Anton Vickerman has been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud through surfthechannel.com in a case raising fears for internet freedom.
Newcastle crown court heard Anton Vickerman's site had up to 400,000 users a day and made about £ 35,000 a month in revenue. While UK prosecutors did not pursue a case on copyright offences, Vickerman was found guilty
of conspiracy to defraud and faces sentencing next month.
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), a trade organisation of rights owners, was a driving force behind the prosecution of Vickerman, passing a dossier of evidence to police, who then arrested him in 2008.
Others, however, raised concerns about the nature of the conviction against Vickerman and the involvement of industry groups in obtaining it. UK Pirate party leader Loz Kaye said:
This was not a case brought using copyright law. The interest groups involved couldn't present a case of copyright infringement and instead decided to press for the use of the common law offence of 'conspiracy to defraud'. This is one of the most
controversial crimes in English law -- it criminalises conduct by two or more people that would not be criminal when performed by an individual.
In addition to flying in the face of recent findings in similar cases, this prosecution was driven by private interests. It is well known that the very groups representing the victim helped with the investigation, were present at the arrest, given access
to the evidence and were present at police interviews. This is deeply concerning.
Paul Chambers who was convicted for tweeting a an obvious joke about blowing up an airport received celebrity backing as he challenged his fine in the High Court. Comedians Stephen Fry and Al Murray were on hand to lighten the mood.
The tweet in question read: Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!
The accountant said he sent the tweet to his 600 followers in a moment of frustration after the airport in South Yorkshire was closed by snow in January 2010. He claimed it was sent in jest and he never thought anyone would take his silly joke seriously.
But he was ludicrously fined £985 at Doncaster Magistrates' Court in May 2010 after being convicted of sending a message of a menacing character , contrary to provisions of the 2003 Communications Act.
Opening a new bid to overturn his conviction and sentence, John Cooper QC told Lord Judge, Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams that the wrong legal tests had been applied. He said that the message was sent on a timeline on the Twitter
facility to Chambers' followers and not as a randomly searched-for communication, and the relevant section of the Act was never intended by Parliament to deal with messages to the world at large .
To constitute a menace, he added, the threat must be of such a nature that the mind of an ordinary person of normal stability and courage might be influenced. Also, the person sending the message must intend to threaten the person to whom the
message was sent - in other words, it was a crime of specific intent.
The case was heard and judgement was reserved until a later date.
An artist who displayed in public drawings of same-sex kissing between Disney characters said she never intended to offend anyone.
Sian Jones has been criticised after she displayed the drawings at a Guernsey Arts Commission event on Sunday.
One of the drawings, A Whole New World , depicted Aladdin and Eric, from the Little Mermaid , kissing,
Miss Jones has defended her decision to show the images:
I remember learning at university that art should be about making people question their views and react, so in those terms it was a success.
Not that the whinges were overly stressing though. Miss Jones was approached by two young girls who said the pictures were disgusting. And a Guernsey teacher criticised the public display of the pictures.
After the story appeared, and the NSS took it up, the Lincolnshire Police issued a statement saying that there was no such police threat to John Richards.
But it did admit that if a complaint was received, an officer would attend and try to persuade Richards to take the poster down. If he refused - which he said he would -he would be arrested.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said:
The police response more or less confirms what Mr Richards is saying - if he insists on exercising free speech in the face of objections from someone who claims to be insulted or offended, then he will be arrested and possibly charged.
This is another example of the dangerous catch all nature of Section 5 of the Public Order Act and a strong argument for it to be radically changed to remove this threat to free expression.
Update: Christians and atheists unite against the police
It seems the police again reached for the notoriously over-broad Section 5 of the Public Order Act which outlaws 'insulting words or behaviour'.
Christians who have themselves been on the wrong-end of Section 5 would sympathise strongly with Mr Richards.
It is an intimidating experience for law-abiding people to be told by officers that their beliefs are against the law. Even where no arrest is ever made, it exerts a dangerous chilling effect on free speech.
A sex shop has won a Diamond Jubilee contest prize for having Bournemouth's best window display.
The Easy Tiger store in The Triangle was crowned as winner for its red, white and blue display with slogans including polish your crown jewels and keep calm, keep it up .
The win was down to a public vote, and Easy Tiger's 87 votes were 40 higher than their closest rival. But some nutters were suitably 'shocked'. Richard Marshall said:
I am disgusted that a sex shop in Bournemouth's Triangle has been handed the prestigious best window display award. I don't understand how a picture of a man lifting his T-shirt up to show his pants can be described as tasteful or respectful to her
Easy Tiger was presented with the Best Independent Jubilee Window Display by the Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce at the Hotel Miramar. The chamber's vice-president Mandy Payne said it made everyone smile when the winner was announced.
