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Anton Vickerman, 38-year old owner of the once popular link site surfthechannel.com (STC), was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday by a British judge. But the prosecutors sitting across the courtroom from him didn't work for The Crown—they were lawyers for the movie studio trade group Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
FACT, not public officials in the UK, was the driving force behind Vickerman's prosecution. Indeed, FACT effectively took on the role of a private law enforcement agency. Private investigators hired by FACT first identified Vickerman as the administrator of STC and built the case against him. His assets were frozen at FACT's request by a government agency—which was itself funded by FACT. And when the UK's public prosecutors decided not to press charges against Vickerman at all, FACT initiated a criminal prosecution on its own dime.