Friday, 24 July 2009

When lawfully seized items can't be retained

The 1709 Blog could easily have missed the ruling of Mr Justice Sharp in Scopelight Ltd and others v Chief Constable of Northumbria and the Federation Against Copyright Theft [2009] EWHC 958 (QB) in the Queen's Bench Division (High Court, England and Wales) a couple of months ago, were it not for the fact that I spotted it in the newly-published issue 4/2009 of the European Copyright and Design Reports (Sweet & Maxwell, 6 times a year). In short, this was a ruling that the police had no power to retain property under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s.22 against the wishes of the person otherwise entitled to possession of it, once a decision not to prosecute has been taken, in order that a private body (in this case FACT) could consider whether to bring a prosecution, or indeed while that private prosecution was being brought.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Our Estimated value of is: $2.93 Million

$2.93 Million
Daily Advert Earnings: $2,247.00
Daily Traffic Earnings: $546.00
Potential Annual Earnings: $809,970.49

Site Metrics
Global Rank: 869
Daily Unique Visitors: 364,773
Daily Page Impressions: 3,524,583
Site Hosted In: SPAIN (
7 Day Trend: Down 9.00%
Top Country Traffic: US 39.6%, GB 11.7%, CA 8.6%,
Google Page Rank: 5/10

Site Title: SurfTheChannel - Home
Get Whois/Registration record: Get Whois for
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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Regulatory Enforcement and Crime Team met with the Director General of FACT

On Tuesday 21st April Kieron Sharp, Director General FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) visited St John’s Chambers to meet Adrian Maxwell of the Regulatory Enforcement and Crime Team and Andrew Manners of Hugh James Solicitors (Cardiff) to discuss a model to handle FACT private prosecutions in the South West and Wales.

Under discussion was the role of the police and CPS in private prosecutions, parallel civil proceedings and the impact of Scopelight Ltd & Ors v Chief of Police for Northumbria & Ors 2009 in relation to the powers of FACT to seize and retain material for a criminal prosecution.

Cases on privacy, police retention of evidence, powers of search and release of information to a third party

In the matter of Scopelight Limited & Others v Chief Constable of Northumbria and Another [2009] EWHC 958 (QB), the police obtained a search warrant to enter the claimants’ premises, which they did, accompanied by the second defendant, a private commercial party interested in the outcome of the search.

During the search a number of items were seized. The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently decided that no criminal proceedings would be taken against the claimants. However, the second defendant decided that they would bring a private prosecution against the claimants, and, with the police, sought to retain the items for that purpose. The court held that there was no power to do so, and that the claimant’s property should be returned.

In so doing it did not rule out the possibility of the situation being different were the prosecuting body a public authority, although one would expect that this could only be done in accordance with the law.

Notably, S.8(2) PACE only authorises the power of retention to the police. It is common for the police to act with other agencies and clearly if in so doing they pass on evidence to other agencies without a legal basis they are not only interfering with other’s rights, but are providing grounds for an abuse of process argument.

In both the W and the Scopelight decisions the court relied on authorities which predated the Human Rights Act, and neither engage with the issue of Art.8 or the DPA. This is disappointing given the court’s duty to consider human rights issues in making a decision.

As it would be likely to be the claimant relying on the Art.8, this is perhaps irrelevant given that the judgments went in the claimant’s favour in any event, however in both cases the decision turned very much on the facts.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Surfthechannel unsafe?

When we browsed this site, it made unauthorized changes to our test PC.

64 exploit(s), 14 trojan(s), 7 worm(s) but still the site is 'not currently listed as suspicious.'

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Taxpayer funded korporate kopyright kops - a rather stunning revelation

So while this is a victory for Scopelight, it’s still a rather stunning revelation of how closely integrated a private industry organization is with criminal investigations, and certainly raises questions as to why such a group should get such access.”

Good question, and it’s one we’ve been asking since p2pnet started in 2002.

Because the corporate movie, music and software cartels routinely suborn national and international police and law enforcement agencies, using scarce resources to look after company bidnes — at the expense of local taxpayers, squandering countless hours and millions of dollars which should have been allocated to serving and protecting the people who pay their salaries and expenses.

And no one says a mumblin’ word, least of all the people running the agencies.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Why Did UK Anti-Piracy Group FACT Get Computers From A Criminal Investigation... And Keep Them?

