Jailed: The Fast & Furious film pirate who cost Hollywood £2.3m

An internet pirate who cost Universal Pictures an estimated £2.3million by being the first person in the world to pirate a copy of their blockbuster film Fast & Furious 6 has been jailed.

Philip Danks
Philip Danks

Philip Danks secretly took a video of the movie at the Showcase Cinema in Walsall on May 17 last year - the day it was released in the UK before being shown anywhere else in the world .

He uploaded it onto the internet via his personal website Bit Buddy the following day after converting the pirated camcorder version into a digital copy.

That copy - which carried his tell tale 'tag' Thecod3r - was then downloaded free of charge by around 779,000 people in the next four weeks, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told yesterday.

Mr Ari Alibhai, prosecuting on behalf of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, revealed: "The film was Universal Picture's most significant release of that year with both the biggest production costs and expected revenue. The estimated loss to the industry caused by the defendant's actions is conservatively estimated at £2.3m but he did not receive money from the on line distribution."

faf
Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker star in the film

Danks, who had to watch the film twice at the cinema on the same day because the camcorder battery ran out on the first visit - made just £1,000 from selling versions of his copy via Facebook or by personal delivery but his real motive was 'street cred,' the court heard.

Mr Alibhai explained: "The first person with a pirated version attracts much kudos. He wanted recognition from the community."

The movie was so valuable to Universal that they set up a 'webwatch' team to keep check for pirated copies that spotted his version as it spread like wildfire through the internet after being picked up by ExtraTorrent, one of the world's largest pirate film sites.

Investigators quickly traced the culprit when they put his distinctive 'tag' into an internet search engine and discovered he had also used it on the dating site Plenty of Fish where his proper name and age were also recorded.

Further checks led to his home in Livingstone Road, Bloxwich which was raided five days later and his computer and three rack servers - needed to download films faster - were seized and taken away for analysis.

Danks was freed on police bail pending further inquires but continued to offer a dozen films he had copied - including Fast and Furious 6 - for sale at £1.50p-a-time ,said Mr Alibhai.

Two days later the defendant bragged on his Facebook page: 'Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures.' Meanwhile a second version of his copy had been uploaded onto the internet under his direction by a friend, Michael Bell.

Mr Christopher Loach, defending, said: "He has no real qualifications and is not a man of means. He has no substantial assets of any sort and his financial gain has been extremely limited but he was obviously aware that it was a popular film that would be of interest."

Danks, who has given lessons on computer programming on YouTube and had previous convictions, admitted three charges of distributing pirate copies of films and was given a two year nine month jail sentence.

The Showcase Cinema in Walsall was affected by the power cut
The Showcase Cinema in Walsall

Recorder Keith Raynor told him: "This was bold, arrogant and cocksure offending. You approach to the film industry was made clear in the posting you made on Facebook two days after your arrest.

"I accept the personal profit was modest but the real seriousness of this case is the loss caused to the film industry as a whole."

See also: Man arrested for 'recording American Hustle' in Walsall cinema

Bell, of Birmingham Road, Aldridge, and of previous good character, pleaded guilty to one offence of distributing a pirate copy of a film and was given a 12 month community order with 120 hours unpaid work.

Danks kept people posted on the case through Facebook. On the day before the hearing he posted: "Going to try and get some sleep now, 2 important events tomorrow! 1 is to determine my fate and find out if I am going to prison, the other (if court goes well) will be playing in the biggest tournament of my life, a $700 & hopefully a $2100 tournament to fight for a spot in the EPT 11 London Main Event on October 8th! #Nervous"

But yesterday while awaiting sentence, he conceded in another post: "Not loking (sic) good"

Comments for: "Jailed: The Fast & Furious film pirate who cost Hollywood £2.3m"

JJ

It really annoys me when the film companies put comments in like loss of £2.3m. Its highly unlikely that those who did would have actually gone to the cinema to watch it anyway.

