Here is the message in full – posted on the Surfthechannel website, as seen in the Google Cache.
A Very British Miscarriage Of Justice
The real story behind the conviction of SurfTheChannel´s owner Anton VickermanThe story that follows is backed up by evidence available as a download at the end of this article.
My name is Anton Vickerman and I am the proud owner of the now dead video search engine SurfTheChannel.com (STC). By the time you read this I will be starting my new life behind bars after receiving what is expected to be a “loony sentence” from Judge John Evans of Newcastle Crown Court for running my site from 2007 to 2012.
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.
On October 3 2007 an ex-business partner called Nick Parr, jealous at my new enterprise, contacted FACT Ltd and provided them with my name and other details. Mr Parr is one of the main individuals behind the streaming website “TVCatchup.com” and, unbeknownst to me at the time of working with him, used to run a care home for the elderly before having it shut down after his arrest for stealing money from its residents (see the very interesting tribunal investigation here). Ironically I fell out with Parr because I disagreed with his plan to record FreeView content direct from the air and offer it in streaming form from servers run by his friend and business partner Chris Wilkie. This was clear copyright infringement and I wanted no part in it so went my own way and built STC. Ironic that I am now in prison for something I have always tried to avoid. Well, one good turn deserves another Nick!
Back to our story. FACT Ltd can only start an investigation if one of their members has complained so they had one of their members then lodge a complaint in November 2007 from Idol Entertainment Ltd, a Sony subsidiary, alleging that movies were being streamed from STC. This of course was not true as STC has never streamed any content itself but quite apart from that STC didn’t even have links to movies until late in December 2007. This small fact didn’t matter to FACT Ltd because as you will see this organization is prepared to lie and even act illegally to get what it wants.
In early 2008 FACT Ltd decided that they needed more information and mounted the first of several illegal surveillance operations on myself and my wife at our home in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear. I should be clear that I have evidence of only a handful of these operations but it should be noted that when FACT Ltd were asked to disclose, as part of my case, full details of their surveillance against myself and my wife they declined to do so. A position re-enforced by the ever malleable (to FACT Ltd) Judge Evans. I and my legal team suspect far more illegal surveillance activity by FACT Ltd but due to their refusal to address this question, and HHJ Evans refusal to order them to disclose, we will never know. Of importance is the fact that they have never denied that there was further illegal surveillance. What we do know is that in May 2008 a local Private Investigator called Paul Varney was contracted by FACT Ltd to conduct surveillance on my house. He and his team followed my wife as she went to do some food shopping and then returned home. This type of surveillance is defined as “Directed Surveillance” under the Regulatory Investigative Powers Act 2000, in other words it is covert but not intrusive. Directed Surveillance can only be carried out by public bodies as defined under RIPA, and FACT Ltd is not one of them (because it is a private limited company).
Next on the surveillance menu was a sting operation in which MPAA employee Pascal Hetzscholdt met me in London for a business meeting to discuss investment in my company. Hetzscholdt used the name Roger Van Veen and had been dancing around in email correspondence for some time presenting himself as a representative of Redwood Capital who were interested in investing in STC. I had taken substantial advice of lawyers and was confident that my business was not breaking any law so had decided to meet with Van Veen despite the fact that he had clearly not been honest with me in emails. I travelled from Newcastle to London via the train and was followed by a surveillance team headed by Varney which then handed over to a “South” team when I arrived in London. Hetszscholdt met me at Le Meridienne hotel in Piccadilly and we had lunch in which we discussed STC and the hopes I had for it in the future. The entire meeting was video recorded by two surveillance operatives sitting at a nearby table. After discussing investment opportunities the meeting concluded and I returned to Newcastle, again followed by a surveillance team who then “handed” me back to the Varney´s Newcastle team which followed me home. I should be clear that this meeting with Van Veen/Hetzscholdt did not discuss anything whatsoever about movies, illegality or other such matters so imagine my surprise when I later see a statement by Hetzscholdt detailing me supposedly talking about bittorrent, uploading movies and other activities. Another surprise was that despite the massive level of surveillance this operation entailed that there was no audio recording of our meeting in existence, there was only Hetzscholdt´s account of what was said. I am firmly of the belief that such an audio recording did exist but that it was “disappeared” by FACT Ltd due to it containing nothing controversial. The lack of this audio recording then allowed Hetzscholdt to create a statement detailing topics that were not spoken about or covered. Such is the honesty of FACT Ltd and the MPAA that when they don´t have the evidence they create it.
After this surveillance had taken place FACT Ltd noticed that my house was up for sale and decided this was a great opportunity to covertly enter my home and video record the contents as well as my wife and I. This type of surveillance is defined as “Intrusive” under RIPA and is such a serious invasion of a citizen´s human rights that only a Police Superintendent or above can authorize such an operation. FACT Ltd not being covered under RIPA for any surveillance certainly do not have the ability to authorize this type of operation but it wasn’t going to let such an inconvenient thing as the law stop them and proceeded to engage Paul Varney to conduct another operation for them. This time Varney posed as a prospective home buyer and visited our home wired up with both video and audio recording equipment. I personally showed him around our home and although found him to be quite a sleazy individual obviously did not suspect what was actually going on. When Varney was left alone to wander around he videotaped our utility bills, my office correspondence and other private material. Varney later prepared a report of his visit accompanied with stills from the video which highlight the level of the home invasion. In this report Varney states that on my office floor were servers when in fact they were actually empty server cases (which was quite evident from the fact that the top is off one of them and there is nothing inside). FACT Ltd clearly thought they had hit the jackpot by finding where STC was being hosted from but for a supposed entity that proclaims itself the “experts in copyright infringement” it is surprising that they did not understand that there is no way that a site as successful as STC could be hosted from a home broadband connection (the site at this point in time being hosted in Sweden).
With the information they had gathered so far FACT Ltd then approached Utility providers such as gas, electric, broadband, telephone and other providers and requested information from these companies about myself. Remember this is a private company owned by the American movie industry with no more power or authority than any other private limited company openly requesting, and being given, confidential data about UK citizens. What does it take to do this? Nothing more than a one page Data Request Application form, produced by FACT Ltd and filled out by them. These forms contain justification for needing the various data as “Anton Vickerman is running a criminal enterprise distributing DVD discs for sale from his home address” which of course was a lie. I wonder if these utility companies would be so giving of information about FACT Ltd if a member of the public filled out one of these forms and sent it to them, I highly doubt it. In addition to this FACT Ltd ran checks into the bank accounts and other Confidential data of my parents and my wife’s parents despite their being absolutely no connection at all between them and my company. They did it because they could.
As a final hurrah for this area of intrusiveness FACT Ltd requested that Virgin Broadband (who they had worked out was supplying my internet) allow my internet and phones to be tapped and insanely Virgin initially agreed with nothing more than a single Data Request Application from FACT Ltd. Virgin then got cold feet at the plan realizing that there was absolutely no Police involvement in this operation and insisted on a RIPA form be completed by the Police, not FACT Ltd, to authorize this level of intrusive surveillance. So what did FACT Ltd do? They had Colin Tansley, who was on secondment from West Yorkshire Police to FACT Ltd for a year, use his PNN (secure police email) address to send an already completed RIPA form to Chief Inspector Anderson of Northumbria Police asking him to forward that to Virgin so they could tap my lines. FACT Ltd has refused to disclose anything further on this matter. We don’t know whether my lines were tapped, by whom, what was recorded. They will not tell us and the judge in my trial, HHJ Evans, who is supposed to keep fairness and balance in a case refused to order FACT Ltd to tell us.
The Police had not at this point been involved in any way with the private FACT Ltd investigation because FACT Ltd prefer to do everything themselves, this way they can control what is and is not made public if it comes to prosecution. It also allows them to control what the British public finds out regarding the actual scale of their illegal surveillance activity. However, because they are a private company they have no powers to search or seize property. For this they need the Police so they then approached Northumbria Police with a “crime package” that detailed that I and my wife were illegally distributing DVD discs for sale through STC and that this site was being run from my home address in Gateshead. Obviously this was a total lie, STC did no such thing, but it allowed FACT Ltd to persuade the police to apply for a search warrant. Internal email correspondence between “Director of Intelligence and Internet” Colin Tansley of FACT Ltd and Chief Inspector Anderson of Northumbria Police show FACT Ltd planning to take almost complete control of the search of my house. The Police really just being there to allow FACT Ltd staff to enter my house and seize my computers and other property (a prime example of the “piggybacking of state power” that we accused FACT Ltd of in my trial).
In addition to planning to seize my computers internal FACT Ltd emails also show them planning to seize the STC website and replacing the home page with an image that states “This website is under investigation by FACT”. This would have immediately have killed the STC website before it (and I) had a chance to properly defend it in a court of law. A prime example of FACT Ltd acting as judge, jury and executioner. They were prevented from doing this because, as explained earlier, the site was hosted in Sweden at the time not on the empty server cases on my office floor in Gateshead. I later took advice on the legality of their plan to seize the site and was told that such an attempt would have been a criminal act under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. At trial FACT Ltd confirmed they had planned to do such a thing but said, in terms, “we didn´t do it so it doesn’t matter”. Glossing over the fact that the reason they couldn’t do it was because the site wasn’t hosted at my home. If they could of they would of despite it being illegal. This is the way FACT Ltd approaches all things, they are above the law due to the influence they and their controlling companies exert at the highest levels of Government.