It seems troubling enough that private industry reps were allowed to be so closely involved in a criminal investigation where they have clear bias, but it gets worse. The police seized various computers and equipment as part of arresting the Vickerman's, and then allowed FACT employees to inspect the computers and the information found on them -- which, again seems to be granting way too much access to a private group. Then things got even more bizarre: the police gave a bunch of the equipment to FACT to allow FACT to continue to examine the equipment.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Secret projects @ Surfthechannel

Nonpublic project #280125 = PHP Developer - Adult site is project number 280125

Status: Closed
(Cancelled by the Site Administrator)

Selected Providers: -

Budget: $1000-3000

Created: 06/27/2008 at 19:10 EDT

Bid Count: 11

Average Bid: N/A

07/04/2008 at 19:10 EDT

Project Creator: arthur1hill
Employer Rating: (7 reviews)

Looking for an individual to join our busy team.
* Need excellent PHP skills.
* Experience writing web spiders, data mining etc.
* Experience with FLV files, extracting .flv URL's from 3rd party websites.
* Can work with linux, basic/medium command line skill needed.
* Can undertsand and write cacheing systems.

This is a part time job however first 2 weeks will be closer to full time as we get the site ready. After that it will be 4hrs a day 6 days a week as you maintain existing site backend and code new features on request. Bid for a monthly salary based on 24hrs/week x 4. We can sort out extra pay for more hours in 1st 2 weeks.

You must have very good English speaking skills as you will need to talk on Skype with co-workers etc. Also must be on MSN.

Applicant must be prepared to sign NDA.

NO teams will be considered as we wish to build a relationship with an individual not a team of 50 people.

Bonuses are readily available for hard work and comitted people.


Nonpublic project #276369 = Full Time Developer Needed is project number 276369

Status: Closed
(Selected Service Provider)

Selected Providers: TheSane

Budget: $1500-3000

Created: 06/18/2008 at 17:57 EDT

Bid Count: 21

Average Bid: N/A

06/25/2008 at 17:57 EDT

Project Creator: arthur1hill
Employer Rating: (7 reviews)


* We are looking for a developer to join our busy team and busy site on a permanent full time basis.
* The applicant will be expected to work 36 hours/week spread over 6 days of the week.
* The applicant must excel in all aspects of mysql, PHP and Javascript programming.
* The applicant will need to fully understand video site systems and how to extract the FLV path from 3rd party site URL's.
* The applicant will have good knowledge of Flash players and objects.
* You will have experience writing spiders to data mine websites including avoiding spider blockers etc.
* You will have good knowledge of writing membership systems with social networking functionality.
* You will have knowledge of html caching systems and how to script them efficiently.
* You will have knowledge of writing RSS scripts and converting mysql data into RSS streams for syndication.
* You will write clean commented code that is immune to exploits.
* Good knowledge of other programming languages desirable.
* The applicant must be self-motivated and speak excellent English. You will be expected to speak with your colleagues and manager on the phone regularly so English is very important.
* Preferably work to GMT timezone. US/UK applicants desirable.
* No teams will be considered for this role. We are looking to build a relationship with an individual who will become an important part of our company. If you represent a company or a team do not bother bidding.

The successful applicant will be briefed on all aspects of the current site by the outgoing developer. Once briefed applicant must be prepared to build a strategy for optimising entire site code, rewriting where necessary.
Applicant must be prepared to be flexible with time as we work in a high speed, high pressure environment sometimes that needs team members to be able to work when they usually would not (in return for a day off when less busy etc).
Contract will be a month to month contract.
NDA will need to be signed by applicant before contract starts.
Please post your bid as a monthly wage amount.

Good bidding!


Nonpublic project #273983 = PHP Developer Wanted is project number 273983

Status: Closed
(Cancelled by the Site Administrator)

Selected Providers: -

Budget: $1500-3000

Created: 06/12/2008 at 18:53 EDT

Bid Count: 15

Average Bid: N/A

06/19/2008 at 18:53 EDT

Project Creator: arthur1hill
Employer Rating: (7 reviews)

* We are looking for a developer to join our busy team and busy site on a permanent full time basis.
* The applicant will be expected to work 36 hours/week spread over 6 days of the week (6 hours per day).
* The applicant must excel in all aspects of mySql, PHP and Javascript programming.
* Good knowledge of other programming languages desirable.
* The applicant must be self-motivated, speak excellent English and preferably work to GMT timezone. US/UK applicants desirable.
* No teams will be considered for this role. We are looking to build a relationship with an individual not a collective.

