Links Website Operator Faces Jail

A man who ran a site offering links to TV content has been convicted of conspiracy to defraud.

Anton Vickerman, 41, will be sentenced next month and faces up to ten years in jail for charges relating to surfthechannel.com.

His wife Karen was found not guilty on the same charges.

The landmark case against the operator of the streaming links website has been condemned by internet commentators.

Linking sites have previously won such cases by claiming they were innocent as they did not host the copyright-infringing material.

The case was brought by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the site had up to 400,000 users a day and made about £35,000 a month in revenue.

Surfthechannel was one of the 500 most popular websites in the world.

FACT director general said: "Those operating pirate websites are not outside the law but can be tracked down and brought to justice. This was a criminal conspiracy for criminal profit to fund a criminal lifestyle and Vickerman is now paying the price."

But Graham Linehan, writer of sitcoms The IT Crowd, Black Books and Father Ted, said such prosecutions were cause for alarm.

He said: "The internet has changed everything, people doing what comes naturally in these new, uncharted waters and suddenly they're getting their collars felt by people who still have Hotmail addresses."


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