FACT Ltd had contracted a specialist computer forensics company called 7Safe Ltd to conduct a “live capture” of my computers during the raid on my home. The “expert” tasked with this was a man named Ben Clelland. Mr. Clelland breached every known good practice rule of data capture known. First he allowed a financial investigator from Bedfordshire Trading Standards Financial Investigation Unit (BTSFIU), a specialist unit in Trading Standards funded entirely by FACT Ltd (more on this later) to sit and access my computer for an undetermined amount of time. Next he attempted to image my hard drives but his data capture tool, FTK Imager, failed (he says), which forced him to copy and paste the contents of my hard drives (which were encrypted with Truecrypt but were available in a mounted decrypted form when they raided my home) to a USB drive that he had brought with him. Once he had finished this copy and paste he put the USB drive in his pocket and walked out of my home. He did not alert the Police that he was removing evidence from the scene (the Police weren´t even aware of the USB drive´s existence until several months later) and he did not bag and tag the USB drive as per proper procedure. All computer “evidence” (and I use that term loosely given that it really did nothing to further FACT Ltd.’s case against me) used against me at my trial emanated from this USB drive that was never handled by the Police, only by FACT Ltd.’s agents. Interestingly when we criticized Clelland for walking off with vital evidence FACT Ltd.’s barrister, the infamous David Groome, asserted that it was Clelland´s USB drive and he could do with it what he liked. I wonder if this is now FACT Ltd.’s position regarding its members copyrighted works -that once they have been downloaded off the internet and are present on a person´s hard drive that person then owns that copyrighted work, somehow I doubt it.
My home was searched, computers seized and I and my wife were arrested and interviewed. I was interviewed by the Officer in Charge DC Jerome Watkin briefly then the FACT Ltd representative Keith Reay took over and asked me a list of questions prepared by MPAA investigator Pascal Hetzscholdt. I was frank and honest and explained that STC did not contravene any law because it acted as a search engine which had, even though it did not breach any copyright law, exemption from liability under the E-Commerce Directive 2002. I and my wife were released on bail.
The next day FACT Ltd.’s forensic expert, Ben Clelland, arrived back at the 7Safe Ltd.’s headquarters in Cambridge and plugged his USB drive into a computer without using a hardware write blocker. This had the effect of changing all the “File Created” times on all the evidence to the 19 August 2008. Clelland says this was a “gaff” on his part but that neither he nor anyone else changed any of the content of the files in that 24 hour period. Honest guv. Of course if those files were tampered with in that period then having a File Created date of the day after the raid would explain that as well but Clelland had this excuse that he, a seasoned forensics examiner had made the most basic of errors which resulted in all the evidence being changed. Now you would think that following a mistake such as this you would want to preserve the evidence as best as possible but no, not Clelland. Once he had copied the data on his USB drive to another drive he decided to forensically wipe the original USB drive and then dispose of it thereby destroying the chain of evidence forever. Suspicious you may think. Of course if the files present on the original USB drive had been modified by Clelland or FACT Ltd then a way of discovering that would be to inspect the file system of the original USB drive for fragments that would show what had happened. With the USB drive now gone forever this line of enquiry was destroyed for me and my team. We only had the word of Clelland and FACT Ltd that nothing had been changed despite massive evidence to the contrary. As I said before all computer evidence in my trial emanated from this USB drive and HHJ Evans, the Judge in my case, saw no problem whatsoever in accepting the word of FACT Ltd and allowing it all into my case to be used against me. Does that sound fair to you? Is it an example of “justice being seen to be done” that Judges are supposed to uphold? No, I didn´t think so either.
After I was bailed I continued with STC. I knew I was doing nothing wrong and I was adamant that I would not be bullied by FACT Ltd into closing what was an entirely legitimate website. It was difficult at first as FACT Ltd had taken all of my computers but I managed to get access back to my servers and take control of the site again. This must have irked FACT Ltd (and its controllers the MPAA) whose primary objective was to put STC out of business so they tried a new strategy. FACT Ltd had insinuated itself into the Trading Standards regime by “sponsoring” (read entirely funding) a specialist unit within Bedfordshire Trading Standards called the “Bedfordshire Trading Standards Financial Investigations Unit” which was staffed by three dedicated financial investigators that worked on matters of “film piracy”. The sole reason that FACT Ltd bought this unit was very simple, the financial investigators in this unit have the ability to apply for asset restraint orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. These orders when placed on an individual have the effect of financially paralyzing a person, something that would come in quite handy if used on me as I wouldn’t be able to pay my company costs which included server invoices. BTSFIU investigator Alan Connolly produced a statement to Luton Crown court stating that I sold DVD´s through STC, that I had profited by at least £240,000 (despite the fact that he had seen the company accounts that show little to no profit at this point in time) and assertions that STC was a torrent site (a tactic used continously throughout my trial due to FACT Ltd´s position that bittorrent = file sharing = illegality). It was a statement full of lies but what could I do, I had all my assets restrained and therefore no money with which to fight it. I was given £125 per week to live on which was nowhere near enough to cover my house bills and mortgage never mind anything else. I started to default on my bills and rapidly started spiralling into severe financial problems. I took the decision to fight the restraint order and managed to borrow some money to fund the cost. We made an application to the court to discharge the order due to the fact that it was based on incorrect assertions and facts. I won and was awarded full costs against BTSFIU. It also turned out that they had unlawfully obtained the restraint order because BTSFIU only has the power to act on behalf of the residents of Bedfordshire County. As no-one involved in this situation was from Bedfordshire the BTSFIU had acted unlawfully in obtaining the order, yet another instance of FACT Ltd or its agents acting in contravention of the law.
A Freedom of Information Act request later obtained by myself discovered that the BTSFIU had made 23 similar restraint order applications in 2008, all on behalf of FACT Ltd. As I said before, FACT Ltd employs the people they do because they are prepared to act unlawfully to benefit their employer. It is worrying that this policy extends not just to private sector employees but also to serving public sector employees. How can the American movie industry be allowed to control a dedicated unit within the UK state system and use this unit and its statutory powers against UK citizens that may have done nothing more than operate legitimate companies?
So by October 2008 I had regained control of my finances and now had resources with which to fight back against FACT Ltd. I had by now thoroughly investigated this private company, its controlling entities and the main individuals within it. In addition I had discovered links between FACT´s directors and MP´s of all parties that had clearly been furthering the cause of FACT Ltd enabling it to gain more and more power within the statutory regime. Despite all of this and the power I was up against I was confident in my position that my website was entirely legal and to re-enforce this I decided to move the location of the website to Spain where the Madrid High Court had ruled that websites that linked to material on third party websites, whether that material be infringing or not, were not guilty of any criminal or civil liability. This was the first time that a European country had addressed this issue at such a high level and therefore it was only natural to place the website here where the law had been tested and properly settled. I moved the servers there in February 2009. I was also aware that if there was such a thing as a “communication to the public of copyrighted works” by my website then it took place at where the server was located which was Spain and therefore Spanish law was applicable which would result in the Madrid High Court test being used against STC and a logical ruling of no case to answer the outcome.
On December 12 2008 the Crown Prosecution Service informed DC Watkin of Northumbria Police that they would not be charging me or my wife. This was communicated via a three page letter written by Senior Crown Prosecutor Paul Heads in which amongst other things Mr. Heads questions whether the STC website actually infringes any known copyright law and cites an almost complete lack of evidence against myself and my wife. DC Watkin immediately informed FACT Ltd.’s Colin Tansley via email to which Tansley responded that FACT Ltd would instead bring a Private Prosecution against me and my wife. Tansley also told DC Watkin that he should not provide me or my legal team with the CPS letter or inform me of the reasons that they took the decision they did. Tansley went on to say that this suppression of the CPS letter had been advised by FACT Ltd.’s in house lawyer Abi Wills. Even at this stage it was clear that FACT Ltd were preparing to mount a private prosecution based on lies and suppression of evidence. Neither I nor my legal team had sight of the CPS letter until late in 2011, over three years after it was suppressed by FACT Ltd and Northumbria Police.
Of course at the time all I knew was that there would be no charges against myself or my wife, I was unaware that FACT Ltd were planning a private prosecution. As soon as I was informed by my solicitor, Nick Brett, that no charges were being brought I asked Nick to request the return of my property from Northumbria Police. At first DC Watkin said this was fine but several days later changed his tune saying that FACT Ltd “has the property and will not give it back”. After several letters back and forth between Northumbria Police and FACT Ltd it became clear that they were not going to give me back my property. I was outraged that this private company could be allowed to keep my property after the state prosecutor, the CPS, had decided that I had not done anything wrong. I instructed my solicitors to take legal action against FACT Ltd and Northumbria Police for the return of my property. My team lodged the application for “Delivery Up” in the UK High Court; the case was Scopelight Ltd & Ors v Northumbria Police & Ors and was heard before Justice Sharp in April 2009. Northumbria Police did not show, they said that they were happy to agree with everything that FACT Ltd put forward as their defense. It later turned out that FACT Ltd offered to cover all legal costs on the understanding that Northumbria Police agreed with everything that FACT Ltd would say. Northumbria Police grabbed the offer with both hands.
The day after we lodged our application FACT Ltd formally brought a criminal private prosecution against me and, quite astonishingly because they knew she was not involved in my site at all, my wife for:
• 1 count communication to the public of copyrighted works through the operation of SurfTheChannel.com from 1st February 2007 to August 18 2008;
• 1 count communication to the public of copyrighted works through the operation of SurfTheChannel.com from 19 August 2008 to May 2009;
• 1 count conspiracy to defraud the movie industry between 1 February 2007 and August 18 2008;
• 1 count conspiracy to defraud the movie industry between 19 August 2008 and May 2009;
• 1 count money laundering between 1 February 2007 and August 18 2008;
• 1 count money laundering between August 19 2008 and May 2009.
Why 2 charges for each offence you may ask? Well, as a way of bulking up the charges against me FACT Ltd asserted that once I had been raided and arrested I must have known I was doing something illegal but despite this I chose to continue running my website therefore that justifies new charges. Welcome to FACT Ltd.’s legal department, a small firm called Mike Northern Legal that works almost entirely on FACT Ltd cases, is run by former trading standards officer Mike Northern and the grunt work is left to the crooked Abi Wills who is prepared to do anything, even break the law, to win a case. With this team no con is too small, no lie too big and no principles too important to discard in the name of getting the pirates. Make no mistake this team is well and truly owned by the MPAA in the US and will do whatever they are told.