The successful applicant will be briefed on all aspects of the current site by the outgoing developer. Once briefed applicant must be prepared to build a strategy for optimising entire site code, rewriting where necessary.

Applicant must be prepared to be flexible with time as we work in a high speed, high pressure environment sometimes that needs team members to be able to work when they usually would not (in return for a day off when less busy etc).

Contract will be a month to month contract.
NDA will need to be signed by applicant before contract starts.
Please post your bid as a monthly wage amount.

Good bidding!

Nonpublic project #225509 = Net Admin / Load Balancing expert is project number 225509

Status: Closed
(Project expired)

Selected Providers: -

Budget: $750-1500

Created: 02/13/2008 at 18:03 EST

Bid Count: 4

Average Bid: N/A

02/20/2008 at 18:03 EST

Project Creator: arthur1hill
Employer Rating: (7 reviews)

We are looking for a US/UK based individual who excels in Linux (CentOS), network administration, security and most importantly has advanced knowledge of load balancing techniques using apps such as HAProxy and lighttpd webserver.

You will be adminning servers that run a high availability, high traffic website that is in it's beta stages but needs restructuring and load balancing as soon as you start. You will be expected to harden all servers in our server farm (10 servers) and build a strategy for the future so that scalability is no problem moving forward.

You will need to provide proof of your experience and load balancing knowledge.

Hours of work - You will need to be flexible. You will need to work as needed in the short term to stabilise the servers/site. Once we are stable and secure your hours will be much less as you will be needed to just "caretake" the network.

You will bid for a monthly salary. Your terms of employment will be a rolling 1 month contract with the possibility of additional profit sharing if you do good work and are made a permanent partner.

Good bidding!


When Coco is recruiting - Working for

Although company name has been changed as well as contact info, it remains obvious that these job ads were posted by Surfthechannel:

Nonpublic project #280125
Spider PHP Script
Data mining spider scripts needed
Nonpublic project #276369
Nonpublic project #273983
Clone CBS Flash Application
Spider Script Needed
North East UK PHP Developer Wanted
Nonpublic project #225509
Blog Posting

The Google search engine still attributes these postings to Scopelight LTD, but the reviews tell the tale:

wesadaf Clone CBS Flash Application $ 250 in 3 days 05-17-2008 10
Comments: It was a pleasure to work with coco. Very clear requirements and fast payment. Looking forward to work again with him.

Surfthechannel wins court case against FACT in UK

Nick Brett specialises in the defence of FACT prosecutions and copyright offences. It is a tribute to both his determination and ability that he and junior counsel (acting alone) pitted against an entire team from FACT, won this case on behalf of his delighted clients at first instance.


Friday, 3 July 2009

Creating a safe harbour for online surfing

Friday, July 3, 2009

WIRED: European search engine start-ups face a quandary: is linking to infringing material in itself illegal?

YOU DON'T hear much about police barrelling into Google and demanding that it shut down its search engine.

Stranger things could happen though. In the UK, anti-piracy group UK-Fact arranged for a raid on website SurfTheChannel on the grounds that it was being used to access infringing material.

SurfTheChannel is, like Google, a search engine: it points to the content of other websites but does not host the content itself.

In the end, the criminal charge was dropped, although UK-Fact is continuing to pursue a civil case against the owners of SurfTheChannel.

However, its case struggles with the same problem that anyone pursuing a search engine must fight and that every search engine must fear: is linking to infringing (or illegal) material in itself illegal?

Here's the scenario. You type "torrent Star Trek movie" into the Pirate Bay and (I imagine) you'll get a list of links to files that, eventually, will allow you to download an infringing version of the latest Star Trek blockbuster.

For many people, including the judge in the recent Pirate Bay case, this showed that the Pirate Bay was a contributor to the infringement - and should therefore pay the price.

But type the same thing into Google and you will probably find the same infringing content.

So what's the difference? Should Google be thrown into jail along with the Pirate Bay founders and SurfTheChannel's service?

Any lawyer will tell you that the answer to this question takes you into murky waters, especially in Europe.

But "it depends" is hardly a business-friendly answer, especially as there is no obvious way to satisfy demands that search engines should not link to infringing content.

A decent search engine will index and identify billions of webpages, some of which are infringing and some of which are not.

