back to article SurfTheChannel Brit movie pirate gets 4 YEARS' PORRIDGE

The mastermind behind popular pirate site SurfTheChannel.com has been jailed for four years. A jury found Anton Vickerman guilty in June, but sentencing only took place today at Newcastle Crown Court. Vickerman, of Gateshead, earned at least £35,000 a month from the site, which actively curated links to infringing material. The …

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Evil pirates of the high seas!

Now..... if this gets spread as "anyone committing piracy will be jailed" then it might have an effect but most "pirates" are mums and dads and teens who are grabbing content because its there and its free.

Yes, there is messages at the beginning of DVD's saying you wouldn't steal a car, but what about taking a pixel perfect image of the mona lisa and hanging it in your house? Who has lost out? The museum because I didn't pay the entrance fee? The fact I was never planning to visit the Louvre anyway kind of negates that...

Of course, if I was selling copies of my mona lisa on the street; then sure I'd see a reason for the prosecution.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

i have to agree.

i had to download a couple of episodes of a TV series today as they had failed on my Tivo.

do i feel guilty? fuck no. ive already paid for access to that TV station and its not my fault my hardware buggered up.

as you say, stealing is wrong. but what about cloning? what about if you had no intention of buying in the first place?

i dont download pirated movies and music as i can afford to buy them, so i do. but they cant think that everyone who pirates would have bought the media in the first place.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

If you've got no intention of buying in the first place, why are you watching it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Honestly I used to pirate all the time, music, film, games. Why? Because I couldn't get any of it legitimately. TV shows I wanted to watch were going for a couple hundered per series by splitting it up as 2 eps per dvd, even though it could easily hold several more. Music was just impossible to get hold of in my area, and games were (and still are) insanely overpriced.

Nowadays, I watch all my TV through legit sources like netflix or crunchyroll. Do they have everything? No, but they have most of what I want to watch, and that's good enough for now (wish they had a wider selection though)

Instead of buying my console games I signed up for lovefilm (i know I know, i use netflix for streaming because at the moment it has a better library of entertainment) instead of spending £40 a month for a game, i'm spending £5 and playing several.

If a legit source presents itself to the masses then I'm sure aa great deal of people will grab the legit source. But that's one of the issues.

You have pirates split into two camps. Mine, the people who would grab it legit if it were going for a price they're willing to pay, or if it were even avaliable. And the pirates who have no intention of buying it in the first place.

Either way with the present costs of films games and music, the industries aren't really losing any customers. They're just blaming piracy because it's easier than admitting that they're overcharging on their products. I mean look how much business improved for them when pirate bay finally got blocked in blighty. Oh wait it didn't.

I just hope more execs realise they'll make more money licensing out their IP to services like netflix or loveFilm, and give up on this insane fight against piracy, because right now one of the options will give them a boost in profits, and the other will cost them millions in legal fees.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

I parked my car in a pay and display car park, where I know that there are no parking wardens. It's free, no-one has lost out because I wouldn't have parked it there if I thought I would have had to pay and there were spare spaces for the idiots who pay.

Likewise, after I had parked my car for free, I hopped over the ticket barriers at my local station and took the train a couple of stops to work. It's only a couple of stops and if I thought I would have had to pay I wouldn't have bothered to take the train, I would have walked or driven. No-one lost out because there were loads of seats free. Besides, the service provided by the train company is rubbish, they can't seriously expect people to pay for that crap, can they?

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Good analogies! However, you missed the bit where you duplicated and created an additional parking space at the car park and cloned a carriage on the train.

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2 eps per DVD

Ah, Stargate SG-1. They really milked the fanbois on that one.

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Anonymous Coward

Le Louvre

You should deffo go, it's fabulous! Avoid "La Joconde" (the Mona Lisa) though during busy times as it's just jam packed with muppets taking photos! Please explain to me why you need to have a mobile phone photo of probably one of the most famous images in the world, instead of just looking at it and marvelling at the real thing..??

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

"I used to pirate all the time, music, film, games. Why? Because I couldn't get any of it legitimately."