By the time the criminal case reached trial FACT Ltd had dropped all but the conspiracy charges as they knew they would lose any attempt to prove communication to the public (as by then the TVLinks ruling had gone against them on this very point).
On 12 March 2009 I and my wife appeared in front Gateshead Magistrates to answer the charges brought by FACT Ltd. This hearing was only a formality as everyone knew that this was a crown court matter however we had not banked on FACT Ltd.’s legal team ever ready with their dirty tricks. Without notice Ari Alibhai representing FACT Ltd told the magistrates that “just by turning on his computer Mr. Vickerman is breaking the law” and then went on to request that I be remanded into custody. The tactic here obviously being that if I was in prison on remand the website would fail and die. At this point I was receiving a fair hearing and was glad when the Magistrates failed to be impressed by Alibhai´s hysterics and denied the attempt to remand me.
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 (they actually indexed us using spiders). I form the opinion that FACT Ltd is attacking me, and therefore STC, to clear the way for its directors preferred partner and in reality FACT Ltd don´t care about the supposed copyright infringement that they hysterically accuse me of. If they did why are their directors commercially partnered with a site that does exactly the same thing? I decide that I will complain to the Office of Fair Trading requesting that they investigate FACT Ltd, MPAA and its member companies for criminal cartel behavior and their actions in trying to carve up the Video on Demand market. This complaint is in the form of a 54 page document viewable in the download package at the end of this document. I also make a formal complaint to the European Commission for the same behavior using the same document. A few days later the EC contact me to say yes there is evidence of this but the OFT should handle it as I am in the UK. A few days after this the OFT declines to investigate allegations of cartel behavior by FACT Ltd and its members as there is “no evidence of collusion between the companies such as phone call records”. I begin to understand how far and how high the MPAA´s tentacles reach.
In the civil case I had brought the defense put forward by FACT Ltd for the retention of my property was that they were bringing a private prosecution and therefore the Police were retaining the property under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act on behalf of FACT Ltd to be used at trial. This retention by the Police of course was fictional because FACT Ltd had the property all along.
Our position was that PACE only allows the retention of property by a public body and only for a prosecution brought by a public body. The CPS had decided not to bring charges and therefore it was no longer in the public interest to retain my property. At this point in time my team had not seen the CPS letter so we did not know why they had made the decision they had, FACT Ltd were very well aware of the CPS reasoning though as they had a copy of the letter.
Justice Sharp agreed with me and ruled that FACT Ltd could not retain my property. I had won. Justice Sharp´s reasoning was sound and followed established law. However, as organizations with unlimited money do, FACT Ltd appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal. The date was set for November 09 for the appeal.
On 9 September 2009 I answer my front door to my postwoman and am given a tampered envelope that contains my company accounts sent to me by my accountant. After calling my local Royal Mail sorting office and speaking with the supervisor Tom Regan I am informed that the employee responsible for delivering my mail has been fired for withholding it from me. Due to the closeness of the Scopelight appeal I suspect foul play by FACT Ltd and the possibility that the Royal Mail employee was corrupted by them with a view to gaining the upper hand in the appeal. Of course I am unable to prove this. I report the matter to the Police however nothing comes of it as the employee was a foreigner who has by then left the country.
The day before the appeal my legal team was notified that one of the three appeal court judges was being mysteriously replaced without a reason. Enter Lord Leveson, parachuted in to the case to save FACT Ltd. The day of the appeal we discover in court that FACT Ltd have broken court rules and provided a “criminal case summary” to the appeal judges without notifying my legal team thereby circumnavigating any objections we may have. When we finally see this case summary we are horrified at the allegations made by FACT Ltd.’s barristers David Groome and Ari Alibhai. Allegations of massive criminality, wearing of false beards by me to business meetings (I know it’s crazy), losses of $9,000,000,000 to the movie industry because of STC (yes you read that right, nine billion) and the news to me that STC was more popular than Facebook (I wish!). It was an unbelievable work of fiction but it was too late, the judges had seen this nonsense. Lord Leveson proceeded to hijack the appeal hearing and was incredibly hostile to my barrister QC Ian Purvis while giving FACT Ltd QC Richard Spearman an easy ride. Much of the hearing centered on why the CPS had decided not to bring charges and FACT Ltd repeatedly, through Spearman, told the appeal judges that no-one knew why they had decided what they did. This was a barefaced lie by not only Spearman but also by David Groome, Ari Alibhai, Abi Wills, Mike Northern and the entire FACT Ltd legal team. They knew that if the CPS letter that they had suppressed was made available to the judges that they would lose the case and they all decided to keep its existence secret and use its absence to mislead the judges as to what the CPS´s reasoning actually was. This was committing fraud on a grand legal scale and is extremely serious. Of course my team had not seen the CPS letter at this point so were not aware of the fraud that FACT Ltd were committing (by the time the CPS letter was finally disclosed to us years later I did not have the funds to mount another civil case against FACT Ltd for fraud). We lost the case and Leveson reversed Justice Sharp´s earlier decision essentially writing new law that allowed private companies to now interfere with UK citizen’s property. I was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for FACT Ltd.’s legal fees which I did not have. In addition to this Leveson, in his ruling, extolled the virtues of FACT Ltd and the “good work” they do essentially giving them the High Court seal of approval to their activities. A ruling that FACT Ltd rolls out whenever their activities are questioned. A matter of months later Leveson was enjoying dinner at the homes of FACT´s directors such as Elizabeth Murdoch and her husband Matthew Freud (Elizabeth´s father Rupert Murdoch is a director of FACT Ltd through BSkyB and Twentieth Century Fox). Leveson´s ruling reverses thirty years of settled law and is widely regarded in legal circles as an unsound ruling. Several months later the Sentencing Council of which Leveson is Chairman received several thousand pounds worth of training consultancy free of charge from Matthew Freud’s company.
I appealed the verdict to the UK Supreme Court however in January 2010 they decided that the fact that private companies could now withhold UK citizens’ property was not a matter of national importance and refused to hear the case.
Now FACT Ltd had a clear run at privately prosecuting me and my wife. They had been given the seal of approval by the High Court of Appeal, had got away with suppressing vital evidence and lying to the appeal judges, had free range to use my property and had managed to dramatically harm my finances and therefore my ability to fight them with an “equality of arms”. This point in time was an extremely low point for me as the sheer power I was up against was overwhelming. I was one of the very few who had seen behind the curtain of how this private company operated and how the people who matter, the Police and the Judiciary, who are supposed to keep in check the activities of rogue companies such as these were complicit in allowing them to continue. I was convinced, and remain convinced to this day, that FACT Ltd is protected by some very influential and powerful people within not just the current UK Government but also the previous one. In fact it’s not so much Government who are protecting FACT Ltd but “the ruling class”, the people who walk between the raindrops and are never held to account. It came as no surprise to me that a Wiggin LLP solicitor (the firm who represented FACT Ltd in the Scopelight civil trial) let it slip that Wiggin had been in regular contact with the Attorney General herself during the civil trial. What exactly was FACT Ltd doing talking with the Attorney General about a civil case they were involved in if not to exert some kind of pressure at Government level to help them win the case? Is it this contact that saw Leveson parachuted in to save the day for FACT Ltd? We will never know.
Whatever unfair, crooked or dishonest means that FACT Ltd used to win the Scopelight case it was now history and there was nothing I could do about it so I had to turn my attention to the Criminal prosecution that FACT Ltd were mounting against myself and my wife. It was now early 2010 and FACT Ltd had already disclosed statements from its staff.
On 22 February 2010 an identical case to mine is decided before HHJ Ticehurst. This case is known as the “TVLinks” case named after the website run by its two founders Dave Rock and Dave Overton. In this case, also prosecuted by FACT Ltd.’s pet barristers David Groome and Ari Alibhai FACT Ltd alleged that TVLinks communicated copyrighted works to the public through its provision of links to third party video web sites. His Honor Judge Ticehurst in a well thought out and reasoned ruling dismisses the case at first instance before it even gets to trial ruling that TVLinks is a site that can avail itself of the “mere conduit” defense under S17 of EC-Directive. This important provision exempts search engines from criminal liability and Rock & Overton are found innocent. I am extremely happy for Dave and call to congratulate him having become friends over the last year after comparing our knowledge about FACT Ltd and their activities. I now believe that FACT Ltd have no case against me as a Crown Court judge has confirmed what I always knew to be the case, that providing links to third party video websites does not contravene copyright law as it does not constitute a communication to the public. Good for Ticehurst I think to myself, at least there are some Judges out there who are not swayed by the power and influence of FACT Ltd and its controllers.
In March 2010, following the worst legal defense I have ever heard of, Justice Kitchin rules that the website Newzbin.com is communicating to the public. Due to the farce of Newzbin´s barrister having to step down mid trial when it is discovered that he actually owns shares in Newzbin the defense never recovers (how could it?) and the MPAA win their coveted High Court ruling. It is in my opinion wrongly decided due to the fact that there is no “electronic transmission of copyrighted works” made by Newzbin (the transmission being a vital ingredient to the act of communication) but it is what it is. You can almost feel FACT Ltd and the MPAA gloating around the world. Thanks Newzbin! I am told that this ruling is civil not criminal and therefore the TVLinks ruling still trumps it but I have my doubts, I know that FACT Ltd are going to hold this ruling up as a shining example for years to come and that it is going to impact on myself and my case substantially not to mention all who follow me. The Newzbin team has, in the words of the Americans, screwed the pooch on this one.