Despite what rightsholders often insist, there is no way to tell whether content is infringing. Even rightsholders themselves frequently have no idea of the legal status of content.

To make a search engine liable for millions of links it has no way of policing would effectively kill any website that seeks to act as a complete guide to the internet.

Thankfully for big companies based in the US (and anyone trying to find their way around the internet), the situation is more settled there.

In the US, the law specifically carves out a protection against liability for "information location tools" - search engines, in other words.

It is the same sort of "safe harbour" that protects web hosting services from being sued over their customers' content and internet service providers and mobile phone companies from being penalised for making temporary caches of websites to cut down connection costs and speed up connections.

No such protection exists in Europe for search engines. However the very fact that these US search engine companies are so large and, moreover, have large subsidiaries in Europe and beyond, gives them a little more protection from midnight raids than start-ups like SurfTheChannel.

It also provides them with something of an economic advantage over any upstart European search engine.

When Bing, the new Microsoft search engine, was launched, only a few noted that its "video search" effectively embedded copyrighted content on to Microsoft's own website (try typing The Office into its video search and see what happens).

If that had been a European search engine launched by a plucky new start-up, you can bet that its lawyers would have warned them off such a feature.

This effectively means that one of the biggest selling points of Microsoft's Google competitor is out of bounds for any European contender.

We could update the European law - the e-commerce directive - to match the US's exclusions for liability.

The problem though is that big media companies like music labels and (increasingly) the newspaper industry would like the pendulum to swing the other way.

They would like companies like Google to pay a licence for linking to available content and are willing to lobby for that to be made part of European law.

If rightsholder lobbyists get away with that, it would mean even more of a lockdown for the big US companies, as only Google and its corporate contemporaries have the billions to pay for licensing the rest of the internet.

European start-ups would somehow have to find the cash to pay for every link they provided - and in advance.

Getting venture capital, always difficult in the EU, would become impossible for "information location tool" vendors.

Perhaps the best solution would be for individual countries in the EU to make themselves more business friendly.

The e-commerce directive already allows individual nations to carve out wider exceptions than those listed.

Countries like Spain, Portugal and Austria have all included some protection to search engines, as well as anyone providing a weblink to another website.

Perhaps Ireland could create its own "safe harbour" in national law for new internet start-ups.

That way, we could draw investment from other countries who want the benefit of being able to find what we need on the internet but are scared to alienate the vested interests who would rather choke it.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Surfthechannel distributing malware but Google still thinks it's safe site?

Safe Browsing
Diagnostic page for
What is the current listing status for

This site is not currently listed as suspicious.

What happened when Google visited this site?

Of the 4789 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 66 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2009-06-30, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-06-25.
Malicious software includes 64 exploit(s), 12 trojan(s), 7 worm(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 8 new process(es) on the target machine.

Malicious software is hosted on 37 domain(s), including,,

22 domain(s) appear to be functioning as intermediaries for distributing malware to visitors of this site, including,,

This site was hosted on 2 network(s) including AS22822 (LLNW), AS16371 (ACENS_AS).

Has this site acted as an intermediary resulting in further distribution of malware?

Over the past 90 days, did not appear to function as an intermediary for the infection of any sites.

Has this site hosted malware?

No, this site has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days.

Safe Browsing
Diagnostic page for AS22822 (LLNW)
What happened when Google visited sites hosted on this network?

Of the 2075 site(s) we tested on this network over the past 90 days, 21 site(s), including, for example,,,, served content that resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent.

The last time Google tested a site on this network was on 2009-06-30, and the last time suspicious content was found was on 2009-06-30.

Surfthechannel updates on Twitter

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

How popular is users come from these countries:

36.9% United States
13.3% United Kingdom
8.2% Canada
4.7% Germany
2.7% Australia
2.4% India
2.3% Ireland 2

Alexa Rank

221 Canada
251 United Kingdom
500 Australia
627 United States

2008 Year-End Google Zeitgeist

After a whirlwind year of election news, economy woes, and the lead-up to the showstopping Summer Games in Beijing, we're looking back to see what was on the minds of Americans through it all. One thing's for sure: it was a wild ride.

"Fastest rising" means we looked at the most popular searches conducted for 11 months of 2008 (we compile this list by early December) and ranked them based on how much their frequency increased compared to 2007. - Fastest Rising (U.S.)