To some people that comes across as spoiled. There is always the option of going without. It is not like there's nothing else to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

You would potentially stop a paying customer from using that parking space and you potentially deprive a paying passenger from sitting/standing on the train

the car park and train arguments would only work if everyone could park in the same space or everyone sat on the same seat in the train

and if you could copy a car (and fuel) like you could copy a movie, who wouldn't be driving an *aston martin?

* insert your preferred car

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

"The museum because I didn't pay the entrance fee? The fact I was never planning to visit the Louvre anyway kind of negates that..."

But you wanted to see the Mona Lisa, right, otherwise why hang a perfect copy in your house? The Louvre knew people wanted to see it, so invested in getting it, securing it and displaying it - they'd expect to be able to recoup that and either a) turn a profit or b) reinvest in the museum.

It's not that you weren't planning or willing to visit the Louvre, it's that you aren't willing to *pay* to go to the Louvre.

But let's work on the "copying" <> "stealing" (completely true), but it wouldn't be a stretch to see an extension of the theft laws (can go to jail for stealing something, but also a crime to knowingly purchase stolen goods) to the copyright laws (can go to jail for enabling copyright breach, could go to jail for "handling copyrighted goods") so I wouldn't be too comfortable - the law can be an ass sometimes.

* disclaimer - I know the Louvre bits are made up/flippant, just extending the analogy.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Whereas I just gave up buying DVDs (and don't pirate either) because:

a) the mindless pap they try and sell does not interest me; and

b) I got annoyed sitting through the bloody copyright messages at the start of each darn disk.

Last DVD bought in 2006, last CD before that. Never pirated a film/music.

Mind you, I am very old.

"Can't they play a tune you can whistle?"

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Leonardo Da Vinci died in 1519, so the copyright on the Mona Lisa has long since expired. You can buy copies of it in many places, try the National Gallery shop for example. In any case, some of the earliest copies of the Mona Lisa were done by Leonardo's apprentices with Leonardo himself showing them how to do it, and some of them are in better condition than the original in the Louvre.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

@Tom 38 - Not really, there were spare places in the car park and spare seats on the train, analogous to not depriving anyone of income from my use of them, which is basically the argument for copying.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

I visited (or rather was taken) to the Louvre when I was about eleven years of age. The Mona Lisa couldn't be seen because it, or its containing wing, was closed for restoration.

So I was marched off to see the grave of Oscar Wilde.

"Dad, what's that other grave, with all the flowers on?"

"That's Jim Morrison"

"Who he?"

"I'll tell you when you are older" [stock parental response]

(And to be fair, a couple of years later a copy of L.A Woman appeared. Though thanks to Wayne's World 2, I associated him with a naked Indian. )

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

>"I used to pirate all the time, music, film, games. Why? Because I couldn't get any of it legitimately."

>To some people that comes across as spoiled. There is always the option of going without. It is not like there's >nothing else to do.

Piracy has resulted in U.S television shows being shown at roughly the same time in the UK as they are in the UK, so as to deny pirates a market and to placate whichever UK TV network the producer has sold the rights to. If the viewer is expected to sit through 15 minutes of soap powder insurance adverts per hour, they should be watching the show at the same time as everyone else.

Cinema has also moved towards synchronising movie release dates worldwide as well, though this was only made financially possible by the move to digital distribution- i had never appreciated how much a physical celluloid copy of a film costs (in the thousands). Before digital copies, a film reel would play out in the US before being shipped to cinemas elsewhere in the world.

I still can not workout why legitimate DVDs have tedious anti-piracy advertisements before the film: I JUST BOUGHT THIS DVD FFS! Talk about preaching to the choir. Its enough to make me dig out my copy of ************ and rip the disk to HDD.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

"Good analogies! However, you missed the bit where you duplicated and created an additional parking space at the car park and cloned a carriage on the train."

This is a false argument and I'm really sick of seeing it pop up in every single f**king debate about piracy.

A physical object can't be copied freely, it has it's own expense in materials and labour. A creative work stored in digital form can be copied freely and requires no new materials or labour to create.