In April 2010, and due to the TVLinks ruling, FACT Ltd now changes their case against me. Whereas pre-TVLinks FACT Ltd said STC was identical to TVLinks they now say they are completely different and that STC is more like Newzbin (surprise surprise!). FACT now make new allegations in an attempt to separate STC from TVLinks ruling by alleging that I was actually uploading content to third party websites and linking to it from STC. It becomes clear that they have taken advice on the TVLinks ruling and decided that they can get around it by saying that I was uploading in addition to just running a link site. This is not true and I wonder just how many lies David Groome and Ari Alibhai are willing to tell to win the case against me. It turns out a lot. The case against me morphs from one alleging that I breached copyright by running STC into one where I am the biggest pirate in the world uploading material here there and everywhere. The case is now “Anton Vickerman is the King of Pirates!” in an unashamed display of “throw enough mud and some of it will stick” legal tactics. I ask my lawyers how Judge Evans can allow this blatant attempt to secure conviction at any cost and am told that the Judge will surely take a dim view of FACT Ltd.’s actions. I remember thinking to myself “Yeah right”.
In July 2010 the stress and strain of the nightmare we have endured for nearly two years finally breaks our marriage. Myself and my wife separate. FACT Ltd´s decision to charge my wife as well, despite them knowing she has no involvement in STC, has bore them fruit.
On 18 August 2010, a few weeks before the hearing in front of HHJ Evans to hear our dismissal application we were put on notice by FACT Ltd that they intended to request a “Public Interest Immunity” hearing in front of HHJ Evans. A PII hearing is usually used in cases where the CPS need to protect the identity of a covert source such as a super grass or protect covert secret methods that have been used in the obtaining of evidence in a case. I and my legal team did not think it was anything like this, we believed it was simply an attempt to drip poison into HHJ Evans ear about myself without any balance from my side. Because that is the thing about PII hearings, it is the prosecutor and the judge in the room only. No member of the defense team or the defendant is allowed to be present so they never know what is said or what the hearing is about. We were extremely concerned at this attempt by FACT Ltd prosecutors David Groome and his sidekick Ari Alibhai to manipulate Judge Evans. We had already been a victim of Groome´s dirty tactics when he passed the “criminal case summary” to the appeal judges without notifying us and I believed this was exactly the same type of trick designed to prejudice myself and my case. We already knew that Groome and Alibhai were dishonest as they had allowed the appeal judges to be misled and lied to about the existence of the CPS letter in the civil trial so we weren´t about to let the same underhand maneuvering take place again. We lodged a formal complaint to HHJ Evans and asked that he allow a Special Advocate to sit in on the PII hearing in the interest of fairness. It is normal procedure for an independent barrister to sit in on a PII hearing if the Judge wants and their job is just to monitor the hearing to make sure that nothing untoward happens to prejudice the defense. Given the backdrop of accusations by both sides about each other we felt sure that for “justice to be seen to be done” HHJ Evans would order that a Special Advocate be present. He did not; the PII hearing took place on 6 September 2010 between the judge and prosecution only. I do not know what was said, what was discussed or what it was about but I do know that from this date Judge Evans went from hostile to incredibly hostile to myself and my defense team. It became clear to me even at this stage that I was not going to receive a fair trial in front of HHJ Evans.
On 7 October 2010 David Groome for the prosecution and David Wallbank for the defense make submissions in dismissal application over two days. My Defense say that FACT Ltd have changed their case due to TVLinks ruling, that STC is classed as a mere conduit under EU law and is therefore exempt from criminal and civil liability. FACT Ltd use Newzbin ruling saying that STC is identical to Newzbin and Groome takes great time taking about NZB files and Usenet despite these having nothing to do with STC. Judge Evans´s nods along as Groome talks and rolls eyes, shakes head and scowls when my barrister presents the defense. Uh oh. We also say that using the conspiracy to defraud angle is not appropriate given that there is no substantive offence being alleged to tie it with (FACT Ltd having dropped the communication and money laundering charges after the TVLinks ruling). In other words we are saying that you cannot conspire to commit a legal act. Evans clearly does not agree.
On 10 October 2010 after hearing arguments for dismissal Judge Evans rejects the application with extreme hostility by stating that STC can be considered to be communicating copyrighted works to the public, cannot avail itself of safe harbor or mere conduit defense (as per TV Links case) and that there was no objectionable use of conspiracy to defraud in this case despite Attorney general´s guidelines to contrary. It is clear from Evans´s attitude that he believes everything Groome is saying, believes that I am guilty and that he regards dismissal application as nonsense. I and my team become increasingly concerned at the behavior of the judge and I suggest that an application to recuse the judge may be appropriate if I am to receive a fair trial. I become even more concerned when I search the Judge in “Who´s Who 2009” and discover he lists one of his interests as Cinema.
On 13 October 2010 we have a hearing in front of Judge Evans regarding an application by ourselves for disclosure from FACT Ltd. My team alleges that FACT Ltd is withholding substantial material that will help the defense case. My barrister David Wallbank points to several instances where FACT Ltd has said there is nothing to disclose only for there to be yet more disclosure. FACT Ltd barrister David Groome tells HHJ Evans “I have personally reviewed all the undisclosed material in this case and there is simply nothing further of relevance to disclose” to which Judge Evans replies “well, there you go Mr. Wallbank, Mr. Groome says there is nothing further to disclose”. My team is shocked at the unwillingness of Evans to even consider whether FACT Ltd is acting duplicitously despite evidence to contrary. FACT Ltd could not have wished for a better Judge. After my team repeatedly request that the CPS letter of 12/12/08 is disclosed by FACT Ltd David Groome says to Judge Evans “I have personally reviewed this letter and there is nothing relevant or disclosable to the defense in it. To be honest your honor the letter hinders the defense rather than helps them”. On hearing that the CPS letter may hurt the defense Judge Evans pushes Groome to disclose it which he reluctantly does. The result when my team sees the document is explosive. The CPS advice states that they are unsure whether any law has been broken amongst other things. It quickly becomes clear why FACT Ltd suppressed it. The contents also show that the CPS clearly decided that it was not in the public interest to prosecute myself or my wife. In the Scopelight & Ors v Northumbria Police & Ors case QC Richard Spearman, acting for FACT, made representations to the appeal court that FACT did not know why the CPS had decided not to prosecute which was clearly a lie. As mentioned earlier David Groome, Ari Alibhai, Abi Wills, Simon Baggs and the rest of the FACT Ltd legal team were also at the appeal court hearing and also did not correct the assertions made by Spearman. It is clear that FACT have committed fraud by lying to the appeal court and the Leveson verdict is therefore unsound however to challenge it will take substantial funds that I no longer have. FACT Ltd gets away with the fraud because they are rich and I am now penniless. British Justice in action ladies and gentlemen.
Despite the emergence of the seriously damaging CPS letter (which clearly helps the defense) after assurances that there was nothing more of relevance to disclose Judge Evans rules that FACT Ltd have complied fully with their disclosure obligations. My team is yet again stunned at Judge Evans´s attitude to the actions of FACT Ltd. He almost seems to be protecting them and I begin to believe that that Judge Evans is not the ultimate authority in this case. Evans sets the 25 October 2010 as the date to hear the Abuse of Process arguments and date for trial is refixed to 21 February 2011. An Abuse of Process application is the right of a defendant to make if they believe that there has been such an abuse of power in the collecting of evidence or in the proprietary of the prosecutor that it renders the prosecution unsound. Judge Evans makes comments such as “there seems to be substantial makeweight arguments in the defense position” that show he has already made his mind up, before hearing any evidence on the matter, that FACT Ltd have not acted improperly. Judge Evans ignores the FACT Ltd.’s actions in conducting unlawful surveillance, tampering with evidence by saying “there is a great deal of merit in the prosecutions skeleton abuse arguments” and then goes on to say “there seems to be a great deal of padding in there” with regards to the defense argument. I and my team realize there is no chance that Evans is going to stay the trial due to abuse by FACT Ltd and that the judge´s mind is closed to any and all arguments by the defense for one reason or another (a position that intensified dramatically as time went on). I suspect foul play at work but my team is more generous saying they think it is just that Evans is prosecution minded. I remember thinking “fair enough but that doesn´t mean he gets to prosecute me as well!”. My team decides that Evans is not going to give a fair hearing to me on abuse due to what he has said previously and I withdraw my application for Abuse of Process while reserving the right to re-instate it before trial.
On 16 November 2011 my civil legal team prepares a “Particulars of Claim” accusing FACT Ltd and its legal representatives of deliberately misleading (lying to me and you) the Court of Appeal in a way that fundamentally secured a victory for themselves. Wiggin LLP (FACT Ltd.’s civil lawyers) are sent the draft and making the application is threatened unless FACT are prepared to settle the civil claim (as there are some outstanding matters). Wiggin/FACT Ltd respond that I no longer have any money left to fund such a claim and should I make the application they will ask the court to refuse the application unless I can supply “security of costs” of several hundred thousand pounds. I´m now broke so I can´t. Justice is a luxury only the rich can afford. Stalemate, FACT Ltd get away with fraud.
On 25 November 2011, after becoming concerned at what seems like automated link adding to STC I investigate the STC database and IP addresses responsible for this behavior. Result is a spreadsheet that shows that massive amounts of IP addresses linked with Indian Anti-Piracy company Aiplex Software which has added around a million links to the STC site, some of which are being used as evidence of infringement by FACT Ltd in the criminal proceedings. I´m stunned at not just the action but also at the scale. While my attention has been focused on the legal battles the MPAA has been attacking me on another front that I didn´t see! The site is now next to useless as these junk links make it seem like every link on the site is broken or leads to incorrect videos. FACT Ltd denies any knowledge of this of course.