1. obama
2. facebook
3. att
4. iphone
5. youtube
6. fox news
7. palin
8. beijing 2008
9. david cook
10. surf the channel

Surfthechannel operator Anton Vickerman ex-Suprnova co-admin FD / TheShadow? could never have run without the forum been there, the forum has been run by a few different people in the past, but is now in the hands of a guy called anton Vickerman (FD aka TheShadow)

This is a money driven guy, If the is no cash there, he wont be either.
Over the last few months we have seen a massive change in nova, this is due to methlabs paying slon an extreamly large amount of money to drop Bittorrent and use the mass amount of people that come to nova to promote there new p2p software to, As the forum is the heart of suprnova, everyone from the site can go there and talk to eachother, MY advice to anyone going there still is ask lots of questions,

Its a shame to see so many people sticking up for suprnova when they are unaware of what they are actually sticking up for.

It use to be a very good torrent dump site, now its a cash machine for the owners.

Its time for you guys to wise up and relise that suprnova is dead, now is the time for them to rake in as much money as possible.

I wouldnt be suprised if slon was on the run, someone did put his real home address in the irc channel (he used it when he first registerd suprnova) also i wouldnt be suprised if FD aka the shadow had something coming to him aswell as he made the same misstake when first registering his old sites, i know his real home address was even floating around as a torrent so quite a few people must have it.

So il say it again, suprnova is dead, now is the time of the money makers

by Family Friend on January 29, 2005 at 2:13 pm


So the RIAA and MPAA are celebrating what must seem like a number of glorious victories in their longstanding crusade against public file sharing. Due to a number of raids and repeated threats of severe legal action, many of the most popular file sharing sites decided to shut up shop last week. The most notable of which was the legendary BitTorrent Mecca, Sloncek, the owner and creator of suprnova, after seeing what was happening in the community made the brave decision to close the site rather than face a possible prison sentence. But how did the authorities manage to wreak such havoc when they've failed many times before? Simple. They went after the site owners.

Greetings everybody,

As you have probably noticed, we have often had downtimes. This was because it was so hard to keep this site up! But now we are sorry to inform you all, that SuprNova is closing down for good in the way that we all know it. We do not know if SuprNova is going to return, but it is certainly not going to be hosting any more torrent links. We are very sorry for this, but there was no other way, we have tried everything.

Thank you all that helped us, by donating mirrors or something else, by uploading and seeding files, by helping people out on IRC and on forum, by spreading the word about It is a sad day for all of us!

Please visit every once in a while to get the latest news on what is happening and if there is anything new to report on.

As we wish to maintain the nice community that we created, we are keeping forums and irc servers open.

Thank you all and Goodbye!
sloncek & the rest of the SuprNova Team

There was a sudden outpouring of rage and sorrow amongst the many users of the site, but nothing could be done. By the end of the day, several more sites vanished and the BitTorrent scene had been almost obliterated. FD, moderator of the Suprnova forum, formerly the largest Invision Power Board in existence, removed all content relating to BitTorrent and banned any torrent related discussions. This bold move has spread to many more File Sharing boards preventing them from be taken to court.


Sloncek and Brokep Interview Podcast

About me July 30, 2007
Posted by sloncek in Uncategorized.
My name is Andrej Preston and I go by the nickname sloncek (little elephant). I used to own, but I gave it away since I decided to pursue a different career path. I moved to San Francisco to study Producing (Motion Picture & Television). On my blog I write what has happened to me here an what is going on in my life, how school is and what kind of things I have learned. I used to write about personal conflicts with other people here, but it did not end up nice.



SuprNova Forums Close - Merges with Snarf-It
by SlyckTom » Wed Mar 30, 2005 5:00 pm

The SuprNova Forums (SNF) was perhaps one of the busiest communities during the latter part of 2004. Although it shared a similar name as the BitTorrent listing site, it was not owned or operated by administrator Sloncek. This allowed the site to grow in a unique fashion; uninterrupted by any third party influences.

However, those third party influences would come to a head on December 15th, 2004 when SuprNova announced it was closing its doors forever. Initial distraught turned to optimism when it was learned Sloncek was developing a supposed next generation BitTorrent protocol named eXeem. Unfortunately, this turned once again to disappointment as it was learned the program had nothing to do with BitTorrent (labeled as "irrelevant" by Bram Cohen) and included the dreaded cydoor.

