SurfTheChannel hosted no infringing videos, rather it linked to existing content online
For a while it looked like things were a bit better in the UK compared to the US or other parts of the world when it came to copyright infringement issues. But that's clearly no longer the case. Let alone extraditing people to the US to face copyright-infringement related charges, a court sentenced the operator of SurfTheChannel, a link site, to four years in prison for "facilitating" copyright infringement.The site, like many others, hosted links to videos that in some cases, perhaps in many cases, were infringing. But all of those videos were hosted elsewhere and were uploaded by various individuals. All that SurfTheChannel did was point people to them.
The MPAA and FACT, the local anti-piracy group, hated it so much that it hired a private detective to go into the site owner's house and snoop around. When he was raided later on, FACT tagged along with the police.
FACT being a private, commercial organization. And this organization had the police, paid from UK citizens' pockets, to do its dirty work.
Still, there had been several similar cases like this in the UK and the courts logically found that the owners did nothing illegal. That wasn't the case this time around, the owner of the site was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to four years. His wife, who was also arrested was found not guilty.
Four years of hard time not for actually infringing on anyone's copyrights, but for making it "easier" for others to do this. Google makes it easier for people to infringe, in fact, the internet as a whole has made it a lot easier to pirate stuff. And it would be harder still if there were no computers.
Thankfully, Tim Berners Lee isn't in jail, yet. But how would his invention have been received in today's environment. Would the world wide web have been heralded as a revolution for knowledge and access to information or as an illicit tool to share infringing content?
The MPAA, RIAA and the rest of them are probably kicking themselves for not having the foresight to ban, block or at least censor the web when it first came about.