I and my team become so concerned at the behavior of FACT Ltd, its barristers and the willingness of the Judge to not just turn a blind eye but to actively protect them from criticism that we decide the only way I can receive a fair trial is if the case is prosecuted by an independent party, the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS has the power to take over any private prosecution and prosecute it itself or even stop it if it believes it is not in the public interest. My team prepares over a 100 page application annexed by 1046 pages of accompanying evidence and sends it to Kier Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions. We are sure that the DPP will be concerned at the illegal surveillance conducted by FACT Ltd as well as the numerous other issues such as withholding of evidence from the defense team. It is a masterpiece of a document and for the first time it feels like a spade has been called a spade in this nightmare. The document dispenses with the usual airs and graces that the legal profession hold to and tells it how it is – FACT Ltd are liars and here is the evidence to prove it. I feel hopeful that I may get a fair trial after all but there is one thing standing in the way, the trial is due to start in a few weeks and Evans may rule that it is going ahead regardless of the DPP application.
On 21 February 2011 the trial is due to start however my team makes the application that it should not go ahead until the DPP has had a chance to study the application and decide what to do with it. Evans is left with no choice but to adjourn the trial and is clearly very unhappy at this. Evans says he is extremely troubled at the DPP application and I think “Yes! He has finally understood what we have been saying about them!” until it becomes clear that it isn’t that he is extremely troubled at the allegations we have made but that we have dared to actually make them! I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, what Judge could possibly not be worried about the evidence that FACT Ltd have lied to a higher court than his and are continuing to do so in his own? It just beggars belief how biased Evans is and I have to pinch myself to make sure I´m not in some nightmare. Despite his attitude Evans refixes the trial date for 14 November 2011. FACT Ltd barrister Groome asks the judge to consider remanding me into custody as I am “still running his criminal enterprise and costing the movie industry millions”. Evans replies that he is not going to remand me but that “his continued operation of the site will have serious consequences when it comes to sentencing”. Notice that Evans´s choice of the word “when” not “if”. He hasn’t even heard any evidence yet.
FACT Ltd respond to our allegations in the DPP submission by submitting their own document which basically extolls their virtues, compares themselves to the RSPCA who also bring private prosecutions and investigate crime (I think this is vile that FACT Ltd see themselves as anything even close to the RSPCA), and says that they are allowed to conduct surveillance because they are a private company and therefore RIPA does not apply (why do you fill out pseudo-RIPA forms then?). As a coup de grace they say that the High Court has confirmed that FACT Ltd is an honorable organization in the Leveson Scopelight judgment. It is utterly disgusting.
On 5 May 2011 the DPP respond to the application with a three page reply by Kier Starmer declining to intervene in private prosecution and stating regarding FACT´s surveillance operations that this “does not appear to offend against any principle of known law”. This is against the background of him investigating News of the World employees for committing crime by just hacking into someone’s voice mail. If that is illegal Mr. Starmer, and you have since charged the people involved in the NOW scandal so you must think it is, then how is it not illegal to enter someone´s home under false pretenses and video record them? Did it not occur to you Mr. Starmer that Rupert Murdoch is a controlling entity in FACT Ltd as well as NOW? I am devastated at this rejection by the DPP and lose all hope of a fair trial. I wonder what favors FACT Ltd/the MPAA had to call in to swing this feat.
On 14 July 2011 I collapse in pain after lifting a box and am diagnosed as suffering from a severely herniated disc. I am prescribed heavy duty painkillers and told to remain in bed (not that I have much choice as I literally cannot sit or walk). My doctors tell me that there is no way I can stand trial in this condition which I agree with as I can only lie flat on my back. I am booked for a discectomy operation in February 2012. My legal team makes an application for the trial to be adjourned until after I have had my operation and it is heard before Judge Evans in November 2011. FACT Ltd.’s barrister David Groome stoops to new lows when he tells the judge that I probably slipped my disc on purpose to get out of the trial. Yes that’s right Mr. Groome, I did it on purpose and I´m putting myself through incredible pain and a very serious operation just to avoid a trial for a few more months. Sleazebag. Groome also wheels out a report from a supposed orthopedic expert at Kings College London who says I would have no problem attending a trial as my pain level would be manageable. This is a doctor who has not examined me and has no idea of my pain levels but is willing to write a report saying what I can and cannot do. Unbelievable. It seems it isn’t just lawyers, policemen and judges that FACT Ltd can bend to its will. Later we discover that far from being the eminent surgeon that Groome says this doctor is he is just a trainee registrar who has not reached the level that allows him to see patients on his own without supervision. This lying to the court doesn’t bother Judge Evans however he is in a tight spot if he decides to go ahead with the trial without me as I have a fixed date for getting better, this isn’t an opened ended thing. In the face of the established legal authorities Evans´s grudgingly adjourns the trial until 5 May 2012.
I have my operation on 14 February 2012 and nearly die on the operating table when my nervous system shuts down temporarily. The operation is only a partial success and I am left with extended nerve damage causing substantial sciatica pain in my right leg. Sitting is very uncomfortable even with the massive amounts of tramadol, codeine and diazepan that I have to take but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a trial date in May so I have to man up and work out how I am going to make it through. I speak with my doctors who seriously advise against sitting every day for 5 hours a day for 8 weeks but I explain I have no choice; I am not going to let Evans and FACT Ltd run this trial without me as this will mean certain conviction. My doctors tell me they can give me slow release morphine injections that should help but that it will affect my ability to function. I have no choice but to accept this despite the disadvantage it will give me at trial.
On 3 May 2012 I close SurfTheChannel.com due to the fact that I cannot maintain it and focus on the trial at the same time. It is a very sad time as the enormous work that went into building and running that site meant nothing in the end. That being said FACT Ltd and the MPAA were unable to shut me down with their dirty tricks, their illegal attacks or their poisonous news stories. I shut STC down on my own terms not theirs. RIP STC.
The trial of Anton Vickerman and Kelly Vickerman for conspiracy to defraud the movie industry started on 8 May 2012 and ran until 27 June 2012. If you were looking for an example of British Justice in all its shining glory then you weren´t going to find it here. We were about to enter a parallel universe in which there were two prosecutors, FACT Ltd and Judge Evans, in which the Judge had no grasp of the internet or copyright law and in which evidence that would never have normally made it up the court room steps due to its dodginess was readily accepted as factual here. Throw into this the changing of stories by FACT Ltd.’s witnesses mid testimony, David Groome, the FACT Ltd barrister visibly shaking his head left and right or up and down to help his witnesses when they were being examined by my barrister, the Judge attempting to stop any criticism of FACT Ltd by my barrister (at one point screaming “This case is about Copyright Theft! Surveillance by FACT Ltd has nothing to do with it!”) and finally the coaching of witnesses during breaks by FACT Ltd.’s staff who would leave the court every time a witness was asked to leave and discuss their evidence with them before they returned back in. We really were in the most bastardised version of a fair trial that anyone could possibly imagine.
The first thing that happens in a trial is that the jury is picked. For my trial we were informed that there was a pool of 30 jurors available of which 12 would be randomly picked. However, before this could happen all of the potential jurors would be brought into court and asked whether they were employed by or affiliated with a list of companies or websites that FACT Ltd had produced. My team and I looked at this list and it was clearly split into the goodies and the baddies. On the goodies side was each of the big six movie studios, FACT Ltd, MPAA and a few others and on the baddies side was ThePirateBay, MegaVideo, SurfTheChannel, TVShack and other websites. The jury was asked to retire and consider their positions and then write down on a piece of paper a reason, if they had a reason, why they could not sit on the jury for this trial. Out of the 30 jurors four admitted they were connected with the movie industry and were dismissed from serving. Now I may be wrong but what are the odds that out of all the occupations in the world it just so happens that 4 out of 30 potential jurors picked, supposedly at random, for my trial would be connected with the movie industry? Paranoia time. Then we found out that of the 26 left two of them were employed by Northumbria Police, one as a serving officer. Now it seems to me that as I sued Northumbria Police in court and caused them some major problems in a well-publicized case, at least within NP and other circles, that it wasn’t appropriate for their employees to sit in judgment of me on the jury. Apparently though the Judge had no problem with that and they were allowed into the pool. We finally ended up with our 12 jurors and I was dismayed to see that the large majority were middle aged or above, at least 4 looked over 60 and one of them had never used a computer in her life (we know this because she tried to get out of jury duty with this excuse but Judge Evans rejected it). We even believe, although we have no way of knowing for sure, that the Northumbria Police officer was appointed foreman of the jury. Fair? I´ll let you decide.
The trial started with FACT Ltd prosecutor David Groome making his opening speech which lasted two days. In this two days Groome practiced a sort of racism by ignoring all the western sites that STC linked too such as BBC iPlayer, 4OD, YouTube etc. and instead made out that STC solely linked to Chinese websites such as Tudou.com, Youku.com, 56.com and others. The picture being drawn by Groome was that “Chinese Website = Illegal” and this jumped from insinuation to outright assertion when Groome stepped it up a gear by saying “these websites are run by Chinese Gangsters, criminals who run blatantly illegal websites”. He then went on to say that these sites were “obviously and totally illegal” despite these sites being publicly listed on the New York Stock exchange and in some cases funded, as in the case of 56.com, by the Venture Capital arms of FACT Ltd.’s own directors. Groome then painted me as an organized criminal in league with these “Chinese gangsters” and that I was “stealing from thieves” by linking to these sites. It got better, these sites couldn´t report me to the Police for linking to them because they themselves were “thugs and villains”. It was very surreal and I couldn’t work out whether Groome actually believed what he was saying or whether he was just very good at lying, with hindsight I now know it was the latter.