All that was left of SuprNova at this point was the SNF. While the community portion of the site continued to exist, the now non-existence BitTorrent aspect became a detriment to its popularity. To regain that BitTorrent fuel that sparked such a diverse community, SuprNovaForums has decided to merge with Snarf-it's forums. Snarf-it has proven to be a quality BitTorrent tracker and listing site since its introduction on the SNF.

"The forum has been seeing an obvious decrease in regulars attending due to the fact of SuprNova closing." explains SuprNovaForum administrator 'FD.' "It was obvious that we needed to do something to preserve the fantastic community we have there, I decided that as was born in SNF, that it was the logical choice for us to become the community."

While some forum members undoubtedly expressed concern regarding the loss of SNFs' identity, 'FD' assures its members the spirit that made this community great will still remain.

"Everything will remain, memberships, posts, and all, we have the db and everything backed up, we will be reskinning and removing any links with SuprNova is all. This is a fresh start but with all of the old members, we built up the biggest Invision board in the world so we aren't going to just delete it and start again. I couldn't bring myself to press the button that wiped 330,000 members. The rules will stay the same as well, there will be zero tolerance of people posting direct torrent links or cracks etc on the forum, this policy has kept the SNF safe from harm over the years and I'll be making sure the same happens with Snarf-It forums."

The volume of information being transferred to Snarf-It has proven more time consuming than anticipated. 'FD' states what was supposed to take one hour has turned into a day and-a-half affair.

"Whilst looking through the server and checking a few things it looked in bad shape system wise so I've decided on a re-image to bring it's OS and krnl up to date, this will be done tomorrow morning and we should have the forum up and running by 6pm BST (*crosses fingers.)"

With the emerging prominence of Snarf-It and backup of SuprNova's old community, interesting things may once again flourish in the BitTorrent community. In addition, Snarf-It plans to implement a script that will index "every single live torrent on the net (approximately 110,000) in addition to supporting eMule links." While BitTorrent fans hope Snarf-It resurrects SuprNova’s successful history, many hope to avoid its duplication.

Nov 17 2004, 11:41 AM Post #2

im preddy sure all advertising is done by a 3'd party. ie, a company is being paid a fee to find people that want to pay a fee to advertise on suprnova.

i may be wrong though. try PM'ing either "FD" or "Sloncek" gone forever


Well, it seems that it was going to happen sometime, but is finally gone forever. There have been a lot of torrent sites that have closed recently, including Youceff. Even tho suprnova's servers were located in Slovenia, but were shut down despite the fact that foreign laws dont apply there.

* Now talking in
* Topic is 'SuprNova is from today on DOWN. It will not be returning in any way that we know it now. We are very sorry for this, but it is not possible any other way. Thank you all for all your help! SuprNova crew '
* Set by sloncek on Sun Dec 19 16:08:10

This is not a joke either. FD said that suprnova will not be returning.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Court Warns Police Over Private Affairs

Scopelight Limited & others v Northumbria Police and FACT, 19 June 2009

by Nick Peel


The claimant, Scopelight Limited, ran a website ( with a video search engine with thousands of links to third-party website videos. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) represents the interests of the audiovisual industry.
Investigations by FACT suggested the claimant company and its owners, Anton Benjamin Vickerman and Kelly-Anne Vickerman,a married couple from Gateshead, were hosting internet sites from which copyrighted material was being downloaded. Northumbria Police applied for a section 8 warrant under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) to search the claimants' premises, resulting in 31 items of property being seized, including the computer towers and servers. The force handed some items to FACT.
By 12 December 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to prosecute. The force notified the claimants of this, indicating that the property could be returned.All property subsequently came into FACT's possession. Following the CPS decision, FACT decided to bring a private criminal prosecution.
On 22 January 2009, the claimants began proceedings for return of the property and damages for conversion. A day later, FACT alerted the force of its decision to bring a private prosecution. On 28 January, the claimant applied for an interim order for delivery of the property, which Mrs Justice Sharp granted. On 12 February, FACT began the private prosecution.


The defendants argued that once the property was lawfully seized for the purposes of a criminal investigation, it was immaterial whether any subsequent prosecution was undertaken by the CPS or FACT, as long as the material was retained for use as evidence in connection with the alleged offence. The claimants argued that the private actions of people and bodies form no part of the police service's functions. So once the CPS decided not to prosecute, retaining the property to assist FACT in its private prosecution fell outside the scope of PACE.
On 7th May, at the High Court, Mrs Justice Sharp agreed with the claimants. While acknowledging that the force had a duty to prevent crime, those powers were not unlimited. The judge observed that there was 'an obvious distinction between what may be desirable in a particular case, and what is permissible as a matter of law'


While a disappointment for FACT, this decision draws a clear line between interference with private property for public purposes under PACE and the prosecution of private interests.