Jonathan Spencer, owner of Easy Tiger, said:
We have shoppers from 18 to 80 odd and try to offer products to all generations. By making our windows cheeky and humorous, we hope to challenge the traditional perception of a blacked-out, seedy sex shop.
Kudos also to the Beep Studio in Bournemouth which worked with the shop on the window display.
Argyll and Bute Council are in the news for falling foul of the Streisand Effect, the act of trying to suppress information but simply making it more widespread as a result.
Martha Payne, from Argyll, was writing about her school dinners on her NeverSeconds blog, taking pictures of them and offering ratings for their nutritional value.
But Argyll and Bute Council banned her from taking photos of her school's food, saying press coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.
However, they reckoned without the Streisand Effect, which saw the photo ban make headline news in some of the nation's biggest media organisations and the story spiral into a much bigger one that it ever was before.
The furore forced the local authority to reverse the ban, with the leader issuing a bollox propaganda statement claiming that there was no place for censorship on the council.
Presumably these services were designed for parents to implement on their kid's internet devices. In this scenario, 'better safe than sorry' makes sense and the kids aren't going to worry about missing a few things. However this approach is inadequate
for a 'one size fits all' model applied to the whole family. The censors the need to ditch their gung-ho over-blocking and take a little bit more time (and money) to properly classify sites for age.
But if you are responsible for a site and have found it is blocked, you will also want to get in touch with the mobile networks concerned to check that it is blocked on their network and to get the site removed from the filters so everybody can access it
One of the points in our report was that it can be too difficult to do this - you can read about Coadec's problems trying to get their site removed from Orange's Safeguard on their blog.
The mobile networks have told us they are working on improving the way that these reports can be made, which is great. I wanted to do a quick update on progress so far. So I asked the networks what the best way to get in touch with them about this would
be. If you are trying to contact the operators to get your site unblocked, here's what the networks offer at the moment:
For the moment, Vodafone have asked that these requests go to this email address: email@example.com
They are planning to have a more specific address available soon. [The mediaRelations email address just about sys it all]
Orange and T-Mobile
The email address to use is firstname.lastname@example.org and can be used for reports relating to both Orange and T-Mobile.
O2 have a useful URL checker
, which also allows people to check sites' classification - which says whether and why a site is blocked - and to report if they consider the site to be classified incorrectly.
Three told us their official position at the moment is: if a Three customer believes a website is being incorrectly blocked then they should call our Customer Services team. We are currently reviewing how best customers can contact us to report these
Paul Chambers, the victim of extreme police over reaction when he posted a message on Twitter joking:
Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
He was ludicrously convicted in May 2011 of sending a menacing electronic communication at Doncaster Magistrates Court last year. An initial appeal was dismissed, leading Chambers' legal team to escalate the challenge to the High Court.
Now a two-judge hearing at the High Court has ordered a new hearing to go ahead, after being unable to reach an agreed decision.
A campaign in support of Chambers has attracted various high-profile Twitter users, including Stephen Fry, Graham Linehan and Al Murray. A support fund has also been established to help pay for his legal fees as he fights the case.
From the campaign: Scottish Councils: Scrap Public Entertainment Licence Fees.
Thank you for supporting our campaign on Public Entertainment Licences in Scotland.
You might be aware that City of Edinburgh Council already conducted a public consultation on the issue. Glasgow City Council have now followed suit, and we'd like to encourage as many supporters as possible to complete their survey and ensure that your
voice and opinion is represented.
We are continuing to campaign on behalf of artists, community organisations and venues across Scotland. We are particularly keen to hear from anyone in areas outside Glasgow and Edinburgh interested in forming a network to keep us updated on developments
in your area, such as events that may have been forced to pay, events that might not have taken place, no matter how large or small. Please contact us via the petition website. It is important that we have a better picture of what is happening across the
country as we form a national strategy for the campaign.
A new ISPreview.co.uk survey of 728 internet access subscribers in the United Kingdom has found that the majority of respondents (84%) are against any proposals which might force broadband providers into imposing mandatory adult website blocks by
default. The introduction of such a system, which could be applied to all internet accounts in the UK, is being sought by campaigners led by Claire Perry MP.
According to the study, nearly all of the biggest domestic ISPs have, since last year's agreement with the UK government, started to adopt an Active Choice system that provides customers (e.g. parents) with an enforced option to block adult
web content at the point of purchase.
