm embarrassed for the UK legal system right now, I was hoping we'd never become party to this shady, second-tier justice rubbish.

    I don't know how to shout loud enough or publically enough in a place where people will hear me and take note to express how I feel about this.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:38am

      Re:

      Only gotten embarrassed now?
      How about the fact that there has been no reporting and no word of any kind on the rnbxclusive takedown.
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120214/11083717758/uk-now-seizing-music-blogs-with-ame rican-domains-over-copyright-claims.shtml

      Despite the claims at the time and recently that there was actual criminal theft involved amongst other bizarre claims, no charges have been made against anyone.

      "It is important to appreciate that the alleged manner in which music files were obtained involved individuals illegally accessing data from the personal accounts of artists and persons associated with them. This theft of pre-release material can have a damaging effect on those concerned."

      Amongst the claims made at the time was
      "If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law."

      Which SOCA have since clarified as meaning you may be guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
      "The warning message was primarily directed at those persons who had been knowingly downloading stolen music from the rnbxclusive website. These persons may have committed the offence of conspiracy to defraud, which carries a maximum penalty on conviction of 10 years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, as stated in the warning notice.
      In addition there is potentially an offence of distributing an article infringing copyright."

      Given the case against Anton Vickerman appears to have happened without the CPS, it is somewhat surprising that SOCA have recently justified the lack of prosecution in relation to rnbxclusive with the following recent response
      "At this stage, I am not able to comment further, including on whether SOCA is taking action against the operators of the site. Decisions regarding whether or not prosecutions can be brought rest with the Crown Prosecution Service."

      But how can this be, that a site can be taken down and allegations of criminal activity thrown about by law enforcement officers who then make no effort whatsoever to support them, what can they possibly say to allow us to consider all this to be reasonable.
      I'll leave the last words to them again

      "SOCA was formed by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and has a responsibility to prevent, detect or mitigate the consquences of serious organised crime. A key means of preventing criminals from exploiting websites to profit from the distribution of stolen or illegally obtained music files is to reduce demand by deterring persons from using those sites.
      SOCA therefore needed to indicate clearly the nature of the criminal activity linked to the operation of the rnbxclusive website and to draw to the attention of the relevant parties the legal jeopardy indicated above."

      All quotes from the DG of SOCA

       

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    identicon
    Richard, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:24am

    Crazy!

    This world is doomed! The copyright gangsters rule the world and the government hates the public and ♥ the media mafia...

     

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    identicon
    Anonyslush, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:33am

    Few more details

    1. Vickerman also uploaded stuff to cyberlockers like MegaUpload himself and then put the links on Surfthechannel
    2. He didn't tell his buddies about the money he was making
    3. He exclusively linked to pirated material (preferably stuff that hadn't been released yet)
    4. He tried to obfuscate the links he had stolen from other sites to protect them against 'theft'

    And you may be interested in a bit of background information about the guy who continued to operate this site and other similar sites all the way to his conviction, causing his wife to leave him and his mother to kick him out of her house:

    Suprnova.org could never have run without the forum been there, the forum has been run by a few different people in the past, but is now in the hands of a guy called anton Vickerman (FD aka TheShadow)

    This is a money driven guy, If the is no cash there, he wont be either.
    Over the last few months we have seen a massive change in nova, this is due to methlabs paying slon an extreamly large amount of money to drop Bittorrent and use the mass amount of people that come to nova to promote there new p2p software to, As the forum is the heart of suprnova, everyone from the site can go there and talk to eachother, MY advice to anyone going there still is ask lots of questions,

    Its a shame to see so many people sticking up for suprnova when they are unaware of what they are actually sticking up for.

    It use to be a very good torrent dump site, now its a cash machine for the owners.

    Its time for you guys to wise up and relise that suprnova is dead, now is the time for them to rake in as much money as possible.

    I wouldnt be suprised if slon was on the run, someone did put his real home address in the irc channel (he used it when he first registerd suprnova) also i wouldnt be suprised if FD aka the shadow had something coming to him aswell as he made the same misstake when first registering his old sites, i know his real home address was even floating around as a torrent so quite a few people must have it.

    So il say it again, suprnova is dead, now is the time of the money makers

    by Family Friend on January 29, 2005 at 2:13 pm

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 2:57am

      Re: Few more details

      "4. He tried to obfuscate the links he had stolen from other sites to protect them against 'theft'"

      You can steal links now?
      Man, but there are more new crimes than I can even begin to imagine.

       

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 5:09am

      Re: Few more details

      [citation needed]

      And it's ok to make money from the service. You know, you have to spend work hours cleaning the code, managing the site, helping moderating the community (or manage the moderation teams). So he made money on a service that people loved that incidentally had some infringing content. Problem? None. If the MAFIAA were smart enough they'd be offering such services.

      As for the possible money made, well I've yet to see some1 that operates such sites that is actually rich.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 6:44am

      Re: Few more details

      What a load of nonsense, those points are all regurgitated from the FACT press release.

      He didn't upload, he didn't make such amounts of money, he had contracts with Discovery Channel (exclusively piracy, lolwut) and there is no such thing as stealing links.

       

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Aug 15th, 2012 @ 6:46am

      Re: Few more details

      1. Vickerman also uploaded stuff to cyberlockers like MegaUpload himself and then put the links on Surfthechannel
      2. He didn't tell his buddies about the money he was making
      3. He exclusively linked to pirated material (preferably stuff that hadn't been released yet)
      4. He tried to obfuscate the links he had stolen from other sites to protect them against 'theft'


      As far as I know, the prosecution was unable to find any real evidence of (1), though they did try to present some out-of-context forum conversations and flawed digital forensics to make that claim.

      (2) I am not sure about, but I don't really see its relevance to the charges either.

      (3) is definitely not true. STC linked to legit sources, and even had commercial partnerships with some networks.

      (4) Actually comes from one of the out-of-context forum threads I mentioned. The prosecution presented a discussion that purported to show Vickerman admitting he hosts infringing videos on his own servers - which is utterly not true - but it turned out to be one page of a multi-page forum thread which, when read in full, made it clear that he was talking about link obfuscation technology. Virtually all TV linking sites use something like this, since they compete on the quality of their indexes, and they don't want other sites merely scraping their whole index and replicating it. It's not a practice I love, but it's also not evidence of piracy or knowledge of piracy - it's merely a competitive tactic.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 4:56am

    Anonyslush must be one of those third party surrogates the leaked MPAA communications strategy to deal with the fallout was on about. And his comments given the appropriate degree of attention.

    WTF does what sort of person Vickerman is or is not. He represents us all as regards the excesses of rights holders in imposing their will on the polulation (or do I mean their customers)

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 5:20am

    Just checked out the www.surfthechannel.com website. Seems that Vickerman left an explosive legacy i.e. a 20,000 word account of the past five years together with a mass of archive material all for download.

    It is a very serious and concerning insight into the way that the MPAA/Fact organisations go about their work of 'policing' the internet and it goes some way to providing a bit of balance against the rubbish of the Fact PR strategy.

    You all should have a look before anonyslush and his MPAA/Fact trolls in their dirty tricks department get to work on the site. It really is a perspective we don't normally get because Fact/MPAA prefer to work in the shadows.

    FYI I am close to being able to announce the real name and job of the face behind anonyslush based on the content of his comments. Watch this space....

     

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    Micaela (profile), Aug 19th, 2012 @ 4:32am

    The site is down, but for those that haven't yet read, there are copies available n a few places. Here's one:
    http://rinf.com/alt-news/sicence-technology/surfthechannel-leaves-message-condemning-the-briti sh-justice-system/14995/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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