"SEE!" says the pirate, "I'm not depriving anybody of anything when I torrent the latest blockbuster."

This is only true if we gloss over some quite basic facts.

Physical objects are sold at a price that is determined by a bit of maths along the lines of Materials + Labour + Profit Margin = Price. The price of a physical object is pretty much always more than it costs to make. There are some examples such as game consoles being sold at a loss and the cost recouped through software sales but this is the exception rather than the rule.

A digital copy of a creative work has its price determined by a slightly different bit of maths along the lines of (Materials + Labour + Profit Margin) / Number Of Copies That Can Realistically Be Sold = Price. The price of a digital copy of a creative work is always a fraction of the creative work's cost. By creating a digital copy and not paying your fraction you are depriving the creators the opportunity to recoup their costs.

To which the pirate replies, "Ah, but I was never going to watch/listen to/read that movie/music/book and so I'm not involved in the digital content creator's maths because they never anticipated me as a customer. Essentially I can download as much as I like without paying anything because the legitimate customers have already allowed said creator to recoup their costs."

If you are willing to benefit from the hard work of others without giving anything back because you assume the rest of society will carry the cost you may not be a thief according to the law but you're certainly a parasite deserving of contempt.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

A wonderful analogy, Sir.

I wonder if, say, google charge any-one for the sponsored link when you search Mona Lisa? jus' sayin'

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

That's no better! Going without harms the industry harms the industry as much as the piracy does! What possible justification can you have for doing without when it robs poor media producers from their deserved sales?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Peter H. Coffin

Going without doesn't harm the industry because it isn't a lost sale. If you're downloading a movie from a pirate site you obviously want to see that movie (regardless of whether or not you decide it was crap after the fact). If pirates weren't distorting the market by offering the content for free your choice would be 1) buy it or 2) go without. Chances are you'd pay up because you want to see the movie, therefore it's a lost sale.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

"That's no better! Going without harms the industry harms the industry as much as the piracy does! What possible justification can you have for doing without when it robs poor media producers from their deserved sales?"

Actually they've proved that going without hurts more than piracy. If you watch a pirated movie and you really like it, you may buy it or at least tell your friends about it who may buy it and so on.

Look at Minecraft. They allow piracy because it promotes their product which in turn increases actual sales. If they had prevented piracy, they would not have grown as they have.

Then look at France's Three Strikes rule. Piracy has dropped but actual sales have dropped as well.

As Bill Gates once said "If people are going to pirate an operating system, I would rather they pirated mine"

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

>The Louvre knew people wanted to see it, so invested in getting it,

Well strictly speaking they beheaded the owner and stole it - just alike a pirate

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Train and car park analogies seem fine to me if we assume an infinite number of spaces.

Actually I've long believed that trains going from A to B with empty carriages are a waste. I'd be all for a system where it was possible to get a free or massively reduced price train ticket by just turning up, but risking not getting on if the train is full. Alas there's the practical problem with this and the parking thing, in that if demand by paying customers suddenly spikes, there's no way to force you off the train mid-journey, or instantly move your car.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Icon needed for Anonymous Troll.

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Pirate

Selling copies of the Mona Lisa would be legit...

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519. Even if the Statute of Anne had been published prior to his death, rather than in 1710, the current "life +70" copyright would have expired the year after the Spanish Armada.

Taking pixel-perfect copies of Damien Hirst's work and selling them, on the other hand, would be more problematic; though it would probably be cheaper just to use a kids' spin art machine like Damien does. Allegedly.

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Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

The obvious flaw here is that we are supposed to take your word (and the word of all your fellow downloaders) that you in fact would not otherwise pay for ANY of the movies you illegally obtain. This has to be the most self-serving argument ever. Unless you live in the third world it is highly unlikely you are so desperately poor that you cannot afford the occasional rental or ticket. Even in the third world, millions upon millions of people pay to see movies annually.

It is indeed true that digital copies are not the same as physical objects. However it does NOT follow that you therefore have the right to make and use as many copies as you like on the basis of some cocked-up nonsense about how the producers "won't be harmed".