During a break while the jury were out my barrister David Wallbank objected to Groome´s description of Chinese websites pointing out that these sites are listed on the New York stock exchange and 56.com is funded by Steamboat Ventures the VC arm of FACT Ltd director Walt Disney. Judge Evans shrugs and looks at Groome who says he will correct this when jury comes back in. When the jury comes back in Groome says “I may have referred to these sites once as illegal, if I did it is important to remember that sometimes they have legal uses”. I look at the Judge expecting him to request a better apology by Groome as it wasn’t “just once” he had spent a full day painting them as illegal but there was no interest. Groome realised he could say whatever he wanted without fear that this Judge would hold him to account.
Groome then went on to tell the jury that I attended business meetings in disguise wearing things such as a false beard (I had a goatee beard for a couple of months around the time I met the fake investor Van Veen/Hetzscholdt) at which point I burst out laughing due to the absurdity of this. I seriously considered attending court the next day wearing one of those googly eye spectacle kits and an Osama Bin Laden style beard but thought that it may not go down to well. Groome also told the jury that I used a string of aliases to deceive people which in reality was reference to me using usernames online like virtually every other person on the internet (there aren´t actually people called pinkythedog57 Mr. Groome). Of course this is not how Groome put it, you would have thought that I was actually out in public wearing my disguises conning old ladies out of their life savings. It was a grotesque lie that Judge Evans at least was eating up which was evident from his little comments and head nods. Groome then went on to explain to the jury what Usenet was with the help of FACT Ltd.’s pet expert, Andrew Clark of Detica Ltd. Groome finally finishes his opening by telling the jury that I was downloading material from Usenet and then uploading it to third party sites from my computer (which I later conclusively show to be false). By the time Groome had finished I was sure I was going to prison. He was a very convincing liar.
The trial then started properly with witnesses and evidence being called. I use the term evidence in its loosest form. Various experts, all employed by FACT Ltd, were called to show how Usenet worked, how Bittorrent worked (remember bittorrent = illegal) despite these things having nothing to do with the way STC operated. Then we moved on to MPAA investigator Pascal Hetzscholdt who admits to posing as STC investor “Roger Van Veen” using venture capital firm Redwood Capital as his cover story. PH goes on to explain how he was authorized to conduct this surveillance operation by MPAA Vice Counsel Thomas Dillon. Mr. Dillon, for those readers who do not know, is a powerful man with great influence in the UK Government. He is attributed with almost single handedly writing the Digital Economy Act 2010 that was voted into law by our Government in true “the Americans want it so we have to do it” fashion. It was Dillon who authorized the surveillance of me by the MPAA, interesting. My barrister then accuses Hetzscholdt of “disappearing” an audio recording of the meeting in London due to the fact that I did not say anything controversial. DW then accuses PH of using the lack of an audio recording as an opportunity to create a false recollection of events which PH denies. DW then went on to explain that as the MPAA would not put up anyone as a witness to represent them that he had no choice but to ask PH about other MPAA issues. DW went on to allege that the MPAA arranged commercially damaging news stories containing false information about STC in an attempt to isolate it as a “piracy site” so that its commercial partnerships with TV networks such as Discovery Channel, A&E Television Networks and others were destroyed, that senior MPAA personnel including John Malcolm contacted NBCUniversal to pressure them into terminating A&E Television Networks partnership agreement with SurfTheChannel and that Thomas Dillon was involved in that email chain and that this same tactic was used with Discovery Channel and Warner Bros to kill off STC´s commercial partners. At this point Judge Evans interrupts the questioning of Hetzscholdt by Wallbank by saying “where is this all going Mr. Wallbank. This case is about Copyright Theft by Mr. Vickerman not about what the MPAA or FACT may or may not have done!”. I wonder how it is possible that I end up with a Judge who doesn´t realize there is no such offence as Copyright Theft and worse thinks it is OK to say that I have committed it in front of the jury.
Next up is FACT Ltd investigator Alan Haskell who admits to completing an internal FACT RIPA form that uses “Anton Vickerman is selling and distributing DVD´s through his website” as the justification for the surveillance. When pressed on why he used that reason rather than the truth Haskell has no answer. Eventually Haskell says that allowing downloads from a site is the same as selling DVD´s. When pressed on what evidence there is to suggest that STC allowed downloads from its site he stumbles not being unable to saying “someone told me it was”. STC has never allowed downloads from its site, it has only ever contained links. Haskell then says that the RIPA form was fine as the FACT Ltd Director General, former Chief Detective Superintendent of Metropolitan police Kieron Sharp, signed it off. When pressed by Wallbank what makes him think that a fake RIPA form allows FACT to conduct directed and intrusive surveillance Haskell says “we act in the spirit of RIPA but are not regulated by it as we are a private company”. Haskell passes the buck by telling DW “you will have to ask Kieron Sharp that” to which DW replies “we would love to Mr. Haskell but he has refused to attend this court and answer our questions”. I was unaware up until this point that FACT Ltd.’s head honcho, Kieron Sharp, had decided to play the coward card and refuse to answer our questions about his company´s activity. I do not find it surprising to discover that the man running FACT Ltd has no backbone. If he was so sure that his company were doing nothing wrong in running surveillance on UK Citizens without Police knowledge why doesn´t he want to answer questions on it? Exactly. He knows he and his company is acting illegally and the last place he wants to be is in court, under oath, answering some very tricky questions.
Next witness for FACT Ltd is Paul Varney, the private investigator who conned his way into my home. After a brief questioning by Groome my barrister starts to cross-examine him. Varney explains how he was contracted by FACT Ltd Director-General Kieron Sharp to conduct intrusive surveillance in my home. His demeanor amazes me as he proceeds to laugh as he explains how he pretended to be a prospective house purchaser and conned his way in home wearing audio/visual recording equipment. A video recording of this visit shows Varney picking up bills and other confidential papers and filming them when I am out of the room. At this point my wife Kelly bursts into tears as Varney laughs. I find Varney to be a disgusting and sleazy individual and hope that the jury does too. Questioning finishes on this subject with Varney denying acting illegally and repeating the agreed FACT Ltd party line that “private investigation is an unregulated industry”. Next topic is how Varney headed the Newcastle surveillance team that took over following me when I returned from the London meeting with Hetzscholdt. Varney says he was told that I was wearing a “Mexican beard” disguise however when I got off the train I was, according to Varney, “clean shaven”. When pressed by Wallbank if there was a log made about this for the day Varney says there was but that the log has “gone missing” so he is unable to produce it. Varney then slips up and says he explained to Abi Wills (FACT Ltd´s in house solicitor) that he couldn’t find the log book. When Wallbank asks when was the last time he spoke to Abi Wills Varney says “a couple of weeks ago”. Wallbank says “so your saying that FACT´s solicitor contacted you to discuss what evidence you would give to this court?” to which Groome can be seen visibly shaking his head left and right to Varney (saying no). Varney replies that “no, it was just to tell me when I would be needed”. I sit there dazed that the Judge sees no problem with the way this trial is progressing. He has had firsthand evidence of the prosecutor lying and manipulating witnesses on what to say yet there is nothing from Evans, not even a murmur. How can this level of interference in evidence and witnesses be allowed I think to myself. It is clear to me that Judge Evans is as biased as they come, Groome could defecate on his desk and Evans would say thank you. Evans may even want me sent down more than FACT Ltd do. My only hope is that the jury see what is really going on here which by the fact that two of them are asleep (the oldish woman who has never used a computer and a youngish (the only young juror) student type man) and the rest looking bored does not look promising.
Next witness is FACT Ltd.’s former Director of Intelligence and Internet Colin Tansley. Tansley explains how he was a serving Police officer in West Yorkshire Police for a year while he was also seconded to FACT Ltd. His job was to “create information pathways between Police and FACT Ltd” while managing other operations. In other words he was paid to insinuate FACT Ltd even further into the state system. Those “information pathways”? Yeah that is code for allowing FACT Ltd, a vigilante organization run by Hollywood direct access into the Police National Database. Amazing what a bit of money will buy you nowadays. I find myself thinking “I wonder how much the going rate is for a Detective Superintendent nowadays”. Tansley of course denies that this dual role was a conflict of interest or that FACT act unlawfully in conducting surveillance and obtaining confidential information from utilities providers. Tansley then admits that FACT runs an astonishing 15 surveillance operations a month on UK citizens without Police knowledge. Tansley says “we would like to be regulated but there is no-one to regulate us” to which my barrister asks “have you asked the surveillance commissioner to audit your company and procedures to which Tansley answers “no” sheepishly. Yes of course FACT Ltd wants to be regulated, they are desperate for it.
We have a break and before the jury come back in Judge Evans tells Wallbank that he does not see the point in all of these questions about FACT Ltd/MPAA surveillance activities to which Wallbank replies “are you saying that nothing you have heard so far about this issue troubles you or has changed your mind regarding this prosecution your honor?” to which Evans half shouts “No it has not!”. Evans goes on to say that “I do not think it important and I will be strongly directing the jury on this matter when it comes time to sum up the case”. I bet he will.
It´s time for the big show. FACT Ltd.’s star witness, and my former programmer, Brendan DeBeasi takes the stand. DeBeasi proceeds to recount his history working for me leaving out all the things that would make him look bad and emphasizing, or in certain cases completely creating, things that make me look bad. He tries to paint himself as a young guy just looking for money to put himself through College rather than the money grabbing little mercenary he really is. He has been very well coached and during Groome´s questioning says the chat logs that he has produced, supposedly between him and I, have not been tampered with or edited by him. He then goes on to say that I was uploading movies to third party sites and then linking to them from STC as were lots of the STC staff. I am fuming at his lies and having a hard time keeping my emotions in check at this point. By the time he has finished my knuckles are white from gripping my seat so hard. Then it´s our turn, David Wallbank starts to cross-examine. DeBeasi admits that we fell out after he was not completing the work he was supposed to and that I had sacked him. His response to me firing him was to contact TVShack.net, QuickSilverscreen.com and SideReel.com with an offer to “bring SurfTheChannel to its knees” for the right price. DeBeasi fully admits offering the source code for sale in addition to offering information to SurfTheChannel´s rivals on SurfTheChannel server infrastructure so that illegal DDOS attacks could be mounted against the site. DeBeasi´s intentions are clear by the email address that he used – “firstname.lastname@example.org”. I wonder if the jury is getting this and from the looks on their faces they seem horrified that this person is FACT Ltd.’s star witness. I don´t think they believe him one bit.
