How Hollywood-funded corporate vigilantes in the UK shut down SURF THE CHANNEL and sent its owner to jail
Anton Vickerman is a British entrepreneur who operated a search-engine called "Surf the Channel," indexed links to online video content. After an estranged former business-partner filed a complaint, he was targetted by FACT, the UK branch of the Motion Picture Association of America (a shadowy enforcement organization staffed with former police offers), who played every single dirty trick imaginable, from illegal searches to leaning on judges, to make an example of him. He is going to prison for five years. As his final act as a free man, he was written an extensive and well-documented report of all the sleaze and slime that a vigilante group bankrolled by some of the most powerful offshore companies in the world used to shut down his business and get him jailed. It's a long read, and if you're not furious by the time it's over, you're a lot more cynical about corporate-owned justice than I am.
I was convicted of “Conspiracy to defraud the movie industry through the facilitation of copyright infringement” on June 24 2012 after an eight week trial. A trial that was brought not by the UK state prosecutor, the Crown Prosecution Service, but by a private prosecutor, the Federation Against Copyright Theft Limited. For those that are unaware FACT Ltd is the UK regional office of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the same organization that is behind the attempted extradition of Richard O´Dwyer who based his own website TVShack on STC. As will become clear as you read this piece I consider FACT Ltd and the MPAA to be dangerous vigilante organizations that have no place in prosecuting UK citizens never mind conducting up to fifteen illegal surveillance operations every month on those same citizens. FACT Ltd are a private limited company staffed almost entirely by former police and trading standards officers most of which FACT Ltd have identified as willing to go “that extra mile” in their fight against “copyright thieves.” In other words there is a reason that FACT Ltd employs the individuals they do (be that investigators, lawyers or executive officers) – because they are willing to cheat, lie and break the law for their employer. Essentially FACT Ltd is the MPAA´s private police force operating within the UK. But more of that later.
After my conviction many stories appeared in the press regarding the “facts” of my case which I found odd as not one journalist had bothered to attend the trial during those eight weeks. I later found out that these so called facts had been passed to various journalists in a 1600 word press release by FACT Ltd the contents of which were then dutifully parroted by lazy journalists who couldn’t even be bothered to check if what they were reporting was accurate. Publications such as the Daily Mail and my local paper the Evening Chronicle actually just copied and pasted the FACT Ltd press release en masse with only minor alterations. Such is the state of investigative/responsible journalism nowadays. It is because of these inaccurate articles and lies that I felt the need to give my side of the story so that publications that are not as lazy or sycophantic to FACT Ltd would have the true facts at their disposal should they want to report what has really happened here. I can but hope.
I will try to keep this story as short and to the point as possible but the reader will appreciate that this is a tale that spans the last five years of my life and a lot has happened during that time. I will be as brief as possible but you’re still going to need to give me 30 minutes of your time if you want to know the whole story. Sorry!
I started my site on October 1 2007. STC only ever contained links to third party video websites such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Veoh, 4OD and many others. It did not nor has it ever streamed content itself. It rapidly became popular and I was able to form partnerships with Warner Bros., Discovery Channel, A&E Television Networks and many other bona fide companies as they realised how important STC was becoming in the Video on Demand market. STC quickly became one of the leading video search engines in the world second only to Google Video.