That's the way the world works: if you don't have the money to pay for a good or service offered for sale, you must do without. Cry me a river and stuff your sanctimonious sophistry. If you're going to steal, at least have the guts and the integrity to admit you're a thief.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

A digital copy of a creative work has its price determined by a slightly different bit of maths along the lines of (Materials + Labour + Profit Margin) / Number Of Copies That Can Realistically Be Sold = Price. The price of a digital copy of a creative work is always a fraction of the creative work's cost.

Except that this isn't true either. Take standup comedy for example: shows on iTunes in many cases cost the same as their physical counterparts. And before you mention Apple taking a cut the same appears to be the case on other websites such as HMV.com. Don't believe me? Compare the cost of the MP3 version of Queen's greatest hits 1 with the CD version.

Whether it's the creators that are responsible or the retailers, it seems that they just take the price of the disc and apply it to the digital download.

Personally I think that the SciFi channel (now called SyFy I think?) had the right idea when they made the first episode of the newer Battlestar Galactica series free to watch through their website a number of years ago. It gave me a chance to discover a new series without costing me anything in the process.

Personally I suspect that a certain amount of piracy goes on because people are unwilling to hand over cash for something that they're not sure they'll enjoy and the media industry have not provided them with what they see as a reasonable alternative. They then end up continuing to pirate TV programs and films once they've realised that there's nothing to stop them continuing.

I also think that the media industry underestimates the importance of convenience. 'We can't compete with free' is a bit of a red herring in my opinion when there are studies to show that people's initial instinct is to obey the law. It would seem that it's only when the inconvenience of doing so vastly outweighs the convenience of getting what they want do they decide to do otherwise as this register article seems to suggest.

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WTF?

Re: Le Louvre

I'm guessing most do "look at it and marvel" and they also take a photo. Well that's what I did anyway.

You don't have to choose between looking and photographing, you can do both.

It's just like any tourist attraction, you take a photo to say "I was there" or "I've seen that".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Evil pirates of the high seas!

Bang on the money.

However, despite the fact that I agree with copyright, and I think people should pay for their entertainment or do without, I don't really believe putting that man in prison at taxpayer expense is really in the best interests of the public.

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Re: Anonymous Coward

No, you could get it legitimately, and you just admitted as much:

"TV shows I wanted to watch were going for a couple hundered per series by splitting it up as 2 eps per dvd, even though it could easily hold several more."

Yeah, in my time I've watched some copied movies*. Of course, the ones I've watched I couldn't actually legitimately purchase: they weren't available in my area. Subsequently they have, and I've coughed up the dough for some of them. And that's the problem. You could probably get reasonable laws passed to cover stuff you can't actually legitimately obtain, but freetards like you insist they can't legitimately obtain stuff that is readily available, and pirate it instead. I could go out and pirate all the old Dr. Who episodes I'd love to have on DVD. And I'd pay a fair price for them too. But I don't pirate them because they are licensed in my area, just not at what I consider a fair price.

*Anime back when you had to be a tape trader to get it in the US. The one which most stands out in my mind was a very, very crappy copy of Castle in the Sky. When it was licensed to Disney I purchased a copy within a month or so of its release, just to make sure the artists got at least some money from me. No, I wasn't a tape trader, that was my friends, but I was still technically an accomplice after the fact.

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In fairness, the article does state he was making £35,000 a month on the site, so he was arguably profiting from piracy

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Indeed, maybe the big copyright infringer's will take note.

Perhaps they will copy the court documents and make them available as a free download with every blockbuster movie.

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why

What is the logic in that? People who buy a blockbuster movie are going to pirate the next one so need telling not to do it. Same with the "you would not steal a car add" at the start of movies now. All they do is annoy people and possible annoy then enough to either not buy movies or pirate then, both of which cost the industry money. When I buy a movie I want the movie not to be told I'm a would be pirate, after all I have gone out and spent my money on it and not stolen it, so why come and tell me not to steal?