DeBeasi goes on to admit that the Instant Message chat logs relied on by prosecution were produced by him but says he did not change them to bolster FACT Ltd.’s case. I can tell you categorically that he did, he added certain lines and amended existing conversations to make it seem like I was talking about uploading movies to third party websites. The interesting thing about this evidence is that he put the chat logs on a CD and mailed it to FACT Ltd, it wasn’t evidence that was pulled from one of his hard drives by a forensic examiner. I am amazed that this evidence was even allowed into court but Judge Evans realised without it FACT Ltd.’s case was doomed so he ushered it in with the words “the jury can decide whether it is reliable or not”. David Wallbank starts to take DeBeasi through the steps of where these chat logs have actually come from and it is suspicious to say the least. DeBeasi tells us that a matter of hours before he was raided he just so happened to put in a new hard drive to his laptop and copy files across to it, some of which were the chat logs. It is “just a coincidence” that he changed his hard drives in his laptop a matter of hours before the FBI raid and yes if he had changed the content of the chat logs then this moving of the logs to another drive would hide the fact that they had been changed (using a tool such as TimeStomp can easily change File Creation, Modified dates back etc.). DeBeasi then goes on to deny having contact with the MPAA before the raid on his home and denies knowledge of the raid before it happened. I firmly believe that when he contacted STC´s rivals offering to “bring STC to its knees” that he also contacted the MPAA and they then used him to engineer the evidence that he was presenting in court.
We have a break and when we return Groome stands up and says “your honor just before the jury return I have been made aware by Mr. DeBeasi that Mrs. Vickerman was mouthing the words “Fuck you” to Mr. DeBeasi when he was just giving evidence. At this point I jump up and shout “that is an outrageous lie! You fucking scumbags!” while pointing at FACT Ltd.’s legal team. I was raging. The very thought that Kelly, the meekest of people would do such a thing was preposterous and DeBeasi and FACT Ltd had clearly cooked up this little accusation to throw my team off its game. The Judge shouted at me to sit down and told Groome that he had not seen anything from Kelly and that is all he will say on the matter. I think even Evans at this point didn´t believe FACT Ltd.’s behavior (but that didn´t last long).
DeBeasi returns to the stand and admits to formatting his Apple Time Capsule thereby wiping the backups of the chat logs four days after being asked to preserve them by FACT Ltd. He can´t explain why he did this he says. I can of course, he was destroying evidence that he had tampered with the chat logs. DeBeasi then says he is not tailoring his evidence to help FACT despite admitting that his immunity deal in the US is dependent on him “performing well” in the Vickerman prosecution. Finally, several members of the jury are heard to gasp as DeBeasi admits the MPAA offered him a job not long after he agreed to cooperate in this prosecution. I really don´t see how the jury can buy anything that this man says after they have heard all of this. DeBeasi is clearly a scumbag of the highest order despite the young student act he has tried, and failed, to pull off.
What the jury wasn´t made aware of was that I discovered that Brendan DeBeasi had started up a pedophile website called JailBaitBox.com that showed pictures of “underage girls that you want to fuck” according to DeBeasi´s blog. I lobbied my team that we should be using this to show the jury what sort of character he really was but I was overruled. At least you the reader now know what a vile human being Brendan DeBeasi really is. And make no mistake, both FACT Ltd and the MPAA were aware of Brendan DeBeasi´s pedophile activities when they were offering him work and persuading him to cooperate with them. To these people taking down STC and securing a conviction against myself was more important than protecting young girls from exploitation by Brendan DeBeasi.
The prosecution rested their case and at last I got the chance to give evidence and rebut the accusations that FACT Ltd and Groome had spread about me for years. I explained that the operation of STC had been utterly misrepresented by Groome/FACT Ltd in an attempt to paint as black a picture as possible. When asked what I thought of the prosecutor David Groome I said “It is my experience that Mr. Groome will say whatever he needs to win this case” at which point the Judge reprimanded me and suggested I apologise to Mr. Groome which I would not. In Judge Evans´s court it is fine for the prosecutor to spend weeks smearing my character and telling lies about me but when I say a single sentence Judge Evans comes down on me like a ton of bricks. Such is the balance in this court. I go on to explain how Groome has cherry picked forum posts and taken them out of context to fit his distorted presentation of STC before then going on to show that there has been no uploading from any of my computers by pointing to a complete lack of evidence of this “despite 3 separate teams of forensic investigators examining them”. Next I went on to explain how I had researched the law regarding communication of copyrighted to the public and received advice that linking to material infringing or not is entirely legal. Then I covered how STC´s then number one rival, BlinkX.com, has commercial partnerships with every one of FACT´s directors despite BlinkX.com having the exact same links that FACT is using as evidence of illegality in this case. Finally I cover how amazed I am that FACT Ltd has been allowed to get away with “illegal surveillance”. I say “In this day and age of phone hacking how can it be legal for a private company which is totally unregulated to be allowed to enter someone’s home without police knowledge?”. Judge Evans rolls his eyes at this point and shakes his head.
I then go on to present evidence (that is unchallenged by FACT Ltd) that shows that so called “Anti‐Piracy” companies, in particular Aiplex Software, are responsible for automated adding of around a million links to the STC website some of which are then being relied on in this prosecution. Following this I explain that STC had partnership deals with A&E Television Network, Discovery Channel and Warner Bros. but that these deals were terminated after the MPAA brought pressure to bear on these companies as is evidenced by the small amount of the internal MPAA emails we were disclosed. Judge Evans jumps in at this point and says “well there is nothing sinister there it is just a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing!” to which my barrister asks me “is that your opinion Mr. Vickerman?” to which I reply “I´m afraid not, it´s my opinion that the MPAA deliberately sabotaged STC´s commercial partnerships so it would make it easier for them to isolate STC as a piracy website”. Judge Evans scoffs and rolls his eyes at this. I then explain to the jury that I placed the servers in Spain as it is where the server is based that decides what law is applied to a website. Spanish law had been settled in late 2008 by the highest court in Spain stating that linking to infringing content is not a criminal offence. When Groome challenges this assertion I refer him to the SportRadar case in which the UK High Court agreed that if a communication takes place it takes place where a server is located. Groome tries to stop me saying this and calls a point of law so that jury do not hear more on the SportRadar case and the vital ruling that is a cornerstone of my defense. When the jury leaves the Judge, as always, sides with Groome and orders that SportRadar cannot be referred to in front of the jury.
Then we are finished in all but the closing statements and the Judge´s summing up. I´m feeling quietly confident at this point as I have proven that many of Groome´s lies are exactly that and we have shown FACT Ltd to be what they are. Groome gives a surprisingly short closing basically rehashing the running theme through the case. That I am a criminal who knew he was committing a crime, that the real business for me was movies and the other legitimate links on his site were a smokescreen etc. Groome says finally “whether he likes it or not it does not matter where the server is located, STC was located where it was operated from which is in the UK”. This blatantly incorrect assertion would not have been possible had Evans allowed the vital SportRadar case ruling to be examined in open court.
After Groome finished his closing speech Judge Evans decides to discharge the only young juror in the jury two days before the jury is due to deliberate. Judge Evans says that the juror has a job interview to go to on Wednesday 27th June and that he (the judge) will not be finished summing up the case before then. The juror is dismissed and the judge finishes summing up on the morning of Tuesday 26th June which would have given plenty of time for the young man to be involved in deliberation. Evans was stacking the deck in his and FACT Ltd.’s favor.
My barrister David Wallbank gives a brilliant closing speech asking the jury to really look at what is going on here. Revisiting the proven lies that we had caught FACT Ltd out on and stating what my defense was – that STC is covered by EU law and given exemption from liability and that there was no communication to the public taking place by the simple provision of a link. Even if there was a communication taking place this communication took place where the server was located and at this time the servers were in Spain and subject to Spanish law (which said my site was legal). I could not be dishonest by running my website because I did not believe I was breaking the law.
After this Judge Evans started summing up at 12:45 on 25 June 2012. He is so full of fury that several of the jurors are visibly shocked. No longer is Evans able to disguise blatant bias. Evans growls at the jury that the cost to the movie industry of piracy is huge and tells them “think of the little people at the end of credits, the cameraman, the grip boy and others who lose their jobs because of this piracy and copyright theft!”. My heart sinks. Evans has decided that he has to step in to make sure I am convicted. I reach a new low. Judge Evans then tells jury that the defense has called evidence on a number of issues relating to FACT Ltd itself and its actions however “you can be sure ladies and gentlemen of the jury that if I thought this prosecution was improper I would not have allowed it to continue. You should not therefore let your feelings about how FACT Ltd has acted affect your judgment”. He goes on to then relate to them the summary of evidence from the very start of the trial until the end by revisiting the prosecution case stage by stage with no reference to the defense case whatsoever. I didn´t realize that the Judge acts as a second prosecutor in trials and at the end of the day I ask my team “can he do this?”. My team seems as stunned as me that the Judge is acting in this way. This is not good.
