Fact’s victory over Surfthechannel is a decisive blow in the copyright wars

Anton Vickerman probably didn’t want to enter the history books in this way. As the founder of surfthechannel.com, a website that provided links to TV and film content – in a significant number of cases, unlicensed and illicit – the 38-year-old last week became the first person in Britain to be jailed for running a site linking to pirate material. He was jailed for four years after a private prosecution brought by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, AKA Fact, funded by the TV and film industries.In a furious 18,000-word commentary on his website, Vickerman says a lawyer had advised him that Surfthechannel was legal. Fact, he alleges, behaved like a private police force – with employees and private investigators using subterfuge to get hold of personal information. But worse: it acted without oversight or any sort of restriction on behaviour, intent on its task of trapping alleged copyright “thieves”. (Although as any lawyer will point out, there’s no such offence as copyright “theft”, only “infringement”, because by its very nature if you take a copy, the original remains. But “Federation Against Copyright Infringement” doesn’t have quite the same ring.)

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