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as was google

as I assume they were helping to direct people to his site, whilst displaying adverts. As were the ISPs who sold all the subscribers the high bandwidth connections they needed. As were the hardware vendors who sold the ISPs the kit they needed to support all those naughty downloaders, etc etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly

He was perfectly capable of returning some of that to the original copyright holders if he'd chosen to...

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Megaphone

Re: why

@Snowy

It's worse than that. Having paid nearly £30 for our family to watch Ice Age 4 (mostly went for my son) and suffered that "steal a car" ad before the film we then had to tolerate it within the fking dialogue (Lopez's character saying something like, "Piracy doesn't pay," at one point)!

And to add insult to injury, it was a poor film. Fk you, fk your creative void and fk your criminalisation of your paying fking audience. I don't claim to make quality entertainment, but you do and you charge the fking earth for it and fail to deliver the majority of the time. To my mind, having to rely on 3D just highlights the dearth of decent ideas.

That said, we're really looking forward to Madagascar III. King Julian (Baron-Cohen) steals every scene he's in and the penguins & chimps are funny. We're hoping to erase the memories of that previously mentioned PoS.

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Pirate

"In fairness, the article does state he was making £35,000 a month on the site, so he was arguably profiting from piracy"

Actually he just linked to the pirated content so really he profited from someone else's piracy.

Actually if you really think about it, someone else linked the pirated material so really he profited from providing a mechanism for others to link to someone else's piracy.

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Anonymous Coward

I actually agree with his prosecution, he was profiting from the piracy, which is no different to selling bootleg DVD's IMHO...

But P2P sharing with no profit is different.. And I do believe we need piracy in the P2P form to convince big media companies to provide content in forms that consumers want, i.e. instantly available HD downloadable content that is able to play on any device...

I know I like US sci-fi shows and HATE having to wait months to see the same thing on UK TV, and then have to try and remember when its on, IF I could pay 10-20/month to download what I want, I would do it. the key thing is the money funds new content, which keeps people subscribed, stop new content and people stop subscribing... maybe have a limit to downloads of archived content...

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Anonymous Coward

The way I moralize my file downloading:

1) I use usenet; I don't share anything or create any new copies of anything myself

2) I pay my TV license and subscribe to the full Sky package; anything I download will either be shown "at some point" by Sky or BBC, or is so obscure that I am not part of the target market.

3) I don't re-download TV shows once released on bluray - IE I stick to the 720p TVrips, not the 1080p bluray transfers*.

4) If a film was good, I'll buy it on Bluray; however...

4i) The vast majority of films aren't good.

4ii) I won't buy bluray until I can play it back with open source software on my HTPC.

I'm a compulsive hoarder of digital media; if I could be bothered to download it, I can be bothered to keep a copy. I currently have an archive to rival hulu...

Having said all that, when I was a student and poor, I still downloaded stuff, but didn't have Sky. Back then I moralized it as "They can go spin".

* This is mostly down to not wanting to re-download ~75 GB for a season of a TV show I already have in 'reasonable' quality.

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I think this has already happened to good effect. For example, Sky now go to efforts to get their US-imported shows to air as close as possible to their US airings - within days. If they wait months or even weeks everyone just gets it off torrents, the same week and a lot of people can't be bothered.

So win for the paying consumer.

Would they have bothered otherwise?

On a related note I bought the recent Batman Blu-ray set, disc in drive and movie almost plays straight away, no trailers/warning screens at all, just a couple of WB logos. Is this the producers actually listening to complaints and 'why it's more convenient to pirate' rants? If so: the paying customer wins again!

The paying customer has been on the losing side of this for so long, it's about time.

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Anonymous Coward

A lot of stuff I grab off P2P is stuff that just isn't available on CD... its very good lifts from vinyl or transfer from audio tape.... The labels aren't interested in releasing it on CD as the sales would be too small. So yes, I'm breaking the law ... but I'm not depriving anyone of any money because this material cannot be bought.

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"I actually agree with his prosecution, he was profiting from the piracy, which is no different to selling bootleg DVD's IMHO...

