A 25-year-old man has been jailed after filming Fast and Furious 6 in a cinema and selling copies of the movie on Facebook.
Wolverhampton crown court heard that in May last year, Philip Danks used a camcorder to record the film on its release day, before uploading it the following day. The UK release date was also the first time the film was released anywhere in the world, and it was downloaded more than 700,000 times from Danks's Facebook page.
Additionally, Danks offered copies of the film for sale on Facebook for £1.50, "alongside other well-known films such as Iron Man 3", according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact).
Sentencing Danks to 33 months, Judge Keith Raynor said the case was unusual because of so many aggravating factors including the fact that Danks actually recorded the film, that it was the first release worldwide, and that Danks also offered physical copies for sale.
Raynor described Danks's actions as "bold, arrogant and cocksure", and said the seriousness of the offence had led to a multimillion pound loss to the film industry.
But Dan Bunting, a lawyer who writes for the UK Criminal Law blog, said that figure "needs to be approached with a slight degree of scepticism as it is extremely unlikely that all those who downloaded it would otherwise have paid the full price to go and watch it." Bunting added that the 33-month sentence "does seem pretty high" and "out of line with sentences for other offences."
Fact identified Danks by linking him to the online name of the uploader of the video, which was "TheCod3r". Danks had used the same name on the Plenty of Fish dating website.
On one of the uploads, 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 Danks recorded the film, he was arrested, but the court heard that despite the arrest he continued to copy, sell and distribute illegal copies of movies.
Shortly after Danks's arrest, he contacted TorrentFreak, a news website which covers issues of copyright and privacy, to complain about the nature of his detention. At 7:30am, five cars holding 10 officers and representatives from Fact had arrived at his former address. Once they realised their error, "three cars, four detectives and two Fact officers made it to the correct location," according to TorrentFreak's Andy Maxwell.
"One police officer and two Fact officers conducted the interview," Danks told TorrentFreak at the time. "The police officer sat back and let Fact do all the questioning, so Fact were running the show."
The Cinema Exhibitors' Association welcomed Danks' conviction and "lengthy custodial sentence", with its chief executive, Phil Clapp, saying it "gives an important message on the increasing seriousness with which our courts rightly view film theft. I join those across the UK cinema industry in thanking Fact colleagues for all their hard work in bringing this case, and congratulate them on this excellent outcome."
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