Some 74% of respondents to the survey said they were in favor of ISPs offering optional parental control solutions. But, when respondents were asked whether or not they thought ISPs had done enough to protect children online, more than half (55%) said
Yes, 23% gave a flat no and 22% were not sure.
ISPreview.co.uk's Founder, Mark Jackson, said:
It's encouraging to see ISPs offer customers more options to filter out adult content and we'd like to see that continue. But at the same time we should be careful not to impose mandatory opt-in internet filters, which risk lulling parents into a false
sense of security and encouraging state sponsored censorship through mission creep. Parents must be given more trust to act on their own initiative. Sadly some MPs are already proposing stiffer measures, before the 'Active Choice' solution has even been
given chance to work, which only adds to the ever growing burden of new legislation that internet providers are being asked to shoulder.
We must never forget that website blocking measures are also easy to circumvent (children often know the best methods), can restrict legitimate sites (clothing retailers, sex education/medical content etc.) and cost huge amounts of money to develop. BT
is alleged to have spent £ 500k developing its Cleanfeed solution and that's enough to put smaller ISPs out of business. We should instead be focusing on education and awareness, as well as boosting the availability of
Active Choice so that the industry can adapt through self-regulation.
For reasons unknown, British Airways has started submitting cut versions of films to the film censors of the BBFC.
The films are submitted for a Video on Demand rating and are noted as an Airline Version.
Assuming that the British Airways video system works on NTSC with the same running times as cinema versions, then the first 3 examples have been pre-cut as follows:
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Pre-cut by 1:02s It received a PG certificate without BBFC cuts. Note that the longer and uncut cinema version was also rated a PG with the same consumer advice: contains mild action adventure
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was more illuminating. The Airline Version was pre-cut by 1:23s for a 12 rating (the same as the cinema version) but the cuts resulted in a change of consumer advice. The Cinema Version reads: Contains one
use of strong language and moderate sex references . The Airline Version advice reads: Contains infrequent strong language and moderate sex references.
The Wrath of Titans. The airline version was pre-cut by 2:24s. The 12 rating and consumer advice was unchanged from the uncut cinema version.
Proposals forcing a default block on adult content would be a mistake , Google has said. Speaking at its Big Tent forum, the company warned against allowing private companies to manage lists of inappropriate websites.
Sarah Hunter, Google's head of public policy, said the search giant was strongly in favour of education over technical measures. She said:
We believe that children shouldn't be seeing pornography online. We disagree on the mechanisms. It's not that easy
There is a problem about the extent to which we deskill parents by giving them simple solutions.
We should be making more effort than we've done in the past to make sure parents really do know the risks children face online.
TalkTalk ISP recently introduced an option for parents to block adult content at a network level.
It's a great way of managing what children can see. We don't see that as censorship, it's about choice, said Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk's executive director of strategy and regulation. However, he warned against filters being on by default,
describing it as a slippery slope:
I think the government should be encouraging ISPs to offer [blocking]. Certainly do not force them to turn it to default on. We step over this Rubicon into a dangerous world.
TalkTalk's filtering system is managed by security firm Symantec. It administers a list of blocked sites.
Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, warned against the privatisation of freedom of expression:
Who decides what is blocked? Who puts together these lists? This is a form of censorship.
We're talking about putting legal communication, information, either out of bounds or something you have to turn on to be part of that free world.
Violent scenes were filmed by the media as bailiffs evicted travellers from part of the Dale Farm site.
The police claimed they needed the footage from organisations like the BBC and BSkyB to pursue prosecutions. The police obtained court disclosure orders to obtain the material from Judge Gratwicke at Chelmsford Crown Court in February.
The BBC, Independent Television News, BSkyB, Channel 5, Hardcash Productions and freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson joined forces to oppose the orders. Their lawyers said the media risked becoming seen as coppers' narks if they were forced
Now the High Court has said that the police had failed to make a sufficiently strong case and broadcasters viewed the orders as a fishing expedition for evidence. The previous court have now been quashed by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Eady.
In a written judgement, Mr Justice Eady said it was difficult to dispute there was a real public interest in tracing people involved in public disorder or violence. But he said that had to be set against the level of interference with the media's right
to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Essex Police had to demonstrate that the degree of interference and the wide scope of the production order was necessary and proportionate , he said. However, there was nothing to justify any such conclusion .
Mr Justice Eady said disclosure orders can never be granted as a formality , and while police should not be discouraged from seeking to obtain material in future, it is not easy to do so and it should not be easy .
New Zealand comedy Hounds Producers of a new TV sitcom have renamed a dog character, after a complaint that it was a reference to notorious murder cases.
