Piracy doesn’t pay

Surfthechannel owner sentenced after piracy conviction

Anton Vickerman, owner of, has been sentenced to four years in jail. The site – which had provided links to illegally copied TV shows and films – used to be one of the UK's most popular sources of pirated content, attracting over 400,000 visitors a day in its heyday in 2009.

38-year old Vickerman, from Gateshead, had designed the service's pages, hiring others to source material and carry out other back-end functions. He was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud in June for "facilitating" copyright infringement. had acted as an index of professionally made online videos – both legal and illegal – encouraging its users to send in new links and check that they worked. However, it did not host the video files itself, but instead pointed visitors to other sites including Megavideo and China's Tudou. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) said that at its height in 2009 the site attracted more than 400,000 visitors a day, generating more than £35,000 in advertising revenue a month. The maximum sentence that could have been given at Newcastle Crown Court would have been 10 years.

Vickerman ran the site through a limited company, called Scopelight, which sent earnings to a bank account in Latvia. He was arrested after Fact and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) hired a private investigator who took photographs of his home and computer equipment in July 2008 after pretending to be interested in buying the property.
Police raided the house a month later, arresting Vickerman and his wife Kelly, who was found not guilty by the jury.

Despite the arrests, continued to operate and only went offline in May this year, coinciding with the start of the trial.

Media industry representatives, including the British Video Association, welcomed the guilty verdict saying it made it clear that copyright theft would not be tolerated.

For Get Safe Online's information and advice on downloading and file sharing, click here.

Written by

In partnership with