Four years jail for man who linked to TV streams

An Englishman who allegedly made £250,000 ($392,000) operating a website linking to legally- and illegally-hosted TV shows and movies has been sentenced to serve four years in prison.

Anton Vickerman was convicted earlier this summer not under copyright law but of “conspiracy to defraud”.

He had profited from selling ads on his SurfTheChannel site, which he reportedly once attempted to sell for £400,000.

Guardian: “He is the first British man to be jailed in the UK for a website that linked to illegal copies of films and TV shows.”

“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,” Kieron Sharp, director-general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which jointly brought the case with the Motion Picture Association of America, says (via Guardian).

It appears the case fell not so much on the existential legal implication of hyperlinking but on whether the accused profited from that activity.

Yet the prosecution under a fraud charge rather than a copyright offence proves controversial to some…

“The way this issue was investigated, prosecuted and the resulting sentence are, deeply concerning, inappropriate and disproportionate given the activities that Anton Vickerman was engaged in,” writes Pirate Party UK leader Laurence Kaye, who does not hold office. “A four-year prison sentence is twice the maximum that could have been handed down if Vickers had been charged with online copyright infringement.”

Two years ago, an English court acquitted another man, Alan Ellis, accused of the same crime. He was charged with making $300,000 in donations from OiNK, a site dedicated to sharing music links.

A third man, Richard O’Dwyer, was not charged by UK police but faces extradition to the U.S., accused of running the separate site, which allegedly linked to sites illegally hosting movies and TV shows. O’Dwyer allegedly made £147,000 in ad sales from the site.

TorrentFreak: “The sentencing today definitely spells trouble for UK-based website owners who operate similar streaming sites.”