A website owner who created and ran one of the world’s most popular pirate websites has been sentenced to four years imprisonment in the UK.

Anton Vickerman, creator of website surfthechannel, has been sentenced to four years in prison for hosting illegal copies of films and TV programmes.

He was found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud by “facilitating” the infringement of copyright on 27th June 2012 after an eight week trial.

The website attracted more than 400,000 visitors per day, ranking among the top 500 websites globally.

Vickerman ran surfthechannel as a business through a limited company, Scopelight Ltd, and was generating income of over £300,000 per year. Profits from the company were funnelled to a bank account in Latvia operated by an offshore company based in Dominica.

According to the UK’s Federation Against Copyright (FACT) Vickerman targeted pirated films, including those not yet released at the cinema, which he and his staff secretly and anonymously uploaded to third party sites before linking to them via surfthechannel. Members of the surfthechannel community were also encouraged to find, check and add links.

Kieron Sharp, FACT director general, said: “This case conclusively shows that running a website that deliberately sets out to direct users to illegal copies of films and TV shows will result in a criminal conviction and a long jail sentence.

“Mr Vickerman knew what he was doing from the outset, having been involved in the pirate community for some time. This was not a passive search engine. Surfthechannel was created specifically to make money from criminal activity and it became the biggest site of its kind on the internet within two years.

“The sentencing indicates the severity of the offences committed and the sophistication of his criminal enterprise and should send a very strong message to those running similar sites that they can be found, arrested and end up in prison.”