A day after being sentenced to four years in jail for linking to pirated videos online, Brit Anton Vickerman has hit back at the authorities and organizations responsible for his situation., claiming to be the victim of a vendetta against him that spreads from the Motion Picture Association of America, through former business partners, right down to the journalists reporting on his trial and conviction.
Vickerman’s response to current events took the form of an extremely lengthy – 18,464 words, to be exact – essay posted on SurfTheChannel.com, the site at the center of the case against him (The site is currently down as I write this, but you can read Vickerman’s entire post via Google cache, if you so wish). “By the time you read this I will be starting my new life behind bars,” he begins, before quickly going on to point out that the prosecutor in his lawsuit wasn’t the British state prosecutor, but instead the Federation Against Copyright Theft, an anti-copyright infringement organization that he describes as “the MPAA’s private police force operating within the UK.”
Explaining that his SurfTheChannel site “only ever contained links to third party video websites such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Veoh, 4OD and many others” (It also “form[ed] 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,” becoming “one of the leading video search engines in the world second only to Google Video,” in case you were wondering), Vickerman claims that FACT – on the word of Nick Parr, described as “an ex-business partner… jealous at my new enterprise” – not only engaged in illegal surveillance of Vickerman’s house, family and financial transactions while launching its investigation into the site, but also abused the legal system in the manner with which it involved the police in the situation.
Things get more conspiratorial from there; FACT is also accused of conspiring with one of SurfTheChannel’s main competitors to shut the site down (“On the 24 April 2009 I had completed a round of investigations into FACT Ltd.’s directors and had discovered that every single one of them had commercial partnerships with my number one rival, a website called BlinkX.com which carried identical links to STC,” Vickerman writes), criminal fraud as a result of tampering with evidence and lying in court, and also spamming SurfTheChannel with links to non-existent videos.
At the end of his statement, Vickerman summarizes his feelings. “They won because they lied, cheated and were able to exert power at very high levels,” he says. “They weren’t good enough to beat us playing fairly and based on the real facts. We are better individuals than them; we have honor. I may be going to prison for a few years but when I am released I will still have my integrity; that is not something that any one of FACT Ltd.’s team can say about themselves. That thought always makes me smile.” He finishes his statement with “I will return.”
In response, a spokesman for FACT declined to comment directly on the allegations made against the organization: “He is a convicted criminal, though he’s entitled to say what he wants. But it should be remembered that this case has been through an eight-week criminal trial with a verdict decided by a jury,” the spokesman told the Guardian newspaper. “The judge has heard not only the evidence but also the arguments by lawyers. Some people on the internet seem to think that Vickerman was just tried in front of a judge. He wasn’t – this was a jury trial.”
Vickerman is believed to be preparing an appeal against his conviction.