Nick Peel is a sollicitor at Weightmans, specialising in police law

WE WANT IT BACK; Couple's fight for return of computer equipment

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), April 6, 2009


A HIGH Court tug of war is being waged by a couple of internet entrepreneurs and a web watchdog.

Police seized property and equipment from Anton and Kelly-Anne Vickerman when they raided their Tyneside home last year.

The couple, who run the video search engine SurfTheChannel.

com, were arrested at their home in Deckham, Gateshead, on suspicion on conspiracy to defraud.

But the decision was taken not to prosecute and the couple are now fighting to get back their computer equipment.

They say it contains confidential information vital to their company Scopelight Ltd.

In a case which raises legal issues never before considered by the courts, they are seeking a judicial ruling that the items, which the police have passed on to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), should be returned to them.

Their barrister, Donald McCue, accused police of acting as "handmaidens" of FACT , even though it is a private organisation.

This, he said, meant it does not have the "faintest right" to retain any of the property as it is simply a "commercial organisation".

The Vickermans insist their company is legitimate and is a "signpost" website containing links to other internet sites, a bit like a very comprehensive online version of the Radio Times.

But Richard Spearman, QC, representing Northumbria Police and FACT, argued FACT is entitled to hold on to the seized property while it considers a private prosecution.

He described the Vickermans' challenge as "an ambitious and misconceived attempt to stymie a private prosecution".

Mr Spearman went on: "In pursuit of that objective, the claimants have resorted to arguments that are as extravagant as they are novel and which, if right, would have a dramatic affect on many criminal proceedings in this country."

After two days of legal argument, Mrs Justice Sharp recognised the significance of the case by saying she would reserve her judgment to a later date..

Can Someone Please Tell Us How You Determine What's A 'Legal' Search Engine From An 'Illegal' One?

Can Someone Please Tell Us How You Determine What's A 'Legal' Search Engine From An 'Illegal' One?

from the is-it-like-obscenity? dept
I've had a lot of trouble with courts around the globe pinning blame on search engines for what they find, using a questionable interpretation of the law for "contributory" infringement or "inducing" infringement. Such things leave open such a wide spectrum of questions, it basically puts any search engine at risk. People have questioned in the past why Google isn't targeted the same way The Pirate Bay or Torrentspy were, because functionally they're doing the same thing: they index information and help people find it. Of course, some will say that The Pirate Bay is somehow guilty because of the way it acts towards copyright holders, but since when has attitude changed whether the same action is legal or illegal?

Either way it's beginning to feel like judges are determining what is and what is not contributory infringement in the same way "obscenity" is determined, using Justice Potter Stewart's famous "I know it when I see it" test. This is a bad thing, because while some may claim the extremes are clear (which is certainly questionable) there's a large gray area in the middle that is completely unclear. And having a huge unclear gray area means a lot of potential liability on innovators -- leading fewer people to innovate. And that's undeniably bad.

Take for example, the situation going on in the UK, where Anton Benjamin Vickerman and his wife Kelly-Anne Vickerman decided to do something that makes a lot of sense: create a search engine for videos online, indexing a variety of different sites. This was as a part of their company Scopelight, and the search engine itself was called Surfthechannel. This is certainly a useful product. But, of course, the search engine's algorithm has no way of knowing if that video has been put up by the copyright holder on purpose or if it's unauthorized. Even more tricky, how does it determine fair use? So, it did the reasonable thing: it includes everything. Lots of the videos are legal. Plenty are potentially unauthorized. Apparently that wasn't good enough for a UK-based anti-piracy group UK-FACT, who had Scopelight's premises raided, claiming the site is illegal, since people can find unauthorized content via it. Of course, you can find unauthorized content on Google as well.

But you know who's liable for that? Whoever actually put it online. Not the search engine that pointed you to it.

UK-FACT was unable to get criminal charges filed against SurfTheChannel, but no matter, a civil case has been filed instead. So, once again, a judge is going to have to determine why a third party website can be guilty of others' infringement based on a highly subjective "I know it when I see it" set of reasons. This is a bad deal for everyone.