But P2P sharing with no profit is different.. And I do believe we need piracy in the P2P form to convince big media companies to provide content in forms that consumers want, i.e. instantly available HD downloadable content that is able to play on any device..."

This doesn't make sense. Either you support piracy or you don't. Your statement is that you don't support pirates cause their evil but the privateers are good guys.

Yes he was profiting off piracy but indirectly. He didn't host the pirated materials, only allowed users to submit links to where the content was located which users could have done using only Google. This same argument and conviction could be applied against all search engines right or wrong.

Personally I support pirates because thats the only way we are going to ever force the media companies to release the material in the formats we want and at a reasonable price. $30+ for a DVD is a rip off assuming you can even buy the DVD cause it hasn't been released in your country.

If it was left to the media companies, there would be no TV and the only place to see anything would be at cinemas at $50 a head.

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Tyranny Cannot Be Appeased

>I actually agree with his prosecution, he was profiting from the piracy, which is no different to selling bootleg DVD's IMHO...

I used to be entirely of that point of view: copyright infringement, largely OK (for certain values of OK) so long as it's not done for profit.

And then I realised just how poisonous the copyright cartels are: lobbying with millions of dollars to assert and promote their vested interests often to the detriment of every other part of society. Corruping the democratic process by buying politicians, writing their own laws, forcing them through, trying to screw everybody else on the planet (in addition to the artists who they screw as a matter of course - see "Hollywood accdounting" and screeds printed by artists such as Steve Albini, Courtney Love, et al) and essentially taking the attitude that so long as their bloated middle-man position isn't affected then the earth and all its inhabitants can burn.

That's when I thought, y'know what, I don't care if someone's doing it for profit or not. So long as these anti-progress, protectt-our-vested-interests-at-all-costs scumbags lose out, I'm all for it.

I was prepared to meet them half-way, until they demostrated (ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, suing little grannies who don't even have computers) that they won't be happy unless everything is in their control - laws, copyright, the transfer of all digital data, politicians, and we all lose.

Then I though ... F*** 'em.

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Anonymous Coward

Mmmm...

'Lord Puttnam, a British film producer, said: "This case can leave no one in any doubt that internet piracy is controlled by criminals whose profits threaten the ongoing reinvestment in our creative industries."'

But then, so is the worldwide film and tv industry.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mmmm...

Indeed Puttnam they are nasty criminals, and after reading this

"The mastermind behind popular pirate site SurfTheChannel.com has been jailed for four years. A jury found Anton Vickerman guilty in June, but sentencing only took place today at Newcastle Crown Court.

Vickerman, of Gateshead, earned at least £35,000 a month from the site, which actively curated links to infringing material. The site was among the 500 most popular destinations on the net."

I for one will sleep much safer in my bed tonight knowing that this evil scum has been taken off of the streets. In other news today I read that a man speeding and driving recklessly through 2 sets of red lights who broadsided a car full of teenagers killing 3 only got 7 years. Good to see the West has things in perfect perspective and that the rights of big business are valued so highly. No wonder society is such a fucking mess.

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Silver badge

What else gets you 4 years in chokey?

Well, killing someone does: Two teenagers who killed a man during a row over litter have each been sentenced to four years detention. (ref: BBC London news).

Now, arguably that's a light sentence for a 16 & a 17 y/o - though they'd expect to be out in 2 years with good behaviour. But it still bears comparison with running a dodgy website.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What else gets you 4 years in chokey?

No, if they were sentenced for Murder, they got life, it's the only sentence you can get for Murder. If the case wasn't murder then you're trying to sum up in one line something which is clearly very complex in order to make a cheap point about an entirely unrelated case.

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Re: What else gets you 4 years in chokey?

Wrong AC, killing someone isn't necessarily murder. Especially over an argument, where it is more likely to be manslaughter rather than having malice aforethought - although I confess I have not read the case but the OP states 'jailed for killing' not 'jailed for murdering' and there is a difference in the eyes of the law.

The point the OP is making is that during an argument someone lost their life and those involved only got four years - it kind of puts a clear value on a human live versus some shitty films or songs.

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