We all like to keep up on the latest movies, whether they are action, drama, comedy, or the binary work of Nicolas Cage. And chances are, you’ve come across someone who may get these movies in a less-than-legal fashion, whether it be pirated DVDs or torrent file sharing. Undoubtedly, these people and many others like them would think that their actions are an innocuous, victimless crime against a large, faceless corporation that already makes enormous sums of money. But these movies are still the intellectual properties of their respective studios, and movie piracy is a matter these studios take very seriously, as one British man found out.
Philip Danks, a 25 year old man from Walsall, England, received a 33 month sentence for making and distributing a pirated copy of Fast and Furious 6. Danks is credited as being the first to pirate a copy of the movie, filming from the back of the theater on its opening day, May 17. Danks’ copy of the movie would be downloaded more than 779,000 times over the course of the next month, costing Universal Pictures, the film’s distributor, an estimated $4 million in revenue. His copy of the film caught the eye of a “webwatch” team created by Universal to track any piracy related to the highly anticipated film.
Danks’ piracy was not of the clandestine type, as he took to Facebook to declare, “Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures,” two days after pirating the film. Further brandishing his bona fides as a criminal mastermind, Danks’ online tag associated with the video, "Thecod3r," was the same as his username for the dating website Plenty of Fish. Following this ample trail of clues, police were able to track down and apprehend this modern-day Dr. Moriarty at his home on May 23. Following his arrest and release on bail, in what can only be considered a move of staggering hubris or unfathomable stupidity, Danks continued to offer downloads of a dozen pirated films. Worth noting is that for his efforts pirating Fast and Furious 6, Danks made about £1,000 (or about $1,650) selling copies of the film online for £1.50 each, or roughly £30 for every month of his incarceration.
While so many of our popular films become a part of our cultural fabric and can feel like they belong to us as a society, they are in fact owned by those who spent time and money coming up with the idea and crafting it into a movie ready to be shipped off and shown in theaters around the world. Like any business, studios have the obligation to protect their intangible assets from intellectual property theft to ensure their livelihood, as well as that of their employees.
Philip Danks learned the hard way that the anti-piracy warning at the beginning of movies is no idle threat. Protect your assets from people like Mr. Danks.