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

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

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 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."

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."

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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.

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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

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"

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