A man from the UK’s West Midlands has been sentenced to 33 months imprisonment for recording a blockbuster film in a cinema, uploading it to the Internet, and producing and selling copies to the public.
In May 2013, the accused, Philip Danks, went to the Showcase cinema in Walsall and used a camcorder to record Fast and Furious 6, the first day it was released anywhere in the world. Danks uploaded this copy of the film onto the Internet on May 18 and the film was subsequently downloaded more than 700,000 times causing millions of pounds of loss to Universal Pictures and the audio-visual industry in the UK. Furthermore, Danks used Facebook to offer copies of the film for sale for £1.50 each, which he advertised alongside other well-known films such as Iron Man 3.
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) identified Danks by linking him to the online name of the uploader, which was ‘TheCod3r’. On one website where the film was available, TheCod3r had written:
Enjoy the movie, it took me 2 attempts to get this movie for release as my first camcorder went dead (terrible battery life) 40 mins into the film and I had to go back and watch it a second time to get a decent cam with a better camcorder. A watchable copy until something better comes along.
Five days after the recording was made, Danks was arrested by West Midlands Police.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that despite his arrest, Danks continued to copy, sell and distribute illegal copies of films. He also enlisted the help of his sister’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Bell, who uploaded films on his behalf received a 12 month Community Order with 120 hours unpaid work.
Both men pleaded guilty to charges of committing offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.
On sentencing Danks and Bell, His Honour Judge Raynor said the case was unusual because of the presence of so many aggravating factors including that Danks actually ‘cammed’ the film, it was the first release worldwide and Danks ensured that he also sold physical copies of the film through Facebook. He described the offending as “bold, arrogant and cocksure” and noted that it was a sophisticated operation. Finally, the Judge commented that the real essence of the seriousness of the offending was the multimillion pound loss to the film industry.
Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT said: “We are grateful to West Midlands Police for their assistance in bringing to justice two men who were causing untold harm to the film industry in the UK, something which also threatens this country’s economy. Thousands of people are employed making some of the world’s most famous and popular films. Their livelihoods are at risk if a film is unable to create the profits needed to fund future films. This is an important case and an important sentence. Danks was responsible for recording, uploading and distributing the film and was clearly unconcerned at the time about the consequences of his actions, perhaps believing that the internet gave him anonymity. We at FACT have shown that we will find and identify people committing criminal offences and ensure that they are properly dealt with through the courts.”
Chris Marcich from the MPAA said that online copyright infringement represented a significant threat to the continued success of the UK’s creative industries and to the continued development of legal sources of film and TV content. “It is important that those making money on the back of other people’s hard work and creativity, paying nothing back into the creative economy, are held accountable and we welcome today’s verdict. This is one important element of the wider strategy to tackle this issue which also includes educating consumers about legitimate online sources of content through schemes like Creative Content UK, working with advertiser and payment processors to cut off the revenue streams pirate sites rely on and blocking illegal sites through the courts,” he stated.
Detective Sergeant Rod Rose, from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “We assisted the Federation Against Copyright Theft throughout this case with search warrants, forcing entry to addresses and making arrests. We also supported with evidence recovery and interviewing suspects. Fraud comes in many guises and ultimately affects all of us. There are lots of agencies involved in stopping offenders and when they identify potential criminal offences we will always try to offer our support.”