The New Zealand comedy Hounds featured a greyhound called Lundybainwatson. It is a reference to killers Mark Lundy and Scott Watson, who were both jailed for life for double killings, plus David Bain, who was convicted of murdering his family but
acquitted after 13 years behind bars.
Bain's lawyer, Joe Karam, complained to chiefs at the TV3 station, saying that it was in extremely poor taste , as well as a slur on Bain's name to associate him with the two killers.
Executives at TV3 agreed, and told producers they must over-dub the lines before the show goes out in a fortnight.
The Royal College of Nursing passed a motion calling for more education and awareness about the risks of children playing adult-rated games. At their annual conference in Harrogate, they claimed exposure to these images could harm children.
Nurses said some products on the market were littered with explicit references to violence, sex and drug-taking.
The nurses cited the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who was said to have trained for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer by using games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the World of Warcraft.
Britain has added its condemnation to the unprecedented lashing sentence against Iranian cartoonist Mahmud Shokraye.
He was sentenced to 25 lashes earlier this week over his depiction of conservative lawmaker Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani as a football player. Ashtiani is noted for interfering in sports issues.
A British Foreign Office statement said:
Charges should never have been brought at all for this innocuous act, but it is sadly not surprising given the government has consistently shown such flagrant disregard for its citizens' rights and freedoms.
In an earlier joint statement, a dozen Iran-based websites condemned Shokraye's sentence and warned that it sets a dangerous precedent. The statement noted that drawing cartoons of politicians, including of Iranian presidents and other top officials, is
common in Iran.
An Iranian MP who brought a case against a cartoonist that resulted in a sentence of 25 lashes has withdrawn his complaint after widespread condemnation of the artist's conviction.
Mahmoud Shokraye was found guilty of insulting Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, MP for Arak, in a cartoon he drew of the parliamentarian in Nameye Amir, a city newspaper.
In an unprecedented punishment for an Iranian cartoonist, a media law court in Arak handed down a sentence of 25 lashes, triggering domestic and international outcry among Shokraye's colleagues and human rights organisations.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Ashtiani had withdrawn his complaint. Experts familiar with Iranian law said it would mean the cartoonist's conviction would be quashed.
In response to the artist's sentence, cartoonists launched a campaign of drawing new caricatures of the MP, with many Iranians and their colleagues across the world contributing by posting their cartoons online. The Guardian's Martin Rowson also
contributed by drawing Ashtiani in a nappy with a lash in his mouth.
A magazine is being prosecuted for potentially putting the Stephen Lawrence trial in danger of collapse.
The Spectator is accused of breaching a court order preventing prejudicial material being published before jurors reached verdicts.
An article written by Rod Liddle called defendants Gary Dobson and David Norris disgusting racists during the Old Bailey trial. Liddle wrote that Dobson and Norris were part of a bigger group of suspects who had been named in the press, including
Jamie Acourt and Luke Knight. He also said that Norris had a father who was a major criminal.
Mr Justice Treacy said the Spectator article titled A Vindictive Charade breached three specific sections of the contempt order placed on the case by the Lord Chief Justice in the appeal court, and continued at the trial. He referred the magazine
to the Attorney General for contempt of court in November.
The Spectator took down the article from its website that afternoon.
The Spectator said it would admit the offence and faces a fine of up to £ 5,000. Had it faced the alternative of contempt of court charges any penalty could have been far greater.
The UK High Court has ruled that several ISPs including Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay file sharing website.
The blocking process was established in law by the media industry action against the Newzbin2 Usenet indexing site last year. A few weeks later a conglomerate of music labels filed a lawsuit against several Internet providers, demanding that they block
subscriber access to The Pirate Bay.
Nine labels including EMI, Polydor, Sony, Virgin and Warner said that The Pirate Bay infringes their copyrights and that several ISPs including TalkTalk and Virgin Media should implement a blockade under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
In February the High Court agreed that The Pirate Bay and its users do indeed breach copyright on a major scale, and this decision has now been followed by a court order.
ISPs Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media must censor The Pirate Bay website in the weeks to come. A sixth ISP, BT, has asked for more time to consider its position.
The Open Rights Group says the court-ordered block represents the thin end of the wedge.
Blocking the Pirate Bay is pointless and dangerous. It will fuel calls for further, wider and even more drastic calls for Internet censorship of many kinds, from pornography to extremism, ORG Executive Director Jim Killock said: Internet
censorship is growing in scope and becoming easier. Yet it never has the effect desired. It simply turns criminals into heroes.