The next day Judge Evans continues summing up the case, or, I should say, the prosecution case. After the morning break, before the jury returns, my barrister David Wallbank takes the unprecedented step of saying Judge Evans “your honor you have been summing up the case for almost a day now and the weight that has been accorded to the prosecution case by you is far greater than the defense case. It is our opinion that there is now no possibility that anything you say could rectify the damage you have done to the defense case but that does not mean you should not at least try”. Judge Evans is furious however when the jury comes back gives a token representation of what he thinks the defense case is. The only problem is, to my astonishment, that he doesn’t understand what the defense case is. He tells the jury that “it is the defendant´s defense that it is irrelevant where the website servers are located” to which I almost jump up and shout “no it’s not you fucking imbecile! It´s my case that the server location is VITAL!”. I wonder if Judge Evans has listened at all to the last eight weeks and question how he could get my defense so incredibly wrong? Was it on purpose or was he really that stupid? Evans then scuppers his halfhearted reference to the defense case by saying “it should be obvious to anyone that he is infringing copyright though”.
Then comes the death blow and the reason that I was convicted. Evans says “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, it is your job to decide what the facts are and it is my job to tell you what the law is and I am telling you that the law is that linking to content knowing that it is infringing copyright is illegal”. He then says “if I have got the law wrong then don´t worry ladies and gentlemen of the jury because a higher court than me will put that right”. He then finishes by saying “so when you take away all of the complications the question for you is very simple. First do you find that Vickerman uploaded content to third party websites and then linked to them from STC? If you do then he is guilty because that would be dishonest. Secondly if you do not believe the first allegation then do you believe that his website linked to content on third party websites knowing that content on third party sites was infringing copyright, if you do then he was acting dishonestly there and you must find him guilty”. At this point I knew I was screwed. The Judge had essentially just directed the jury to find me guilty due to his ignorance of what the law actually was. It is not illegal to link to third party websites in the jurisdiction that STC was based, which is Spain (hell it´s not even a criminal offence in the UK!). Therefore I was not breaking the law of the UK and was not being dishonest. The Judge had incorrectly directed the jury on the law; I believe deliberately which explains why he was so keen to keep the SportRadar ruling away from the jury. To say I was devastated at this blatant abuse of the Judge´s power was an understatement. But you always have hope don´t you, maybe the jury will ignore the judge´s direction if they were uncomfortable with the way FACT Ltd have acted?
Fat chance. They took just over a day to return a verdict of Guilty for myself and Not Guilty for my wife Kelly. Judge Evans told me “Anton Vickerman your crimes are so serious that the outcome is inevitable. Your premeditation to commit these crimes is a factor I will be taking into account when I sentence you on 30 July. You may now leave the dock to return for sentencing on the thirtieth”. I walked out of that court room shocked at what had happened. Shocked that FACT Ltd had gotten away with it, with a major helping hand from His Honor Judge Evans.
Over the next few days I took stock of the situation and analyzed my position. I was definitely going to get whacked with a heavy sentence given the way the Judge had behaved in the trial and his speech about “the little people” of the movie industry who suffer from “this piracy”. I wondered why he hadn’t sent me straight to prison and I formed a theory. He didn’t really know what he could get away with giving me as this was a first for the UK. He would need to take advice, but from whom? Then it hit me, of course! The Chairman of the Sentencing Council was none other than Lord Brian Leveson. The circle is complete. I then start to wonder whether Evans acted the way he did because he had been given some sort of encouragement from higher up the food chain. I could imagine the cozy little chat over a cigar “just get him convicted, we don´t care how you do it, there won´t be any comeback for you”. It´s certainly one explanation for Evans´s bizarrely hostile behavior.
I was surprised to find that I was more upset about the way FACT Ltd had won rather than the actual fact that they had won. If had received a fair trial and was convicted then I would accept my fate and that would be that, it really would. But I didn´t receive a fair trial, evidence was withheld from my team by FACT Ltd, Groome was allowed to run riot and break every rule in the law book, FACT Ltd´s witnesses were protected by Evans while he allowed open season on myself, my defense was totally misrepresented by the Judge and then, as a final “fuck you” to British justice, he incorrectly directed the jury on the law. I had been the victim of a Kangaroo Court in which the deck had been so well stacked against me there was no chance of winning whatsoever.
But it wasn´t quite over yet. FACT Ltd had one final dirty trick up their sleeve.
Shortly before the thirtieth of July my legal team receive notice that FACT Ltd. has written to Judge Evans and supplied him with a statement from the Chairman of FACT Ltd, Mr. Trevor Albery. Mr Albery is also the head of Warner Bros. EMEA region (FACT Ltd´s chairperson is rotated every couple of years with the one of the big six movie studios taking the chairmanship in turns). Mr Albery´s statement is designed to do one thing, estimate how much money has been lost by my “victims”, the movie industry. Accompanying Mr Albery´s statement is a report by a Professor Liebowitz which uses the recent IPSOS study and other industry sponsored statistics to calculate losses for the movie industry. Without getting into complex formulas it basically boils down to 1 view of a link on STC equals 1 lost movie attendance or DVD Rental. Does this rubbish sound familiar to you? Yep me too. Albery estimates that I have cost the movie industry up to £198,000,000, yes you read that right, one hundred and ninety eight million pounds. Now there is a few things to say about this. Firstly FACT Ltd had an opportunity to place this statement before the jury at trial and we were ready to rebut it with our own study from an expert that explained that industry figures were unreliable, self-serving and that rather than harm the movie industry piracy actually acts as a try before you buy type of mechanism. FACT Ltd. took the decision to not place this evidence before the jury and we therefore agreed not to put our report in. By doing this Mr Albery was not needed to attend court and give evidence on these figures and have the evidence tested by ourselves through cross-examination of him. What FACT Ltd. had now done was effectively given evidence after the trial and without an opportunity for me or my team to properly test it, as should be my right, in court. It was typical of their FACT Ltd´s dirty tricks department and, as usual, Judge Evans will see nothing wrong with this and will use it as a basis with which to calculate the length of my sentence. Never mind the fact that these figures are purely guess work based on a flawed methodology. I mean even our own Government stated in the Digital Economy Act consultation that the Rights Holder industry´s figures were unreliable as they were self-serving yet here I am waiting to find out how long I will be in prison based on purely fictional figures! Do you think Judge Evans will pay any attention when we point out that the MPAA´s own figures show that the movie industry profits have increased by a substantial percentage year on year since the year 2000? No I don´t think so either.
The sentencing was pushed back to 14 August 2012 which is today and although I will certainly be in prison by the time you read this I have no idea how long I will get. No-one has ever been sentenced for this type of thing before in the UK (because it´s not illegal!!!!) but my legal team have taken into account the Judge´s behavior and have stated that Evans will probably try to make an example of me and hit me with anything between 4 to 8 years. I know, it’s absolutely crazy. The prosecution of myself was funded by the MPAA through FACT Ltd but they will now, as they always do in their private prosecutions, claim their costs back from the public purse. Together with my legal aid costs, FACT Ltd.’s legal team´s exorbitant costs (because they pay their team very very well) the UK public will have shelled out several million pounds so that FACT Ltd can have me locked up. When you add in the cost of keeping me locked up for a few years you begin to realize that those super rich movie execs sitting in their LA offices really are laughing at the UK system that allows them to prosecute their own cases from LA and then have it all paid for by the British public. There is no such legal loophole in the US that allows private prosecutions; if the state prosecutor there drops the charges against you they stay dropped. This is one of the few occasions that I wish we were more like the US.
On July 29 2012 my team lodged an appeal against my conviction in another masterpiece of a document from my barristers David Wallbank and Jane Oldfield. Most appeals have only one or two points of appeal. Mine has twenty four. The document contains a catalog of errors, biased rulings and fuck ups by the Judge that enabled him and FACT Ltd. to secure my fate. It really is a powerful read that leaves you thinking “Jesus, they have to overturn this conviction”. We will see. I have witnessed too much power and influence be exercised by FACT Ltd. and its masters to be sure that British Justice will set me free. Unfortunately due to the complexity of the appeal document and the amount of transcript reading it will be at least a year before it goes to court.
So that’s it, my last five years in 21 pages. It wouldn´t be right for me to finish off this without thanking my legal team from the bottom of my heart. But first let me be very clear that none of my legal team had any idea I was going to write this story. If they had they would have strongly advised against it but I couldn’t go to prison knowing that FACT Ltd. were trumpeting this victory from the rooftops slandering my name as they did right after the verdict. My lead barrister David Wallbank and his junior Jane Oldfield have worked incredibly hard on this case and gone above and beyond the call of duty. Their integrity, work ethic and intelligence are a sight to behold. The fact that I am now in prison is in no way a reflection of their skills as advocates, they did the best they could but in the end, when the person who is supposed to maintain balance in the court is acting as a second prosecutor the writing is on the wall. My thanks also go out to my solicitors Nick Brett and Max Campbell of Brett Wilson LLP. Nick Brett has waged war tirelessly with me against FACT Ltd from the very start and I have never met a harder working solicitor. Although we lost this case we can all take heart that FACT Ltd, David Groome, Ari Alibhai, Abi Wills and the rest of their legal team did not win because they were right or because of their skill. They won because they lied, cheated and were able to exert power at very high levels. 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.
So I am starting my new life in prison as you read this and I´m ready for it. They may be able to lock my body up but my mind is free, my will is strong and my spirit will never be beaten. It’s going to take more than a few years in prison to beat me. If my story does nothing else than raise public awareness about FACT Ltd. and their outrageous and continuing abuse of power then my time inside will be worth it. You never know, now that he has charged people with mere phone hacking maybe the DPP Kier Starmer will decide that home invasion by a private company isn´t acceptable after all and investigate FACT Ltd. We can but hope.
I will return.
Anton Vickerman aka Coco
Proud Founder of SurfTheChannel.com (2007-2012)
Accompanying evidence such as internal FACT Ltd emails, MPAA emails, Pseudo-RIPA forms and surveillance material is available in this download here:
http://www.surfthechannel.com/misc762.rar – password to open the rar is “miscarriage22″ without the quotes.