AC

Agree with JJ. No-one who is willing to pay a tenner for a cinema ticket is going to think they've saved themselves any money by watching a camcorder-copy of a film. The main downloaders will probably be kids who either aren't old enough to watch it at the cinema or who have no money anyway.

2 years and 9 months is ridiculous, the judge should be ashamed of himself for buying into the whole "it cost the studio £2.3m" BS.

Beltane

Agreee with you 100% AC but then we live in the 'real' world....I seriously doubt anyone in Authority does!

Beltane

Ha ha ha, not the sharpest pencil in the box was he? Taping Dumb & Dumber would have been more up his street surely!

The Voice of Reason

Why not spend time catching real criminals and putting them behind bars instead?

Blue Boy

The "real criminals" would not get such a stiff sentence, just a slap on the wrist. Get mugged and there's nothing the police can do, but drive 7 miles over the speed limit and you are photographed, convicted and fined within a week.

Saddler in Sweden...

What a charade.... His actions cost the movie industry next to nothing... OK, he was a bit of a fool to brag about his actions the way he did, but 2 YEARS 9 MONTHS is reactionary BU11SH1T!!!

It only proves that the media industry has the UK judiciary system in its pocket just like in the US... I hope he appeals, wins, and gets the judge fired.. The Music industry has already figured out that piracy is here to stay, but most people would rather pay for their music anyway, via Spotify, Itunes and the like.. Its time the Film industry did likewise.. ( Instead of making us wait months for a DVD only release which makes you sit through half an hour of anti-piracy warnings which make me want to claw my own eyeballs out... A good enough reason for pirating a movie in itself )

If films were available in reasonable time for download at a reasonable price then most honest people would choose that route, just like they have with Music...

FREE THE BLOXWICH PIRATE!!!!

Crell

What about the wrong-doing in the banking sector? Bank of America and Lloyds (to name but two), were part of a collective who's heinous acts were so great they were able to being nations to their knees. After YEARS of chasing them up what happens? They get a ticking off and a fine that, in real terms, amounts to chump change. No prison sentence. I did pay to see this film at a cinema, and it was so crap I felt robbed. I much prefer hunting around for videos and DVD's from car boot stalls, like old 80's film box sets and comedy series. At least I know the original I get will be WORTH watching because in my opinion, the vast majority of films coming out of Hollywood these days are nothing more than propaganda-laden trash, aimed at young, impressionable and arrogant people who are stupid enough to vote for a President on the basis of him being black. Many quality, European films (such as 'Kontrol'), can knock 7 bells out of this Hollywood mush, yet they don't get shown nearly enough. I detest modern Hollywood and I detest AMERICAN-owned cinemas ripping people off with a couldn't-care-less attitude.

Mevanst.

American-owned cinemas? Around here? Where? And how are they ripping people off?

Crell

Hi. National Amusements & Viacom own this franchise, amongst others? They run a global operation. The CEO is apparently American. Further, profit margins on concessions are reportedly huge. Try taking a family to the cinema and having the nerve to buy food and beverages - see how much change you get from a £50 note. Now THAT to me (and many others it would seem), is ripping people off, in a region that can by and large seldom afford a proverbial pot to pee in. There's plenty of feedback on the Internet from disgruntled customers, be it cinema prices and/or food. Unacceptable.

charlie.bear.5836

Good to see the area making the national news.

lunasa

He should have gone to Stafford crown court, guaranteed to be let off, as with people with loaded shotguns.

Mevanst.

Everyday I read about criminals who commit violent crimes getting little or no prison time. This young man does not deserve a 2.9 year prison term. Someone needs to investigate that judge. I am not saying the man should not be punished, I just think the sentence was too stiff.

Lakeside

He's a thief and a criminal. Those of you who want to make him out to be a victim are part of the problem. If it's too expensive for you to go to the cinema then tough. Are you happy to excuse car theft because cars sre a bit pricey?