Some people think that customers should have to choose to have their internet service filtered (an opt-in service), other people think that internet services should all be filtered unless customers ask for their service to be unfiltered (an opt-out
Opt-in (someone's internet service should only be filtered if they ask for it) 57% in support
Opt-out (people's internet service should be filtered unless they ask for it not to be) 36% in support
Don't know 8%
In fact the majority polled support the option for internet blocking, not that it should be imposed by default
There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.
But the censors of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini's photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.
A policeman took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed policemen from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.
Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery said: We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. They stood there and didn't leave until we took the piece down.
Thankfully it was the final day of the exhibition when the plods arrived.
It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.
If Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is worried by his party's poor showing in the polls, he might be advised to take some tips from another fairly liberal leader currently doing rather better down under.
Two weeks ago, Fiona Patten, convenor of the Australian Sex Party, celebrated her party's breakthrough into double digits, when they scored 10% of the vote in a Victoria state contest. This is approximately 2% better than polls are currently placing the
UK's Lib Dems!
Fiona is in the UK this weekend delivering a keynote address to an academic conference, Onscenity, which is dedicated to exploring the new visibility of sex in commerce, culture and everyday life.
Her message is simple: small parties can make a difference. They need to make a difference. Fiona explains:
Proportional representation and very similar showing by the two main parties means that the Australian parliament has been hijacked by the religious right.
With just a small proportion of the votes, and rarely more than one or two seats nationally, parties with a religious or family values agenda have stalled a great deal of social reform in both major parties.
Our clear objective, in the Australian Sex Party, is to use the same system to give voice to the vast majority of Australian men and women who believe in allowing adults to be adults, and are sick and tired of being lectured to by a nanny legislature.
As a former sex worker and Chief Executive of the Eros adult trade association, Fiona is no stranger to controversy. However, her commitment to political change is serious, and despite adding a slight edge to Australian politics, the Sex Party's agenda
is equally serious and unlikely to look out of place in many European states.
Their policies include a commitment to sex education in schools, as well as advocating a range of rights for women and members of other minority groups which are now taken for granted in most western nations.
Next week the London Book Fair welcomes China, the world's largest publisher by volume, as the 2012 market focus and has teamed up with the British Council to invite around 20 Chinese writers to west London for a series of readings, discussions
and talks celebrating the best in Chinese literature. But the writers who make up the delegation and the events at which they'll be speaking have been chosen in consultation with partners including China's General Administration of Press and Publishing
(Gapp), whose responsibilities include the censorship of newspapers and publishers. According to writer Ma Jian this makes true cultural exchange impossible, and puts freedom of expression in China under yet more pressure:
For China to be named guest of honour. for the British cultural establishment to be shaking hands with the Chinese head of propaganda, a man responsible for the banning and censoring of books and the imprisonment of writers, is disgraceful.
The Swansea student given 56 days in prison for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter should not have been jailed, according to Europe's most senior human rights official.
In an interview the day before he left office, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said the sentence imposed by British courts on Liam Stacey was excessive.
After six years in his post at Strasbourg, the Swedish official used his departing comments to plead for greater freedom of expression and to question blanket imposition of traditional media restraints on the internet. Hammarberg told the Guardian:
It was too much. He shouldn't have gone to prison. To put him in prison was wrong.
Politicians are at a bit of loss to know how to ... protect internet freedom while also having regulations against [such problems as] hate speech and child pornography.
There are limits to freedom of expression but regulators don't know how to handle this. It would be useful to have a more enlightened discussion at a European level, otherwise we are going to have different practices in different countries.
In traditional media there are editors who are responsible for print content. It's not so easy to have to the same legal procedures when it comes to action [against lone online voices].
People are at a loss to know how to apply rules for the traditional media to the new media. It's tricky and that's why there needs to be a more thorough discussion about this.
The High Court has ruled that decisions made by Nominet's dispute resolution service (DRS) may not be appealed in the courts, in cases concerning accusations of abusive domain name registration.
The court held that the registration contract did not leave a role for the court, as abusive registration is a term that only has meaning within the context of the Nominet DRS and cannot itself be the cause of legal action before the courts.
The judgement overturns the ruling of the Patents County Court in a dispute between Michael Toth, who registered the domain name emirates.co.uk in 2002, and the Emirates airline, which later sought and gained possession of the domain name through
Nominet's dispute resolution service.
Toth successfully appealed to the Patents County Court for a declaration that the domain name was not registered abusively. However, the case was subsequently appealed in the High Court, which last week ruled that the such cases cannot be appealed in the
The DRS and Procedure put in place a regime in which the question of abusive registration is one for, and only for, the Expert appointed under the DRS.