Last night I was watching the local news program here in the North East of England. To say I was amazed by one of their stories is an understatement.
I’m sure many of you reading this article have heard of Surf the Channel. SurfTheChannel was one of the largest video search engines on the Web, providing links to thousands of free television shows and movies from all over the Web.
What I didn’t know was the owner of Surf the Channel was a guy called Anton Vickerman, who so happened to be from my region. He is from Gateshead, about 20 minutes from where I live.
I have to admit being an admirer of what he achieved. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) said that at its height in 2009 his site attracted more than 400,000 visitors a day, generating more than £35,000 in advertising revenue a month. The site reached an Alexa of 500. Whatever the virtues or lack of, there can be no doubts this guy built an awesome site. And has my admiration, and of course sympathy.
Unfortunately he has recently been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud for “facilitating” copyright infringement. AHe has been sentenced after an eight-week trial at a court in Newcastle. He’s the first U.K. citizen sent to prison for linking to films and TV shows, as reported on The Guardian Newspaper website.
I am not defending what he did, mind you I don’t know many who don’t help themselves to free music or videos. The younger generation in particular seem to be downloading stuff continuously.
Being an online entrepreneur myself, though not in the same league as Anton Vickerman, what he built was truly incredible. I’ve read quotes calling the guy a ‘criminal’, and I have to be honest, yes he lost a court case, yes he is now going to prison, but a criminal?
Anton Vickerman is paying the price for doing nothing more than making it easy to find content online. In reality, the site did not aim to direct users to illegal copies—merely to help users find film and TV content online. And what a brilliant job they did. Here is a brilliant, genius computer geek. He found a way to point people in the direction of what they wanted. He gave solutions to problems. And he knew how to get found on Google.
His imprisonment in my mind will not stop the pirating of these films, because he isn’t the one who does it. Having read up on the case over the last 24 hours, there is 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.
He was found guilty of “conspiracy to defraud”, which I don’t think anyone can really demonstrate clearly what this is all about.
When you visit his site, Surf the Channel you can read a message from him titled ‘A Very British Miscarriage of Justice’ The real story behind the conviction of SurfTheChannel´s owner Anton Vickerman.
Forgive me if you think this is controversial, or that you believe he deservedly has ended up in prison. I just know the guy is a local North East lad and he created one of the top ranked most visited websites in the world. And this blogger respects him for achieving that.