A computer programmer who filmed Fast & Furious 6 from the back of a cinema and then uploaded it to the Internet has been jailed for almost three years.
The pirated copy of the film was downloaded 779,000 times, costing one of Hollywood’s biggest filmmakers more than $4 million.
Philip Danks, 25, from Walsall, West Midlands, was the first person in the world to record and distribute the movie illegally after filming it on its release day on May 17 last year.
A court heard that a special “webwatch” team — set up by L.A.-based Universal Pictures because the film was so valuable — spotted his copy spreading across the Internet.
He was caught when fraud investigators noticed that his online tag “Thecod3r” attached on the video was identical to his profile on dating website Plenty of Fish.
He was arrested at his home on May 23.
Two days later, he bragged on Facebook: “Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures.”
On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to three charges of distributing pirate copies of films and was jailed for 33 months.
The court heard that he made just £1,000 (about $1,650) from selling copies of the film for £1.50 ($2.50) — while the cost to Universal was estimated at £2.3m ($4.1 million).
Sentencing Recorder Keith Raynor said: “This was bold, arrogant and cocksure offending. Your 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.”
Prosecuting on behalf of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, Ari Alibhai said: “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 online distribution.”
The court heard that although he made money from selling versions of his copy via Facebook or by personal delivery his real motive was “street cred.”
Alibhai added: “The first person with a pirated version attracts much kudos. He wanted recognition from the community.”
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.”
Following his arrest, Danks was freed on police bail pending further inquirIes but continued to offer a dozen films he had copied.
Danks kept people posted on the case through Facebook — but while awaiting sentence he conceded: “Not loking (sic) good.”